Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Israeli army declares support for gay troops

JERUSALEM, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli military officially acknowledged the legitimacy of its gay service members this week, winning wide praise for the move.
The army's spokesman department late on Monday posted a photo on its international Facebook page showing a homosexual couple dressed in their class-A uniforms and holding hands while strolling through a street with their backs turned to the camera.
"Did you know that the Israel Defense Forces treats all of its soldiers equally? Let's see how many shares you can get for this photo," read the caption, written in English, that accompanied the photograph.
The army said the two men, who serve in the Artillery Corps and the infantry, volunteered to pose for the photo and consented to its publication.
It is the first time that the Israeli military openly expresses support for its gay service members, and may well be the first in the world to do so.
Web surfers positively responded to the unusual photo, with some 4,000 "Likes" and 700 talkbacks from around the world registered within hours of its posting.
Itamar Eichner, a military correspondent for the Yediot Aharonot daily, said the army "seeks to exploit" upcoming International Gay Month events by "presenting itself to the world as a progressive and liberal army which enables homosexuals and lesbians to serve without discrimination or limitation."
According to the newspaper, the army's "good treatment" of gay troops has for years proven beneficial to the public relations efforts of Israeli diplomatic missions, especially those that court liberal audiences highly critical of Israel's policies in the Palestinian territories, by serving as a prime example of the Jewish state's openness and tolerance.
The Foreign Ministry welcomed the initiative, which one spokesman described as "definitely surprising."

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