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Gender Equality in Israel May 1, 2007

Posted by Melissa in bodies, careerwomen, controversy, female executives, female politicos, female soldiers, G.I. Jane, gender, general considerations, Girl Power, in the news, Israel, nationalism, Spain.
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I found this article earlier today about the status of gender equality in Israel. I don’t find the statistics surprising, women have been paid up to 1/3 less than men in the gad that hasn’t changed since 1967, but the fact that they reflect the situation in Israel- I say this because one of the more well-known facts about the country is forced conscription for both men and women. This may just be a severe misunderstanding on my part, but I would have guessed that a country which views both genders as capable of protecting the nation would have been more modern all around? The article states that most sectors discriminate against women, even the army, and questions whether affirmative action would work in the country by looking to Scandinavia and Spain as examples. I was wondering what other people thought of this? I know Israel is a deeply religious country, to say the least, but did others expect the statistics to be so drastic? Also, looking back to class conversations on gender and nationalism, is it fair that a state- which utilizes women to protect their nation- to be so backwards on their stance towards social gender equality?

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1. Nationalism « Motherhood in the Media - May 7, 2007

[…] where women/mothers do fight (as in many anti-colonialist or other subversive movements, in Israel, recently in India). It adds a new dimension to the women-as-soldier debate because it implicitly […]

2. joannawasik - May 7, 2007

I think that your logic is right in general– I would also think that a country with forced concription for both sexes would stem from that country’s commitment to treating the sexes equally. And no, clearly it is not fair for Israel to superficially give women the same right to serve their country while at the same time paying them less for it (and also otherwise maintaining a high level of gender discrimination overall). However, very often, political rhetoric does not match up with the true strategic motivations behind a law or policy.

As this article suggests, a true belief in equality for the sexes is not really what drives the policy of universal conscription in Israel. At its founding, the first Israeli settlers were proud of tilling the soil and literally creating from the ground up the society and haven they had envisioned in Eretz Israel. “the utopian-socialist idealism of the country’s early days cast women as equals—toiling the earth alongside men in kibbutzim and carrying rifles in the army.” It is very important to Israel’s identity to maintain and revere this image of the country’s conception, even though in reality, the state and its ideology has completely changed since (or, really, changed almost immediately after the state evolved from a group of kibbutzes to an internationally recognized political entity in 1948).

Women may serve in the army because it is important for the Israeli state to uphold a notion of Israel being based on equality and settler strength– however, it is clear that however hard it tries to maintain this image, it still treats its women (and, to a much harsher extent, its Arab citizens!!) as second-class individuals. Israel is often hailed amongst the Middle Eastern countries for its liberal democracy, its political rights, civil liberties, etc etc– but this shallow representation really only speaks to the rights that it gives its Jewish citizens, and, as this article notes, also covers up its sexual inequality.

3. joannawasik - May 8, 2007

PS– also, the reason may be pragmatic as well. Israel does not allow its Arab citizens to serve in its army (because its army is mainly involved in conflicts with Arab nations/groups, such as Hezbollah this past summer), so it simply needs a place to find soldiers. Women could also be seen as a way to increase numbers.


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