Sunday, March 15, 2009

Israel's arms around sexualized, racialized clients

The major Israeli arms manufacturer "Raphael" produced a promo tailored especially for one of its most significant arms buyers, India. As reported in the first item below recounting part of the international response to it, this clip is an extremely blunt, not to say bludgeoning, expression of Israel's racist, sexist orientalism. Reflecting the perceptions of Israeli defense officials, it portrays India (and by implication other major "third world" clients such as Turkey) as a feminized, sexualized, exoticized, undeveloped dependent on Israel's/Raphael's masculinized high-tech-protection.

You can watch this hard-to-believe faux pas at:

Outrageous, blundering, ignorant and offensive as it is, the promo offers a lucid demonstration of the interdependent compound of racism and sexism embedded in Israel's militarization. As feminist scholars have been showing for years, militarization necessarily involves "othering"—of a fearful, (usually) racialized enemy on the one hand and a vulnerable, weak, feminized protégé on the other. The Raphael sales clip indeed depicts its "friends" as racialized, feminized and inferior "others". Their progress and security, the clip explains in so many jingle lyrics, lies in succumbing to the masculine, black leathered, superior protector and acquiring Raphael's arms systems.

The linkage of arms, so-called security and a complementing combination of racism and sexism is accordingly no coincidence. It is a systemic aspect of militarization.

Among other things, Jewish Israeli society (like numerous colonial powers before and since) commonly "others" and further "enemizes" Palestinian or Arab societies in terms of their repression of women, citing this as conclusive evidence of their backwardness, barbarism and cruelty and, conversely in comparison, of Israel's enlightened, advanced development.

However, the reality in militarized Israel is one of deep running gender discrimination. Requiring vulnerable weak women whose need for protection allegedly justifies the deployment of organized state violence, Israeli culture systematically and actively works to weaken women through a broad spectrum of strategies and practices. One of them is keeping women relatively poor. As reported in the second piece below, in Israel today "the average income of a working woman is 64 percent of the male average." And "mothers still earn much less than any other demographic in the workforce, despite the fact that they make up a greater part of the workforce than any other group."

The military in particular, an institution which of course wields enormous influence on society and culture in Israel, tends to "put women in their [inferior] place" through the structure of their posts and their military roles and through widespread, normalized practices of sexual harassment. A 2003 study by the military itself found that 80 percent of women conscripts were exposed to sexual harassment in the course of their service (, Hebrew).

Commenting on a recent scandal around disclosures that Israel's top naval commander regularly visits strip-clubs, feminist media star Merav Michaeli, writes in the third piece below, "the IDF remains an institution in which women enjoy not even a semblance of equality … a clear majority of women serving in the army are in service positions. Such services are rendered to men in professional positions, and … we know that these include sexual services … the military lacks a clear ethics code emphasizing the significance of the sexual harassment issue, as well as an educational program for soldiers and commanders to change their views on sexual harassment."

Paradoxically, while reform efforts have achieved, and may continue to achieve, a limited degree of improvement, this very improvement meanwhile works to conceal the central, structural role of sexist-racist beliefs and practices in maintaining the world view vital to the consistently militarized agenda of the Jewish state.

Rela Mazali


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Last update - 20:13 13/03/2009

Arms dealer promotional film dubbed 'most atrocious of all time'
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel's armament development authority, has launched a promotional film that was dubbed "the most atrocious defense video of all time" by Wired, the popular technology magazine.

The Bollywood-esque video, aired last month for the Indian annual air show, features sari-clad women dancing between flower-draped missiles, as a man in a leather jacket promises them "security and protection" to the sound of a sitar-tinted version of the famous pop song Together Forever.

The video cost $15,000 to produce, and was directed by the independent director Avishai Kfir in Israel. The actors are Israelis of Georgian and Indian origin.

A Rafael spokesperson said that the video had been received with much acclaim in India.

"Rafael is constantly trying to demonstrate innovation and creativity not only in the field of defense technology," he said. "In every international fair we launch a film that corresponds with the local culture. In Brazil, for example, our clip revolved around soccer. Over the past few years, we have won first prize for design and production almost annually."

Related articles:
• Indian gov't okays over $1.5 billion in arms deals with Israel
• Brothers in arms
• Israeli arms company successfully tests Iron Dome anti-Qassam missile


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Last update - 13:36 08/03/2009

Why do married women earn less money than married men?
By Ofri Ilani

In July 1848, dozens of women and a few dozen men gathered for the world's first feminist conference in Seneca Falls, New York. For the first time in human history, a resolution was passed calling for women to be given social and democratic rights equal to those of men. Today, more than 150 years and one feminist revolution later, the position of women in society is inestimably better. But according to a study being published Sunday to coincide with International Women's Day - which is marked in 61 countries today - mothers still earn much less than any other demographic in the workforce, despite the fact that they make up a greater part of the workforce than any other group.

The study, conducted out by researchers from the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University, shows that matrimony has a clear detrimental effect on women's earning power and that raising children is the factor that most affects women's ability to close the financial gap between the sexes.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, there were 2,661,000 women living in Israel at the start of 2008. Of them, some 951,000 had children under the age of 17. In 2008, 51.3 percent of women over the age of 15 were part of the workforces compared to 46.3 percent in 1998. That said, the average income of a working women is 64 percent of the male average. The average pre-tax income of men in 2007 was NIS 9,267 a month; women made, on average, just NIS 5,949. One of the key factors used to explain this difference is that women, on average, work fewer hours than men. The percentage of women who hold parttime jobs is three times higher than for men; 36.4 percent of women, compared to 12.4 percent of men.

"The study clearly shows that getting married harms women's earning power and increases the earning power of men," Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kadari, head of the Rackman Center, said. "Compared to married men, married women earn less and less as they get older, while single women's average salary gets closer to men's average as they get older. Mothers work less hours because of child-rearing and household chores. Motherhood, therefore, is the main factor that perpetuates the gap between men's and women's earning power."

According to Halperin-Kadari, "the State of Israel has one of the highest birth rates in the Western world, but the infrastructure for looking after children and the possibility of both parents playing a role in the workforce are extremely restricted. Because of the high birth rate here, mothers are more impacted by this than in other places."

CBS data shows that 34 percent of employees in the high-tech sector - around 88,300 people - are women. Women also make up 31.5 percent of executives in Israel, compared to 14.7 percent in 1988. Over half (56 percent) of students in institutions of higher education are women and 52.7 percent of Israeli doctoral students are women.


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Last update - 00:52 08/03/2009

In the spirit of the IDF
By Merav Michaeli

When the scandal over Israel Navy Commander Eliezer Marom's jaunts to a Tel Aviv strip club broke, he was quoted in Haaretz as having told Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi that he had "no more skeletons in the closet." Namely, that he had never abused or harassed women, neither in his military or his civilian life. Marom clearly understands the line on which the manifold ways of exploiting women and using them as objects of sexual amusement and control are located.

In his remarks, Marom made a distinction between places in which it is permissible to exploit women (strip clubs) and those in which it is prohibited (the army). Ashkenazi, who gave him only a verbal reprimand, bolstered this distinction, declaring before professional female soldiers in the standing army that Marom's behavior "does not contravene the law, and was done in his free time, in civilian clothes." Even those calling for Marom to be dismissed or quit claim merely that his actions "do not befit IDF values."

Is there really such a clear distinction? Do objectification and exploitation of women really violate IDF principles? Despite flowery rhetoric proclaiming the "women's revolution" in the Israeli military, the IDF remains an institution in which women enjoy not even a semblance of equality. Countless professional and combat positions remain completely closed to women (while at the same time men are hardly ever given service-type positions), and the army placement system separates and discriminates between the sexes from the outset, despite legal prohibitions.

The Segev Committee, appointed by former IDF human resources chief Elazar Stern, submitted wide-ranging recommendations two years ago for changing that situation. The committee seemed to offer a solution for all the problems military officials described as delaying progress toward gender equality. Its report, however, was shelved immediately upon submission, as the army was unwilling to "alter the balance between women's obligation to serve in the army and their [nonexistent] rights" during their service, according to one army official who was a committee member.

When Devorah Hasid resigned as adviser to the chief staff on women's affairs - the last position in the IDF set aside for someone who speaks by and for women, which the last chief of staff tried to reduce and Ashkenazi intends to cut - she left behind her a report which found that a clear majority of women serving in the army are in service positions. Such services are rendered to men in professional positions, and while the report does not spell them out, we know that these include sexual services.

Hasid's report concluded that the military lacks a clear ethics code emphasizing the significance of the sexual harassment issue, as well as an educational program for soldiers and commanders to change their views on sexual harassment.

As stripping is merely a gradation of prostitution, despite offering "only visual" services, female IDF soldiers fill the role of sexual object even if touching is ostensibly prohibited. (Research proves definitively that women engaged in all forms of prostitution, including nude dancing, are victims of extreme violence.)

The IDF drafts women partly in order so that the men will have have someone to spend time with, to welcome them when they return from training or battle.

I permit myself to guess that had Marom been caught in a gay club, the chief of staff's reaction would have been far more severe, even though that, too, is not illegal. But the masculine ethic, as the feminist and jurist Catharine MacKinnon writes, views whatever maintains men's power as good, and whatever undermines, restricts or challenges his absoluteness as bad. A visit to a strip club, therefore, does not justify dismissal. In fact, it is entirely in line with the values of the IDF.

Jewish Peace News editors:
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Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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News Service said...

A message of peace and brotherhood from our dear neighbors who are progressive and feminist and do not have a "consistently militarized agenda:"

Peace to the Jews

TNC said...

Thanks, that was entertaining and moderately funny in a cheesy sort of way.

Israel and India are moving closer together. Both countries are aware of the common enemy they face in the form of Islamist totalitarianism.