Military service has traditionally been considered one of the most distinctive signs of full citizenship. Accordingly, the exclusion of women from military service has been inseparable from their lower civic status. Struggles for inclusion in the army, and particularly in positions of combat duty, have therefore been part of the feminist agenda, at least for those who associate it with equal opportunities. The article explores the dilemmas around military service of women by focusing on the struggles around full inclusion of women in the army in Israel. The Israeli context is special in this regard due to two factors: the application of mandatory service to women on one hand and the centrality of military service in the country on the other hand.
The controversy in this matter reached the Israeli Supreme Court only at a relatively late stage – by two petitions that, prima facie, represent sharply conflicting struggles. One petition was aimed at expanding equal opportunities for women in the army by changing the historical policy of accepting only men to the air force’s prestigious pilots’ course. In contrast, the other petition was aimed at exempting the petitioner from army service for reasons of conscience, with reference to the prolonged Israeli rule in the occupied territories. This petition was based on a special legal provision not applicable to men. The article explores these petitions and the judgments which followed them and then evaluates their relative contribution to the struggle for equal citizenship of women.
Despite large differences in the background and the aims of these petitions, they share strong resemblances. Both, ostensibly so far apart, acknowledge the centrality of military service to Israeli citizenship. The petition for full inclusion in the air force highlighted the importance of military service for equal opportunities in professional and public life. The petition for exemption from service opened the door for the participation of young women in the Israeli political discourse. Both petitioners understood that full citizenship in Israel, as opposed to merely formal citizenship, goes through the army or at least through taking a stand with regard to military service.
Constitutional Law | Military, War and Peace | Women
Date of this Version
Daphne Barak-Erez, "THE FEMINIST BATTLE FOR CITIZENSHIP:BETWEEN COMBAT DUTIES AND CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION" (July 2008). Tel Aviv University Law Faculty Papers. Working Paper 90.