Opinion |

Israel, Stop Sending Women to the Battlefield - They're Much Weaker Than Men

Assigning women to combat roles undermines morale and the fighting spirit. And the IDF? Sticking to its guns

Irit Linur
Irit Linur
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Israeli female soldiers from the mixed-gender Bardalas battalion take part in a training at a military camp near the northern Israeli city of Yoqne'am Illit on September 13, 2016.
Israeli female soldiers from the mixed-gender Bardalas battalion take part in a training at a military camp near the northern Israeli city of Yoqne'am Illit on September 13, 2016.Credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP
Irit Linur
Irit Linur

Last Friday, a female fighter from the Border Police, Hadas Malka, may God avenge her blood, was murdered at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Earlier this year another woman from her unit, Hadar Cohen, may God avenge her blood, was also murdered at the same site. I consider both of them to be heroines. Both chose combat service, with all its dangers, and both were sent to the front. They are not the only ones. The combat track was opened to women almost without our noticing, and the Israel Defense Forces has already informed us proudly that next year 2,500 women will serve in such positions – 400 more than this year.

Are we okay with the idea of female fighters? Women falling in battle? Women in Hamas captivity? It’s hard to know. We weren’t asked. Female fighters have been recruited without genuine public discussion, with the Israel Defense Forces deliberately turning a deaf ear not only to objections from outside the army but also to its own data.

All the findings of the pilot programs for integrating women into combat units have produced a result that is known to anyone who has ever watched athletics competitions, or has simply gotten up in the morning: Women are significantly weaker than men. That’s why they are injured more than men in army training even though they get certain dispensations, and that’s why more of them drop out of combat units.

And those are only the data relating to their physical situation. The latest report by the IDF ombudsman’s office indicates that there is a high percentage of men who refuse to serve in mixed-gender units, and that assigning women to combat roles undermines morale and the fighting spirit. And the IDF? Sticking to its guns.

A senior officer in the Manpower Directorate told Haaretz, “We’ve fomented a revolution: From just a few hundred female combat soldiers to a few thousand in five years. That’s a revolution by any account. We are now examining the issue of female combat soldiers both physiologically and logistically. Social processes are underway. When we complete the examination, we will decide how to proceed.”

I have no idea who the senior officer is, but his words are quite consistent with the spirit of former IDF Spokesman and current Manpower Directorate chief Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz, a radical revolutionary when it comes to this topic, who got to the top ranks of the IDF. The crux of the matter is that the senior figure is describing a peculiar process: First they decided how to proceed, then they completed the examination, saw that the results did not support the basic assumption, threw them out and stubbornly kept going. The IDF wanted a revolution, no less, and in the manner of revolutionaries, the “senior officer” is ignoring all the data that point to the failure of his just goal.

The idea of women’s service in combat units should have been rejected outright, if only because of the blatant physiological differences between men and women. That’s obvious. Obvious, that is, until you encounter agents of Soviet science, successors of Trofim Lysenko.

Lysenko’s name has gone down in ignominy because he imposed on Russia agricultural methods that had no scientific basis and were failures in practice. But his ideas dictated the management of Russian agriculture from the 1920s until the 1960s, and all his failures weren’t enough for people to label his methods a fraud and him a criminal. Among other practices, when he wasn’t falsifying the crop-yield statistics, Lysenko was presenting “proof” that the environment could alter genetic makeup, and asserted that anyone who denied this was a capitalist.

Here we find a similarity between him and the IDF revolutionaries, because maybe there are those in the army who also think that if masses of women are sent to the battlefield they will turn into Amazons, maybe even Wonder Women. Lysenko sent his detractors to the gulags. The IDF makes do with sending women to the field of battle.

In contrast to men, for women combat service is voluntary. That right of choice exists because the IDF knows the truth: There is only a tiny minority of female soldiers who can stand up to the physical and mental rigors of combat, whose integration will not harm the army’s professionalism and whose lives will not be in greater danger due to their physical weakness. The IDF knows this. Nevertheless, the army is going ahead with its dangerous egalitarian revolution, which is not even an egalitarian revolution, but rather a pseudo-scientific campaign with IDF pseudo-needs and pseudo-truth.

In Israel, opponents of combat service for women are not sent to a gulag but will be labeled benighted, and everyone knows that there’s no need to listen to the agents of darkness.

In January, Raz Sagi, a reservist battalion commander, appeared before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, armed with IDF data about women’s integration into combat units. He encountered the familiar wall of shouts from the fighters for equality, together with pompous declarations by most of the participants in the hearing, from across the political spectrum. MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) took pride in having been recruited to a pilot-training course, forgot to mention that she’s not exactly a pilot now, and added, “There is currently an ugly wave of people with outdated approaches, who are trying to do the impossible and freeze time. That is just not going to happen, and we are breaching more and more glass ceilings. We are privileged to grow up in a generation in which [the presence of] female fighters is already self-evident.”

Similar remarks were contributed by Likud MKs Avi Dichter and Sharren Haskel. You have to admire the progress, because these days it’s enough to say “We’re in 2017!” and women immediately have added muscle mass. And if the IDF reduced the number of rifle clips that female fighters have to carry from six to four, and placed a chair for the girls to be able to climb a wall in training – those are only vestiges of politeness from the ancient world.

The social and human engineering that the IDF is implementing is apparently a correction for the depressing social process that channeled women into traditional functions, such as – head for the bomb shelters, because this is awful – motherhood! Secretarial jobs! Secretaries who are also mothers!

But because I am not Rabbi Yigal Levinstein and I am not competing for a position in the military or political system, I will volunteer to speak in the reactionary voice. First of all, there is no equality and there will be none. Men will not be women and women will not be men – not in 2017 and not in 2077. Second, to channel women into motherhood and secretarial work is a lot less bad than channeling them into combat. At least in the old channel there’s a high percentage of suitability to the job, and a lot less death in battle.

Irit Linur is an Israeli journalist, author and radio host.

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