Women in Israel in military and religious context:Leadership,sexual violence and inequality by Lea Landman

Nous sommes particulièrement contents de publier une étude de Lea Landman sur la place des femmes dans l’armée israélienne. Ce travail méthodique est le fruit de recherches patientes et approfondies et hors de toute polémique.
Lea Landman est une jeune et brillante chercheuse israélienne ayant occupé de nombreuses fonctions. Sa carrière est déjà particulièrement impressionnante. Nous espérons que ce premier article sera suivi d’autres contributions.

Biographie de Lea Landman

Lea Landman is policy advisor, focusing on Israel and geopolitics of the Middle East and building strategic partnerships and professional networks with local and global players. She is currently leading the Foreign Service Reform at the Abba Eban Institute of International Diplomacy at IDC Herzliya. Lea is also the Co-Founder and Chairperson of Women in International Security (WIIS) – Israel, which works to increase the number and influence of young women in foreign, defense and security-related affairs in Israel.
Previously, she was deputy director of the Herzliya Conference Series on Israel National Security and a research fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy, IDC, Herzliya and worked as a defense consultant in the UK.
Lea is a former Lieutenant in the IDF Air Force Intelligence.
Lea holds a BA in History and Political Science from Tel-Aviv University, and graduated with a MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Women in Israel in a military and religious context: Leadership, sexual violence and inequality by Lea Landman

The ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict is a conflict fought and designed by men that has been impacting Israeli society for the past 70 years. Consequently, the institution that finds itself at the heart of the conflict, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), plays a pivotal role in shaping Israeli society, and in this context, that of women.

The IDF is an “army of the people”, both in practice as well as in theory, given that all citizens eventually become soldiers and partake in military life. Therefore, the IDF is both an incubator as well as a mirror of Israeli society. It prepares its members for civilian life as much as it reflects the achievements and shortcomings of Israeli society.
Within this context, women face three main challenges in the military:

First. The roles that are attributed within and by the military, both to male and female soldiers, tend to sediment: women in their vast majority remain low on the military hierarchy and this relative imbalance in the ranks of the IDF later translates into a dearth of high-level women decision makers in Israeli society.
As such, women’s attributed positioning within the IDF limits their access to high level leadership roles within the civilian realm. Second, women are often victims of the male dominant military institution, given not only their positioning but its hierarchical and strictly obedient nature. This combination has led to women being subject to sexual violence.
Finally, women are often discriminated against by forces external to the army. A major such force that is becoming ever more evident in Israel is religious pressure which appears to be a major cause of gender inequality within the ranks of the IDF.

The Leadership Challenge

According to Wilmovsky and Tamir (2012) 56% of all women (in their age group) are inducted in the army; women represent 34% of the overall military force, 40% of the officers, and serve in a wide range of positions. However, it should be noted that although approximately 90% of positions are open to women, 50% of these are mostly or only filled by men.
Additionally, women are virtually absent from combat positions – they represent approxi-mately 2% of fighters. According to a paper written for the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality (Neta Moshe, 2013), women account for 21% of the permanent (professional) army and 13% of reserve forces, only 5% of which represent active reserve.

Despite the slight increase in the number of high ranking positions occupied by women, the rate of women Lieutenant Colonels has only risen from 9.9% to 13.1% in a decade, and the percentage of women occupying the rank of Major-Generals rose from 2.5% in 2001 to 5% in 2010.
Women officers at the rank of Brigadier-General currently stands at 3%, and for the first time, a woman was recently promoted to the rank of General as head of the Army Personnel Force (Wilmovsky and Tamir, 2012). These statistics show that women rarely attain the highest ranks and that for them military service more often than not fails to translate into leadership roles within the institution and thus impacts their ability to attain such positions in the civilian realm as well.
In fact, military logic and stance remain determining factors even after military life. Simply put, the army often paves the way for the role citizens will later occupy in society. Former male high-ranking officers move into top-level positions and are considered legitimate leaders in civil life. The reserves and the close-knit circle it creates, provides a great opportunity to build networks that will later carry into professional life.

In this context, women’s military service in Israel does not lead to a professional achieve-ment as civilians, whereas for men, their service can more easily become the beginning of a carrier path.
Moreover, it is men who, through the prism of their military experience define the way conflicts are dealt with by Israeli society as a whole. Even politics that is designed by the ongoing and mainly male characterized conflict, leaves less room for women to manoeuver.
This is best exemplified when looking at the number of women in the political and business sectors, where they remain virtually absent from security portfolios such as the Ministry of Public Security, Defense, and besides Golda Meir and Tzipi Livni, from the Foreign Affairs Ministry as well. In the Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, there are only between 0-3 female members of Knesset.
This is the most important security and defense committee, which oversees the PMO, Defense, IDF, FA, Public Security and the National Security Council. The same applies to the security and defense apparatus: the National Security Council, Mossad, and Shin Bet.

Over the past 8 years in the US, 50% of the defense industry’s leadership positions have been occupied by women, including in Lockheed Martin, Northrop Gruman, BAE, General Dynamics etc. Three of the four units within Boeing’s military-aircraft business are run by women. Furthermore, the President of Raytheon’s intelligence and information-systems business is a woman. Such is not the case in Israel, where women account for only 20% of leadership positions in this industry, most of which are executive mid-level and “typical” women positions such as in Human Resources and Public Relations.

The Sexual Harassment Challenge

The problem of sexual harassment and rape has been met in Israeli society with increased awareness and call to action, with women increasingly publically talking about the issue. In fact, in the last decade, high-level officers have increasingly been accused and con¬victed of sexual harassment.
“The IDF is one of the few organizations in Israel which monitors closely and systematically cases of sexual harassment: a bi-annual survey of women soldiers outlines the scope of the problem, its particular parameters and charac¬teristics, as well as attempts to combat and deal with it. Data from the survey indicates a steady improvement, both in the level of growing awareness, and in the decline in the number of reported cases.” (Wilmovsky and Tamir, 2012)
However, sexual violence is still very much present in military life. The 2013 bi-annual survey reveals 1 in 8 female soldiers reports sexual violence. About 50% of those cases of sexual violence involved physical abuse, 30% involved verbal abuse, and 13% were cases of voyeurism. About half of the victims chose to complain to the Military Police while the other 50% of the cases were handled within the soldier’s unit – which proves that a tribal mentality still hovers over much of the IDF. Women soldiers have also fallen victims to sexual violence outside of the military structure: Cases of harassment by civilians have been reported, of which half were cases of rape or attempted rape.
The IDF is, as any military, an inherently patriarchal and hierarchical institution.

However, in both the Military and the Police, there has been a significant evolution towards fighting sexual misconduct. Nowadays, women have more outlets to confront this problem, particularly with social media serving as an echo chamber. As such, attitudes and norms that were implicitly accepted are now being challenged.

The “Religionization” Challenge

In 2007, the Segev Committee was appointed to examine the role of women in the IDF with the objective to increase women’s meaningful roles in the military, and present a series of recommendations to advance women’s service. Its main objective was to reverse the guideline that was prevalent until now of a gender-based military service (roles and positions based on gender) to the “right person at the right place” principle (i.e, filling a position based on capabilities rather than gender). That said, most of this committee’s recommendations have not been implemented. One of the main reasons for this is the “religionization” process taking place in the military. (Haber and Baruch, 2013)
In Israel, there is no separation between religion and state. Within the framework of the IDF, this overlapping of public and religious spheres poses a number of issues, most of which directly affect women. The growing vigor of religion in the public arena and the tendency of ever more vocal religious leaders to undermine women, stir inequality in the ranks of the IDF.
Furthermore, in recent years, the integration of the ultra-orthodox into the army came at the expense of female soldiers, with the army often meeting religious demands for gender separation.
Women in the military therefore face challenges from within as well outside factors. They have to fight the tension that has risen since the enrolment of ultra-orthodox soldiers and the sociological change that it provoked in the IDF.

Women have to therefore withstand attacks emanating from the religious establishment and suffer the consequence of reli¬gious education implemented in the army, which enforces a greater separation be¬tween men and women, to their own detriment. The issue has gained intensity, and in 2016, a Common Service Order was formulated to define the code of conduct between men and women in the military, mainly to find a balance between the increasing numbers of reli¬gious soldiers and increasing numbers of positions open to women.

The Order reflects the obsession of the religious establishment with men and women “purity”, and the fear of too much contact between the two. In this guise, ultra-orthodox soldiers are drafted in special “female-free” units in an effort to integrate them in the military and society as a whole, which inexorably comes at the expense of women.

In an article in the daily Haaretz, titled It’s “Sex, Stupid: Why Israel’s Orthodox Rabbis are battling the Idea of Women in Combat”, Allison Kaplan Sommer points to the fact that “In most countries around the world, the dominant issues in the debate surrounding women in combat is their level of effectiveness and the cultural impact of women being injured, kidnapped or killed. But in Israel, the focus of the opposition to women in army service in recent weeks has centered on religious fears that contact between genders will lead to moral corruption.” Kaplan Sommer explains the waging of war of the religious establish¬ment on women’s service as a sign of weakness rather than strength, reminding that more than a third of orthodox women are choosing to serve in the IDF (Kaplan Sommer, 2017).

Although these challenges do present a significant hindrance to women within the mili¬tary and thus within civilian life, there are efforts that are attempting to counter balance this. The recent trends in the military – the access to additional positions for women, the “war” waged mainly by the religious establishment, as well as the public attention given to sexual harassment – are all optimistic signs. In a latest scandal, the head of the IDF Manpower Directorate canceled a tender for a series of workshops dedicated to female officers on “developing gender awareness and leadership” that will give female officers feminist and gender mainstreaming tools and connect them to the military reality.
The reason: Leave the IDF in the consensus. Even this cancellation indicates that the IDF is actually aware to the gender mainstreaming trends in society as a whole. Indeed, it reflects the fact that feminism is becoming mainstream in a society that has always been very active when it comes to social matters.

That said, grave inequalities do remain.
In a country like Israel, where defense takes such a primordial role in every aspect of life, and where there is such a strong correlation between the military service and the civilian life, real equality can only pass through the defense and security establishment. Additionally, the changing nature of war and the importance given to the home- front place women more than ever in positions of leadership. The more women achieve high-ranks, the more they will be present in the decision-making crossroads in all sectors.

This paper was written for the 2017 Symposium Dürnstein on Philosophy, Religion, and Politics

Lea Landman
Israel 2017

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Comments

  1. C’est un problème important . Je n’ai pas d’avis autorisé alors que je ne comprend pas que les femmes qui ont d’autres obligations dans la vie fasse un service militaire . Pour moi les femmes peuvent choisir l’armée ou elles peuvent rendre de grands services , mais en aucun cas être mobilisées . Je suppose que je ne suis pas le seul a être de cet avis . Maintenant on va peut être me dire que dans le contexte particulier d’Israel , il faut les mobiliser . Je n’ai pas d’opinion sur cette question . Ce que je sais c’est que je suis contre.

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