the idf takes one step forward and three steps back

October 15, 2012

playground soldier

You might remember the bitter Israeli joke I used in a previous post about Haredi Jews’ complete lack of any desire in participating in their own nation’s future. It goes something like this. A third of the country works, a third fights in the military, and a third pays all the taxes; unfortunately it’s all the same third. Things have progressed somewhat since this joke was made, and there are a lot fewer religious fundamentalists shirking their military duties rather than claiming their religious exemption similar to the American "conscientious objector" clause, and staying home on a state stipend, reading the Torah for the hundredth time. Unfortunately this means that there are a lot of fundamentalists in the IDF and that doesn’t bode well for the Israeli women who are very, very quickly rising through the ranks and thriving in the military’s primarily secular structure. The new Haredi recruits seem determined to maintain separation of genders at all costs…

If the pressure to avoid sin in the military has always been an onus on women, more recently it’s transferred to men. Like Boianjiu’s recruits, many religious men are taught that they must steer clear of certain dangers, such as being touched by a woman, hearing a woman sing, and looking at women. As more women advance into positions of power, or just generally spread out among various units, these actions are harder and harder for men to avoid.

Perhaps one of the most ridiculous manifestations of this is a growing refusal to allow a female instructor to correct a man’s posture during combat training. Not hearing women sing or simply avoiding the sight of a woman can be excused as quirks, utterly asinine quirks that take several phrases in the Torah to unwarranted and unthinking extremes, but quirks nonetheless. But when these recruits refuse to learn how to handle their weapons or assume a proper stance during a live ammo exercise because a woman is in charge of their training, we’re venturing into that rare category of lunacy so extreme that it’s dangerous to the lunatic and everyone around him. It’s almost better if they just kept mooching off the government and shirked their responsibilities just like they did before because now, instead of trying to live in a post-1600 AD world, they’re trying to make the IDF bow to their whims regardless of what it does to combat readiness.

Not only are the Haredis a force for social unrest in Israel, and not only do they refuse to work in a knowledge-based economy the country has spent many billions trying to create, they’re now trying to turn their nation’s military into one of their yeshivas but with uniforms and guns. Can we consider this example of religious fundamentalism going too far again and again to learn a few glaring lessons as to why we shouldn’t be praising religious extremists as devoted pillars of their communities, and why we can’t allow them to have free reign in politics and modern society? For the last 60 plus years, Israel clothed, fed, sheltered, and defended its fundamentalists, letting them do as they wished and granting them every exception and stipend they demanded. What did the state get in return? Hardcore religious fanatics who will ridicule and shun the society that enabled their cushy existence, demanding ever more money, power, and concessions. And the only word I can possibly think of to describe shameful behavior like that is parasitic.

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  • Eric

    Hi Greg, Love your articles. I found your site a while back by accident while doing research for my CS degree. While I couldn’t really use the material for what I was writing I found that your topics and opinion were interesting and entertaining none the less. You really have a way with words and a great wit and I can’t help but be in agreement with nearly all your opinions. So enough blowing smoke. I found this topic to be enlightening due to the fact that this is a subject I know nothing about. Still I can’t help but feel like “who care’s?”. No offence to you. I’ve been going back and reading earlier blogs and whatever the topic is be it the Texas Ed. system, pornography, science, Gov’t , if it involves religion in any way, that tends to be the cause of the problem in the first place. I’m not knocking this article or any others. All I’m saying is that you eloquently point out the problem and what would seem to be the obvious solution would be a world wide ban on religion and yet we all know that’s never going to happen. I’m ignorant of how Israel is run. I can’t tell from this article if this is how the whole system works, or if its just this Haredi sect but religion in general and specifically religious fundamentalism of any type aims to set human progress back. It ranges from the most extreme cases like terrorism which wants to literally blow up society back to the stone age lest we adopt their views to simply being a stumbling block and thorn in the side of scientific progress, education, and Gov’t policy. In this case I don’t care what the Haredi’s do unless it at some point directly affects me. If they want to hurt their military because of their sexist, religious belief system, let them. They only stand out as another shining example of religious dogma undermining logic and reason. It’s not like its the first time.

  • Greg Fish

    … what would seem to be the obvious solution would be a world wide ban on religion and yet we all know that’s never going to happen.

    So why would it be an obvious solution then? My solution is to draw a line and say that you’re allowed to do whatever you want on one side of the line, i.e. your home, your place of worship, your private schools, your business, and follow the rules of a secular society on the other, i.e. public schools, healthcare, government, and military. That’s doable but no one seems to have the backbone or the dual oval objects to make it actually happen because politicians are pandering to the loudest voters.

    If they want to hurt their military because of their sexist, religious belief system, let them. They only stand out as another shining example of religious dogma undermining logic and reason.

    But then those who do not share their beliefs will be hurt by their refusal to put their nation and others above their own selfish desires. In this case literally, and that’s the best case scenario. The tech whose job it is to intercept missiles refusing to train under a woman could kill a family just to keep his religious duties. For me, when your faith affects others’ lives and health, it should be overruled by rule of law and reason.

  • Eric

    Greg: “So why would it be an obvious solution then? My solution is to draw a line and say that you’re allowed to do whatever you want on one side of the line, i.e. your home, your place of worship, your private schools, your business, and follow the rules of a secular society on the other, i.e. public schools, healthcare, government, and military. That’s doable but no one seems to have the backbone or the dual oval objects to make it actually happen because politicians are pandering to the loudest voters.”

    You’re completely right and that would be the most sensible alternative. You can’t fault me for a little wishful thinking. Although at least in America I would go as step further and keep your beliefs strictly in the home with your immediate family. At least as far as the new testament is concerned I think Jesus made mention of keeping your beliefs to yourself. I think if individual families kept their interpretation of their holy book to themselves then they would still maintain religious freedom without having this exclusive Christian(or any other religion) club. The leadership and organization makes these groups cohesive so that they can accumulate huge donations and salaries for for their lobbyist to influence the powers that be and promote their own agenda. Of course this idea then treads on freedom of assembly.

    Greg: “But then those who do not share their beliefs will be hurt by their refusal to put their nation and others above their own selfish desires. In this case literally, and that’s the best case scenario. The tech whose job it is to intercept missiles refusing to train under a woman could kill a family just to keep his religious duties. For me, when your faith affects others’ lives and health, it should be overruled by rule of law and reason. ”

    Another good point but every country had some rather backward view, beliefs, or customs at one point or another and we still have some here. Sexism and racism were both popular types of bigotry here in the US back in the day. Eventually we came to our senses and it only took about 200 years to start treating blacks almost equally and women took less time. Granted their pay averages less than white males but its getting there. You can’t say that religion of the time wasn’t at least partly to blame for the belief that Africans and women were inferior and therefor undeserving of equal rights. Then we have Christian scientists and Jehovah’s witnesses that refuse modern medicine and attempt to pray their ills away to their detriment. There is nothing we can do to these groups until it crosses the line into child abuse. If the Haredi’s are the only ones that refuse to take orders from a woman then they should not be allowed to serve in the military in the first place. As I understand it they are a minority religious sect of Israel anyway. How much would it actually impact their society or military power to exclude this one group from state mandated military service, or at the vary least restrict their duty to non-essentials like KP, let them peel veggies and make dinner while the women do the important jobs.

  • venqax

    I found that your topics and opinion were interesting and entertaining none the less. Have to agree with that. Also agree that a line has to be drawn between personal beliefs, religious and otherwise, and the public policy domain. The hitch, of course, concernswhere exactly that line should be drawn. When others are affected is a convenient theoretical location, but in practice can be hard to determine. In law we deal all the time with defining liability in various contexts.

    The interesting thing about this article is that we have here in the US military almost precisely the other side of the same problem. Because of political agendas based on non-rational beliefs rather than religious ones, the US military continues to attempt to integrate women into the combat forces (within the military there are distinctions between combatant and non-combatant assignments. By military vs. civilian standards all military members are combatants, at least in theory). One problem is that physical strength requirements have to be lowered for females. So, in very real terms, this means that a woman doesn’t have to be strong enough to pull a 200 lbs. comrade out of harm’s way, but a man does. In your 12-man-squad all 11 others are there to carry you, literally, when the case arises. In your new squad of 8 men and 4 women, your chances are more like 2 to 1 that you will get carried when necessary. Remember, we aren’t saying that women who can meet the 200 lbs requirement are just as eligible as the men. We are saying they don’t have to meet the same requirement. That is just one very specific example of the problem. And the point is that there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to do this, other than the quasi-religious belief that men and women have to be treated “equally”, even if equality means declaring that 2=3 for one group and accepting real, concrete reductions in effectiveness.

    Banning religious activity from outside the home? Are you serious or have you simply not really thought about this much? Even if freedom of religion means nothing to you, do you see no value in freedom of speech, expression, assembly, or conscience? I am radical enough to say there are parts of the Constitution that I think need rethinking, but the First Amendment isn’t one of them.

  • Greg Fish

    So, in very real terms, this means that a woman doesn’t have to be strong enough to pull a 200 lbs. comrade out of harm’s way, but a man does.

    This would only apply to combat roles and nowadays, there are as many as 3 support jobs for every MOS which has any combat duty in its description. You really stretched your example to make it fit by declaring that all military roles can in theory be treated as combat roles despite saying that yes, there are distinctions between combat and support roles. Once again, you’re trying to make a point with double talk.

  • Eric

    “Banning religious activity from outside the home? Are you serious or have you simply not really thought about this much? Even if freedom of religion means nothing to you, do you see no value in freedom of speech, expression, assembly, or conscience? I am radical enough to say there are parts of the Constitution that I think need rethinking, but the First Amendment isn’t one of them.”

    I am completely serious as far as my wants and wishful thinking are concerned. As a rabid atheist, when I think about all the negative impact beliefs have brought on society I can’t help but think how much better things would be without it. I realize that the likelihood of this actually happening is slim to none and that it tramples on constitutional rights, but none the less society, education, and scientific progress would be better off without this thorn in its side. If you think back to all the bloody wars in the name of some god, the inquisition, all the early scientists that were imprisoned or put to death for being a heretic, witch trials and all the stupid cults that pop up from time to time, etc. What would possess a bunch of supposed rational people to drink poisoned Kool-Aid or perform horrific acts of violence if not for some strong religious belief that they are doing Gods bidding. Thanks to some constitutional rights we can’t “accidentally” divert a missile at the Westboro Baptist Church because good for nothing hate groups are protected. I know “once you start walking over or taking liberties with some rights, whats to keep the Gov’t or whoever from stopping?”. It already started with the patriot act and so far were not living in a fascist dictatorship so there’s one example of self regulating. In summary religious beliefs have done more harm than good historically and we would probably be further ahead as a society without it.

    On to the US military. They don’t “continue to attempt to integrate women”. They have successfully integrated women. With the exception of a few military positions like infantry and special forces women are allowed to do everything else, and can do just as good a job as any man. Granted the PT standards for women are dropped a little but I’m sure most women are fully able to pull or carry a larger man if necessary. It really is sort of a weak point. If we were lobbing heavy boulders at the enemy than physical strength would probably carry more weight. Its not as if every time a patrol goes out soldiers are always wounded and require being dragged out of fire. A 150lbs man with genetically smaller bone structure and muscle mass would have just as much trouble carrying a large man but he could and would do it if it was necessary.

  • venqax

    i>They don’t “continue to attempt to integrate women”. They have successfully integrated women. With the exception of a few military positions like infantry and special forces
    Those exceptions are exactly what I was talking about. That’s why I said combat positions, and took the time to clarify that the military distinguishes between combat and non-combat positions. Did you miss all that? I didn’t mention at all the non-combat and support roles women play in the military, Altho how successful their integration has been there is debatable— and I am guessing you have no reason at all to assert otherwise unless you have more day-to-day interaction with the military than I do.

    Granted the PT standards for women are dropped a little but I’m sure most women are fully able to pull or carry a larger man if necessary.
    No. They are not. And that is the point—a strong one when you are talking about a basic combat fitness task.

    Its not as if every time a patrol goes out soldiers are always wounded and require being dragged out of fire. You are talking out of your rear with absolutely no idea what you are saying.

    A 150lbs man with genetically smaller bone structure and muscle mass would have just as much trouble carrying a large man but he could and would do it if it was necessary. If he couldn’t do it then he, unlike the women, wouldn’t be thereb. Because the standards are different for her— but not the real requirements. That is the point. You can’t just ignore real differences in the name some abstract idea of fairness, whether it is due to misguided religion or misguided secular ideology.

    As for the religion thing, I think you are making the mistake of assuming a lot more conflicts, including “religious” ones, are really about religion. Most are not. Religion is a good psychological motivator, but it’s certainly not the only one. Do you consider Nazism and Communism to be religions? That would make your proposition that religion is the culprit for horrendous misery and destruction stronger. I can see “wishing” that something never existed because it causes more problems than it is worth—you could say that about race, or culture too, besides religion. If there simply were no different racial groups or cultural divides, then we’d get to avoid the whole racism/ethno-centrism problem. It’s another thing to say you would want to persecute—and that is what you’re suggesting—something that DOES exist in the world because the costs of doing that would somehow be worthwhile. Why stop at religion? There are a LOT of things that cause trouble and that I, personally, and many others think the world would be much better off without. Is religion the only thing on your list?

  • venqax

    This would only apply to combat roles and nowadays, there are as many as 3 support jobs for every MOS which has any combat duty in its description.

    More than 3 actually. And the combat roles is all I’m talking about. That’s why I said that.

    You really stretched your example to make it fit by declaring that all military roles can in theory be treated as combat roles despite…

    I said that to avoid that specific off-point comment. Didn’t work, obviously. Yes, any military person can end up in combat. But that is not the primary role of non-combatant positions. Which women are already in. Which has nothing to do with my point. Which regards the effort to put them in combat positions. It is an attempt to simply ignore reality by declaration. A reality that has real negative consequences You can’t simply “wish” the problem away by force of mind-set and thereby risk the efficacy of the entire military. Like the problem of a growing refusal to allow a female instructor to correct a man’s posture during combat training which really does affect the whole, central concept of military discipline for no legitimate reason other than pacifying a political constituency. You might even call it 1 step forward and 3 steps back. You need a better double-talk detector.

  • Eric

    Me – Its not as if every time a patrol goes out soldiers are always wounded and require being dragged out of fire.

    venqax – You are talking out of your rear with absolutely no idea what you are saying.

    Me – Ok first off you seem to be a sexist. Secondly, you seem to be making some generalization that being as soldier is all about physical strength and because men are genetically predisposed to be bigger and stronger that’s reason enough to exclude women because as you seem to think they are just inferior and their very presence is detrimental to their squad. From your response to my comment above you believe that every time soldiers leave their base to go do their job someone always gets wounded? and I’m talking out of my ass? This isn’t Vietnam or WW2. I’m pretty sure that act of having to drag your wounded soldier buddy around is an occasional event. In basic training you are taught about half a dozen different ways to move a body a couple of which involve a team lift. Do you think the military would just allow women to join the military if they couldn’t prove that they could perform their job within an acceptable range? You think the military just caved to all the pressure from the ACLU or some feminist league? Basic training is all about combat. Every soldier is required to to learn the basics because every MOS has the potential to see combat. The only reason women aren’t allowed in infantry and special forces roles according to the government is because seeing a woman get hurt is more psychologically damaging than seeing a man hurt and women have periods. Not because they aren’t capable, but because it may or may not hurt morale. Who needs to worry about religion interfering with military training when sexism appears to be all you need to make you case against women in the military.

  • venqax

    Ok first off you seem to be a sexist.
    How is it sexist to point out the differences between the standards expected of men and women? Making the standards different is probably sexist, pointing them out isn’t.

    Secondly, you seem to be making some generalization that being as soldier is all about physical strength
    No, but it is A part of being a COMBAT soldier. A very, very big one. STILL. I don’t know what you think has changed about that since Vietnam or WW2. It hasn’t. In fact, thanks to body armor and other advances, soldiers today are MORE likely to be wounded, not dead, and need battlefield rescue than was true in the past. This is not a minor or trivial point. You really think soldiers don’t get wounded in battle enough anymore to make how you treat them nothing but a pesky detail for combat operations?

    Do you think the military would just allow women to join the military if they couldn’t prove that they could perform their job within an acceptable range? You think the military just caved to all the pressure from the ACLU or some feminist league?
    Umm…YES, Eric. That is exactly what I’m saying. Yes, they allow them into jobs they are unable to do. Yes, they rig the scale for them. Yes, they caved to political pressure— tho the caving was on the part of politicians who make these decisions regardless of the military’s assessments, not by the military itself. Just like (bringing it full circle here), the IDF is adjusting its requirements for political reasons. It just happens that in the IDF’s case, the politics are motivated by religion, in the US case the politics are motivated by a social ideology. And again, I am not talking about women simply joining the military. That is a completely separate issues with its own pluses and minuses. Women in combat roles is all I am addressing. Do you really think the IDF would allow men to join the military who have problems taking orders from women? Yes, evidently that is the case.