In very few western countries are the armed forces used to promote the nation to the outside world. For decades, Israel has promoted its “citizen’s army” as emblematic of Israeli democracy. However, this hasn’t been true of the IDF for many years. 30% of eligible males do not serve (many ultra-Orthodox receive yeshiva exemptions and it doesn’t even summon Israeli Palestinians for military service). Less than 50% of women serve. By 2020, the IDF estimates that 60% of those eligible overall will receive exemptions or otherwise dodge service. Citizen’s Army? Not so much.
Lately, Israel has taken to touting the diversity of its armed forces with Brand Israel-type social media campaigns. I wrote about one such example meant to promote the notion that nursing moms proudly serve. I called it “mommy-washing.” This bit of fluff was timed to Mother’s Day, which isn’t even a holiday celebrated in Israel.
Now, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) is mounting a full-fledge campaign celebrating its annual Family Day. It features the so-called ethnic and social diversity of its personnel; and focuses on the IAF as a sort of hook-up venue where gay guys can meet their basherts. There’s a cute a cuddly pic of two smiling, hunky guys with their adorable yellow Lab. The motto of this unlikely campaign: “The Air Force is where I met my family.”
If you believe this brand marketing, take a look at the Facebook comments, which are replete with references to “homos” and suggests that they keep their private lives to themselves instead of flaunting it in people’s faces. An settler-affiliated media outlet reports that an Orthodox rabbi is offended by this Facebook post, saying that “marriage and family are one of the most ancient of institutions, and don’t consider the bond between two men as “marriage.” Bibiton notes that the picture of the two married Israeli gay men has “aroused a firestorm.” Gay tolerance? Not so much.
The IAF proudly notes that “Capt. Adir and Dean” are married. It doesn’t note that they can’t marry in Israel due to the Orthodox stranglehold over civil issues like marriage and divorce. Israel will never have gay marriage until the Orthodox monopoly is broken (if it ever is). All of which means that the Israel Lobby pinkwashing campaign is fundamentally flawed.
Behind the couple is a sign that says: “Here we live happily: Family Day 2017.” But unfortunately, this omits the thousands of Palestinian families who’ve been left bereft by IAF bombs and missiles which have slaughtered their loved ones. “Happiness?” Not so much.
Another IAF Facebook post features the smiling faces of a loving Ethiopian family and says it snapped their pic just before they moved the coffee table so they can all sing songs in Amharic and perform traditional dances. How absolutely enlightened of the Air Force to embrace all cultures and ethnicities! Except for the fact that an IDF soldier likely murdered Black Hebrew soldier, Toveet Radcliffe, at her IAF base; then covered it up and refused to investigate or find her assailant. Verdict: suicide. Cultural diversity? Not so much.
Then there’s Master Sgt. Hikmet Cheir’s smiling face as he describes the moment his wife told him they would be having their first child: “You’re going to be an abba!” The post then describes their dreams of building their own home in their Druze village when he leaves active duty. Problem: many Druze leave military service without any notable skills to transfer into civilian life. Some resort to crimes like drug-dealing or lapse into poverty. They derive little post-service benefit. If they lived in an Israeli Palestinian village they couldn’t get a building permit to build that home since the government refuses to issue them.
If you’re wondering, my post title is a reference to this wonderful John Hiatt album of the 1980s, Bring the Family.