Sunday, March 22, 2009

Debunking the Israeli 'women in combat' myth

This is in response to a comment on my post "Women in the special forces?" by Steven Brockerman which was:
What about the the War of Independence (1948) in which Israeli women engaged in combat? From what I've researched, they functioned very well. As far as I can determine, moreover, there were no differences in the physical requirements for either male or female soldiers--except that all were expected to kill the enemy. Which they all did quite effectively, IIRC.

Well Steven here's an article by Jon Dougherty which should answer your question. Do read the full article.

Debunking the Israeli 'women in combat' myth: "'History shows that the presence of women has had a devastating impact on the effectiveness of men in battle,' wrote John Luddy in July 27, 1994, for the Heritage Foundation backgrounder.
'For example, it is a common misperception that Israel allows women in combat units. In fact, women have been barred from combat in Israel since 1950, when a review of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War showed how harmful their presence could be. The study revealed that men tried to protect and assist women rather than continue their attack. As a result, they not only put their own lives in greater danger, but also jeopardized the survival of the entire unit. The study further revealed that unit morale was damaged when men saw women killed and maimed on the battlefield,' Luddy said."


Burgess Laughlin said...

There are pitfalls lurking in this subject.

Perhaps indeed the idea--that women and men fought successfully together against a common enemy in the earliest period of the Israeli state--is a myth because the story of this success isn't based on fact.

The pitfall is in leaping to the opposite conclusion: The Israeli experience at that time shows that men and women cannot fight together against a common enemy.

It would be a hasty generalization indeed to look at one historical instance--or even a number of them--and draw a universal conclusion. For example, to reach the universal conclusion one would have to show that the culture values of those men and women were objective. The culture of Israel was certainly not objective. It, like all cultures today and in the past, was steeped in some degree of mystically assigned roles for men and women in society in general.

A researcher would have to identify the widest differences--that is, the differences that apply to all men and women in all circumstances before drawing a universal conclusion that women cannot participate in combat effectively.

Rajesh said...

I agree that Israli culture was not objective but they were very practical where their security was concerned. I think the culture of Kibbutz affected them. According to the jewish virtual library "women are equal participants in the labor force, with jobs in all parts of the kibbutz open to them."
I think it is this kibbutz collectivism that made women want to prove their worth by doing a man's work which made Israeli's put women on the frontlines.

Mike said...

I would have to urge you to do a little more research on the IDF. Wikipedia is such an awesome source of information that is not biased nor inaccurate, simply because of the way that place works.

That section says a lot on the subject.

My experiences in the CAF in the late 80s (UNDOF), I would have to say the few IDF women I met were extremely competent over that of their male counterparts, more professional and reliable.

That said, throughout history, women have taken up arms in defence of their own. More recently, some are known to be stone cold killers.

Of those that are in the military roles, they do have the capacity to meet and sometimes exceed expectations. But this isn't always true. However, that does not preclude that women would not be effective soldiers, combat or support roles.

physical requirements are and should not be compromised to accomodate. With enough training, a 5 foot nuthin girl could treat a 6 foot 4 man like a rag doll. I know, I watched that happen in Wainwright back in 89, when some of the first women were allowed in combat roles with the PPCLI.

Of course, to hear the details from a bud who was an instructor there dealing with those first few gals, he had many misgivings about allowing them in. Strength to do the job, tenacity to do the job were both lacking. Most of that simply because the women that wanted to do combat (infantry in that case) had no idea what they were getting into.

Of course, the same could be said of the guys who were eating some of the same dirt. Either you got it, or you don't. The ratio was something like 50 guys to one gal if I recall making the grade.

To me, if she could hold her own and keep up with the unit, I didn't give a rats ass if she was a she. The trouble was more attitude to doing the job, and bad attitudes were more rampant in the guys than in the women.