On Sunday, during a discussion on Channel 14 – an Israeli TV channel aimed at a right-wing audience – about the heartbreaking incident that occurred on the border with Egypt in which a male and female soldier from the coed infantry Bardelas battalion were killed while on guard duty together, the reporter insinuated that the reason for the tragedy was the mixed-gender composition of the unit.
"A male and female soldier alone, 12 hours at night, there is a recipe here for disaster," the host, Boaz Golan, said. "There is a lack of professionalism here, there is negligence of military values, there are crazy left-wing agendas, this causes harm to the soldiers."
On the same day, during Ben Caspit and Yinon Magal's radio program, the latter asked interviewee, Lt. Col. (Res.) Yaron Buskila, "What do you think about placing a male and female soldier (in a guard post) for 12 hours?"
Buskila responded, "I don't have a problem with the male and female soldier, I have a problem with it being for 12 hours,"
"Don't you have a problem with it being a male and female soldier?" Magal pressed, and when the interviewee refused to make an issue out of the fact that it was a coed unit, Magal continued, "Do you find it legitimate? Don't you have a problem with this?"
Although the discussion about the boundaries of discourse in Israeli communication outlets and social media is important and relevant, especially when it crosses cultural, moral and possibly even legal norms – such as disrespecting the dignity of the deceased and causing distress to the mourning families, the topic at hand here is broader. What is the true purpose of such a specific discussion about a man and a woman in the same guard post, in a shared shift lasting half a day, whether it's during night hours or not?
What are we really talking about when we discuss mixed-gender service in the IDF? Well, we are talking about preserving certain power dynamics between men and women. Furthermore, when we discuss mixed-gender units and turn it into a matter of left or right (in this case, as stated in the discussion – left), we turn the integration of women into the army, both in particular and in society as a whole, into a particular and biased stance.
This insinuates that women's rights and equality are a political matter, rather than the collective interest of an advanced and progressive country and society. This overlooks the fact that women – whether they are Jewish or Arab, Mizrahi or Ashkenazi, right-wing or left-wing, religious or secular – make up 51% of the population.
The integration of women in the IDF is something that can be discussed using legitimate means. Things like physical standards, whether they align with biological data or not, and field conditions during menstruation, can all be debated in a respectful manner. However, Channel 14 reporters took the discussion to an irrelevant and dangerous place, with statements that seek to criticize or challenge the place of women in society. When examining gender relations from a perspective of attraction and potential sexual relations, women are depicted as problematic, disruptive, dangerous and interfering with the natural order of life.
In the critics' view, the solution to a coed guard post is not to put two women on duty together, but rather put zero women on duty. This is based on the belief that gender integration in certain fields is the outcome of "post-modernity" interfering not only in the army but in nature itself.
Attraction and sexual relations, unfortunately for the primitive and ignorant conservatives, also exist between two individuals of the same sex. What actually interests those conservatives in this particular discussion is not the security or professionalism of the IDF, but the preservation of very specific power relations in which men occupy a position and women are considered disruptions. They want women to be in a position of inherent inferiority compared to men, and their subordination to be legitimized – if not in the name of religion, then in the name of protecting the homeland.