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July 9, 2019 11:56 am

Feminist Groups Protest What They Call Discriminatory Treatment of Women Armored Corps Combat Trainees

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israel Defense Forces and tanks gather near the border with Gaza in southern Israel on Nov. 13, 2018. Photo: Hadas Parush / Flash90.

Feminist and civil society groups appealed to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi to reverse his decision to prevent women from serving in combat roles in the Armored Corps.

According to Israel’s Channel 13, the letter from the Israel Women’s Network and seven other organizations was the result of an investigation into the treatment of women in a pilot training program, and alleged abuse and bad faith on the part of the IDF.

Several women succeeded in meeting all the program’s requirements, but were ultimately not permitted to serve in combat roles.

“The investigation shows clearly that the IDF made a de facto decision not to include female combat soldiers who were trained as tank crew members and tank commanders in the Armored Corps,” the letter said.

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“The investigation also found that the decision was made because of improper political pressure exerted on the top echelon of the IDF by elements opposed to equal service of women and who attempt to harm their status,” it added.

The groups also alleged that the report “revealed that the women who underwent the training suffered a harsh and outrageous series of humiliations against their gender and repeated instances of separation and exclusion of women.”

The letter said that the female trainees “were covered with jute cloth; soldiers were forbidden to speak to or accompany them in any way; they were interrogated by religious elements outside the army about the nature of their relations with the men who were serving alongside them.”

At the end of the pilot program, said the letter, the women were rejected for combat service and one was assigned to be a postal clerk.

“It is inconceivable that instead of strengthening the operational capabilities required to carry out its tasks and using the manpower in its possession, the IDF surrendered to irrelevant pressures and ruled out the integration of female combatants for extraneous reasons that are not professional,” the letter asserted.

“It is impossible to agree to a situation in which the rights of female soldiers are trampled due to pressures from elements with discriminatory and restrictive agendas,” the letter concluded.

Sergeant Noga Shina, one of the program’s trainees, discussed some of the issues the female soldiers faced, saying, “The boys were in their own area and we were in ours, separated and distant.”

“To be safer, we were required to cover our demarcated area with jute cloth so we wouldn’t be seen if someone passed by,” she added.

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