The Israeli army faced criticism on Saturday after taking down an air force video, shared on social media, which celebrated the branch’s female soldiers on International Women’s Day. The move was reportedly due to pressure from religious groups.
In recent months there has been criticism from nationalist rabbis against attempts by the army to open up further combat positions to women and increased co-ed units.
The national-religious affiliated website Srugim said in a tweet that the video had been taken down following a complaint it made, calling the video “provocative.”
The video, entitled “The air force’s answer to chauvinism,” features a voiceover from female soldiers, repeating the frequent criticisms they receive:
“There are those who say woman can’t be warriors — they just can’t physically, they are not built for it physiologically, they should be home with the children,” the voices say.
“They say mothers can’t be in operational positions. Their poor children. Their poor husbands,” the video says. “They say woman just can’t. Women can’t drive. Leave it to men.”
The comments are juxtaposed with action shots of female air force soldiers, running through an obstacle course, on duty as air traffic controllers, controlling drones, working as helicopter mechanics, and as navigators and pilots.
The video ends with a shot of a female pilot. “So they say..,” the female pilot says, as she climbs into the cockpit of an F-16 fighter jet.
The video was taken down on Friday, reportedly due to heavy pressure from religious groups.
The move sparked criticism Saturday from female opposition lawmakers.
“What they say to women in combat is what they say to women in politics, and what they say to every successful woman,” Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni wrote on Twitter.
“That’s over! We won’t be silent, we will fight and succeed. A proper army is not a religious army. Share this video forcefully.”
Stav Shaffir, also from the Zionist Union, slammed the move too.
“If this excellent video was taken down, that’s very sad,” she said, singling out Srugim.
“The saddest thing is that Srugim call themselves Zionist. There is no connection between Zionism and the pathetic attempts of politicians and other parties to harm the brave female fighters who are protecting the country, and to weaken the IDF,” Shaffir said. “I’m sure that the air force is not intimidated by this nonsense.”
Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli said it was time to “put an end to this inequality.”
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office said in a statement that the video was taken down because it had not been officially approved ahead of its publication.
“The video in question was produced by media personnel at the Air Force Magazine and is not an official product of the IDF Spokesperson’s Office,” the army said.
“Without reference to the content of the video, the production was not authorized as required,” the army said, noting that approval procedure would be reviewed in the future.
The issue of female enlistment, especially into combat units, has become a sensitive one among Orthodox nationalist religious leaders in recent years, and has pitted Israel’s traditionally liberal military leadership against the spiritual leaders of a large number of religiously observant soldiers and officers.
In January, the head of a pre-army religious academy in southern Israel accused the IDF of seeking “to destroy” Israeli families, in a speech warning religious women not to “dare” enlist.
Rabbi Tzvi Kostiner claimed co-ed military service has caused women to leave the army due to emotional problems, injuries, and harassment.
“All this mixing is immodest. Today the entire army is one giant mixture,” he told a gathering in Jerusalem for female religious teenagers titled “Femininity: A matter of essence.”
Kostiner said men and women serving together has led to “insanity” in the army, with women taking on roles traditionally reserved for men.
“As if it’s a new craze, to enlist, to be a man, to be an idealist,” said the rabbi, who heads Mitzpe Ramon’s Midbara K’Eden Yeshiva. “Don’t you dare enlist,” he warned, and implored those in the attendance “to go everywhere and tell girls not to enlist.”
Kostiner’s remarks came just a week after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman barred Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef from attending army events for backing a right-wing rabbi who had called for ousting IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, over the integration of female soldiers in combat units.
That rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, was also banned from IDF events, as was Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who said it was forbidden to join mixed-gender units, which make up almost all non-combat units in the IDF, as well as several combat units.