Israeli Army to Allow Soldiers Attend Some Rallies, Protests

Soldiers up to the rank of major could attend demonstrations as long they are off-duty, out of uniform and refrain from party politics and diplomatic matters.

An Israeli soldier at a protest by the gay community in Be'er Sheva, July 14, 2016.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Off-duty soldiers up to the rank of major will now be permitted to participate in demonstrations on condition that the protests do not concern military operations, party politics or diplomatic matters, the army announced Monday.

The soldiers cannot attend any demonstration in uniform or bear any sign that would identify them as soldiers. The demonstration must be legal, nonviolent, and not an event in which the army specifically forbade participation.

The previous military order forbids soldiers to participate in “any demonstration, parade or march organized by a non-military entity.” The Israel Defense Forces had decided in 2014 to change the order to allow soldiers to attend demonstrations so long as they weren’t in uniform, but never implemented the new regulation.

Officers with the rank of lieutenant colonel or higher are still barred from attending protests.

The army decided on changing the order given that soldiers out of uniform had participated in the social justice protests in 2011, and often march in gay pride parades. In any case, soldiers wear civilian clothes when attending these events, army sources said.

Before the planned gay pride parade in Be’er Sheva last week (which the organizers cancelled when they were refused the route they wanted), the IDF made a specific announcement allowing soldiers in civilian clothes to march, given that the regulation was about to be changed in any case. They were told that they could not be in uniform, could not be on duty, and could not express themselves publicly on political party matters or diplomatic issues.