Photo: Ofer Amram

Women exploited by IDF

Op-ed: In professional army, women would climb ranks without being subjected to discrimination, immoral acts

When the term "equality" is mentioned during discussions on civil rights, it refers to equal rights. It is incumbent upon us to promote equality between the periphery and the center, embolden the weak, create equal opportunities and sometimes even promote affirmative action to advance one step closer to solidarity between all segments of Israeli society.


This is also the case when it comes to equal rights for women in the IDF. The idea is to give women an equal opportunity to serve in top positions within the army. Just as the State demands equal pay for women in the workplace, it should demand equal rights for women in the army. These rights should not be conditioned on "obligations" that are not acceptable in any other country in the world - and I am referring to compulsory service for women.


Again and again we read about cases in which women are sexually abused and taken advantage of in the army. The most recent and most shocking case was the alleged rape of minors by Air Force instructors. Who allows 20-year-old soldiers to "teach" 15-year-old girls? This is the most moral army in the world?


This is the only army in the world which forces women to enlist, when most of them do not perform duties that are directly linked to the country's security. In essence, these women are being forced to work without pay and are sometimes the victims of immoral acts. Wouldn't it be better to have a professional or semi-professional army that would deal solely with security-related issues? An army that is based on professionals who are paid adequately?


חיילות. רק בצבא מקצועי (צילום: בן קלמר)

'Female soldiers only in professional army' (Photo: Ben Kelmer)


It is time to reconsider this "social experiment." The IDF is referred to as the "people's army," and women are an integral part of the "people," but this does not justify their forceful recruitment, particularly in light of what is currently happening in the IDF.


Nowadays, while the army is busy humiliating an ultra-Orthodox woman a month after her marriage and detains her for 50 days, thus violating freedom of religion, and when former chiefs of staff speak of the army's "supremacy" while being entangled in corruption affairs, we may find ourselves living under a military dictatorship instead of a democracy.


Democracy is not "an army with a state." The army cannot be allowed to dictate political developments, generals must not be allowed to focus on politics (or on selling their stock portfolio) more than on their actual jobs, and the IDF's human resources branch should not be "reeducating" rebellious haredim. Government offices are in charge of education and professional training, not the army.


And we haven't even discussed how women are treated in the public sphere. This may be a by-product of the army's "education." I have no doubt in my mind that those who are in charge of education in the army have good intentions, but the disappointing results prove that a major change of direction is required.


Only a professional army in which every soldier will get a decent salary can strengthen Israel's security, because such an army would not be responsible for anything else. This would also strengthen solidarity and faith, increase transparency, promote a more equal society and improve women's status in the army and in society as a whole. This model would allow women to climb the ranks in the military without being subjected to exploitation and discrimination, as required by the labor laws, which are not enforced in the army.


Most of the enlisted women do not gain anything from their service. On the contrary, some of them leave the army with mental scars and with the sense that they were exploited and wasted valuable time. Only a professional army can require its commanders to provide a productive and equal environment for women who choose to enlist.


Yehuda Shein is the founder of the "Equality Now" movement, which works to bring the various sectors of Israeli society closer together



פרסום ראשון: 10.14.12, 11:56
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