IDF Must Fight Its Growing Religious Extremism

The army's high command is merely pretending to fight its rival in authority, the rabbis. Chief of Staff Gantz must put an end to this disgraceful situation.

Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, the outgoing head of the Israel Defense Forces' Personnel Directorate, is urging that the IDF's drift toward religious extremism be stopped. In a document he sent to the chief of staff and all the major generals, whose content was reported by Amos Harel in yesterday's Haaretz, Zamir called for a reorganization of secular-religious relations in the army.

Two exceptional corps inhabit the IDF's Personnel Directorate as hostile neighbors - the Education Corps and the Military Rabbinate. No other Western army has these corps. Other armies make do with information, education or religious services for those who need them.

For many years, these IDF corps had a third partner in the Personnel Directorate - the Women's Corps. This corps has disappeared, since as the army grew up, preserving a structure in which female officers served as representatives of their sex could no longer be justified. As a substitute for the commander of the Women's Corps, an advisor on women's affairs was appointed to the chief of staff.

Zamir, who refrained from kicking up a fuss about the issue during his term of office, now admits what external critics - who have helped to make waves on the inside as well- have been saying for a long time. In this triangle of Education, Military Rabbinate and Women, the IDF's character as a state institution has been disappearing.

Harel reported that Zamir distributed a 30-page document to his colleagues in the General Staff, which is headed by Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. In it, he warned of the ramifications of the IDF's growing religious extremism. His warning focused on the raging power struggle between IDF education officers and military rabbis, as well as on the erosion in the status of female officers and soldiers due to the army's surrender to the rabbis' demands on the issue of modesty.

The memorandum of surrender to the rabbis was drafted in 2003 and is entitled "Appropriate integration." But contrary to its title, it undermines integration and is inappropriate. The chief of staff's advisor on women's affairs, Brig. Gen. Gila Kalifi-Amir, protested vehemently against the radical religious coercion and discrimination against female soldiers and officers that the document has engendered.

The army's high command is merely pretending to fight its rival in authority, the rabbis (and then contradicts itself by visiting the rabbis, as in Brig.Gen. Nitzan Alon's visit to Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ). Chief of Staff Gantz must put an end to the disgraceful situation reflected in Zamir's warning. If he does not, a petition should be submitted to the High Court of Justice against the IDF's arbitrary and unconstitutional behavior.