Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The "Inhumane" Israeli Army

Soldiers in skirts, with M-16 Assault rifles

My second post got me thinking, whilst on the topic of the army, I'd like to mention that before I enlisted in the IDF, I heard rumours that female soldiers were referred to as "Mitot," mattresses for their male counterparts. Well, I certainly can't tell you how each and every individual soldier acts and what he says, but I can tell you about my co-soldiers.

I worked in two different places in the army - mostly with a company of all male fighters in the 401st Armoured Brigade, and never did we refer to female soldiers, partially because we never had anything to do with them, we were an all-male Company, and only when the Mashakit Tash (Soldier's Welfare) or the Mashakit Aliyah (The Aliyah girl, who helped us with our Hebrew) appeared would we see females, and to be honest, they were never for a very long time. There was no chance of any scandalous activity happening, unless some of the male soldiers had a particular aversion I was unaware of, ahem.

My other position was in Intelligence, in a mixed environment, and although there was exposure to females , there were absolutely no crude references to female soldiers. Upon being drafted into the army, I received a small leaflet entitled "Ruach Tzahal" (Army Spirit,) with 13 hard and fast rules. The third rule is "Kavod Ha'Adam,"respect for your fellow man. There is a very strong emphasis placed on these rules, and all soldiers are to have this leaflet on them at all times. A friend who was in Brigade Headquarters outside Ma'ale Adumim was unfortunate enough to have an entire day filled by the new Brigade Commander who insisted on lecturing his new subordinates, and grilling them for close to 8 hours solid on these 13 points. Make no mistake, the Israeli army is serious about its ethics. Women are valued personnel, and while there will always be individual cases of wrongdoing, it is my belief that chauvinism in the Israeli military is but a myth. Now, compare that to this source, which claims that sexual harassment and rape are rife in the U.S. military. The reports claims that this abuse is so rampant that approximately 10% of female soldiers across the United States Armed Forces are subject to sexual harassment each year, and up to 40% of all female soldiers experience this during their military career. Even more disturbing is that many women are treated as if they induced the men into molesting and/or raping them, or are coaxed into dropping the case. Many have mysterious anonymous complaints filed against them; blackmail. And these are just those who report what's happening. It seems to me, in my humble opinion, that the Israeli Army is in dire need of a serious PR campaign to clear it's name, as it is in fact most probably the best army in the world with regards to equal rights.

Female soldiers equipped with M-16's and grenade launchers

On a similar note, when I was approaching the end of my basic training around October 2007, Israel launched an air raid in Syrian territory, destroying what we suspect may have been a nuclear reactor Syria was building with the help of North Korea. I was speaking to a friend in the IDF's spokesman's unit, and he told me how not long before the IDF had granted the BBC rights to footage of a female fighter pilot in order to portray Israel as a forward-thinking, egalitarian, democratic country. I certainly know of no other air force in the world that employs female fighter pilots. (I might be asking for a deluge of comments here, but I think it's worth risking it.) But the BBC, instead of using the footage for its intended purpose, used the footage to illustrate the news of the Israeli Air Force launching the raid on Syria. My friend was bitterly disappointed. He had worked hard to get the BBC the rights for these pictures, as it could have done Israel some good in the P.R. stakes, but all his hard work was thrown away, and the average TV license payer had no idea what was actually appearing on his screen.

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