We have the privilege of eavesdropping on an e-mail discussion of the Lebanon war by feminist peace activists. Galia Golan is a professor of political science associated with Peace Now and the Meretz party executive.
War is always a gender thing – as the guys play with their machines and try to prove their masculinity. But this war especially is. My first response the day the war started in the north was that the Israeli reaction was a male pride thing. Coming just after the incursion and capture of the soldier at Karem Shalom, the Hizbollah turns around and captures two more Israeli soldiers on its front. Our guys went beserk – insulted, their manhood humilated. And then begins the insane escalation with the two boys, IDF and Hizbollah daring each other, you hit Beirut, I’ll hit Haifa, and so it went.
And all this talk of restoring deterrent power – what it really translates to is “they only understand force,” and if they haven’t gotten the point yet, we’ll use more force. If that isn’t a gender thing, I don’t know what is.
And look at the reaction on the home front – granted some men are protesting, and some women are part of the “consensus,” but on the whole, at least in my impressionistic view, it is mainly women who see the insanity of all this, the futility and the tragedy. Add to this the media coverage – male, male, male with only an occasional woman brought on to give the emotional side (whether on morality in war or protesting in war time…).
Only men know how to analyze. Militarism is a male thing, though many women buy into it, and Israel is clearly a militarized society, with a culture of war or force – that’s our natural response, unfortunately, unless serious factors restrain us.
A dissenting response follows….
“Something is wrong in Galia’s feminist narrative” By Frances Raday
Galia is of course right that a certain form of macho aggression lies at the roots of war. There is also no doubt that some women buy into it and some men buy out of it. However her application of this perfectly good feminist analysis to Israel’s response in Lebanon is perverse.
The description of Israel’s reaction to the Hezbollah provocation as “our guys going bezerk” is, at best, wilful naivety and, at worst, a dangerously distorted narrative. Israel’s reaction is a response not only to the capture of two soldiers, as claimed by Galia. Even as regards the immediate and local provocation, it seems Galia Golan has forgotten that several Israeli soldiers were also killed (are their lives not to be brought into the reckoning?) and several rockets were fired on civilian settlements in the Western Galilee. On a less immediate level, the Israeli reaction was to the collection in Lebanon of 12,000 missiles, which were supplied by Iran after Israel withdrew behind the internationally recognized border with Lebanon. These missiles were supplied by Iran whose President Achmedinajad has repeatedly stated that his aim is to wipe Israel off the map.
The feminist dilemma is how to break out of the circle of violence created by warfare in general and in the Middle East in particular. Raising a white or a pink flag might be a great strategy in some circumstances but scarcely can it be regarded as such in the environment described above. Indeed Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, which I fully supported and continue to regard as the right thing to have done (we should never have stayed embedded in Lebanon for 20 years in the first place), is close to such a strategy in the Middle East context …. and it evidently did not work, in view of the Iranian/Hezbollah rhetoric and provocation.
I do not know if Israel’s response was the wisest way of dealing with the local and regional threat and I do not know if we will succeed in surviving such threats in the long run. I do know that the simplistic presentation of Israel’s reaction as totally disproportionate aggression is a distortion of the facts. Indeed, it is not in accordance with international law as seen by a critical mass of international law experts in Israel and as clarified by international authority. International law recognizes Israel’s initial decision to respond with military force as self-defense.
As regards the proportionality of the means used in Israel’s military reaction, we will only know when we have the full facts, and not just media reports, whether Israel has or has not fully implemented the norms of international humanitarian law as regards Lebanese civilians. This too is a complex question in a situation in which the Hezbollah is embedded in civilian population centers and uses homes, hospitals and mosques as shelter for their military actions.