The army weekly Bamahane will henceforth have to send its articles to the chief education officer for approval before publication, after senior officers were infuriated by an article in the Purim issue about soldiers dressing up as women and performing as drag queens when off duty.
The officers were particularly infuriated by a picture of an Armored Corps officer wearing a gas mask and red boots with heels. The article interviewed two soldiers in drag, who said that the phenomenon could be found in many Israel Defense Forces units, including Unit 8200, the elite intelligence unit.
Bamahane is one of the divisions of the IDF's Education and Youth Corps, now headed by Chief Education Officer Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister. Until now, only articles that mentioned the corps were submitted to him for approval.
Five years ago, when Likud MK Miri Regev headed the IDF Spokesman's Department, the contents of the paper were sent to her for review. But that practice was discontinued under her successor, Avi Benayahu.
Bamahane has written liberally about homosexuals and lesbians in the army. Some of the articles have drawn fire, while others have been published to little or no comment.
In 2001, for example, then Chief Education Officer Elazar Stern blocked publication of an edition with a cover story on Col. Eli Sharon that featured a picture of him holding the homosexual community's flag under the headline, "This is how I came out of the closet."
Stern shut down the paper, and only a week later was it allowed to resume operations. He later explained his actions by saying, "I closed Bamahane because publishing a cover story like that in the paper coming out before Memorial Day was tasteless."
Similarly, a story for Family Day in 2010 on Lt. Col. Michal Harpaz and her female partner drew fire over the type of family the newspaper chose to portray. By contrast, a lengthy article on five homosexual soldiers serving in combat units that came out for Gay Pride Week in 2011 generated no criticism at all.
Maj. Yoni Schoenfeld, the editor of Bamahane, refused to comment on the new order to submit material to Shermeister before publication. The IDF Spokesman said, "As the commander of the Bamahane newspaper, the chief education and youth officer is responsible for overseeing the content published in it."
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