Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Why We Don't Fight

Jessica at Feministing spotted this fascinating legal tale from Israel:
Idan Halili, just 19 years old, has written a feminist critique that has astounded established feminist voices around the world. Her analysis takes the form of a letter sent to the Israeli army asking for exemption from compulsory service, based on a feminist rejection of militarism. Last December, having spent two weeks in military prison because of her refusal to serve, Halili was exempted from conscription; her views, she was told, deemed her "unsuitable".

"The army is an organisation whose most fundamental values cannot be brought in harmony with feminist values," she wrote in her request for exemption. Halili argues that military service is incompatible with feminist ideology on several levels: because of a hierarchal, male-favouring army structure; because the army distorts gender roles; because of sexual harassment within the army; and because of an equation between military and domestic violence. ...

"We argued that, although Halili's case against serving was 100% feminism, her ideology of feminism also meant she was a pacifist, objecting to any military system," says her solicitor, Smadar Ben-Natan.

The committee did not grant Halili exemption on the basis of conscientious objection. But the outcome was none the less some form of an indirect admission. "The committee said that her feminism, not pacifism, seemed more dominant and that, on the basis of holding such views, she would be unfit to serve," explains Ben-Natan.
This raises several fascinating questions. The grounds for getting an exemption from the draft in the U.S. were long ago extended to include people with strong religious beliefs even if they were not in traditional pacifist churches (though with a strong burden of proof). This would seem to extend that even further to strong beliefs even if not based on religion at all. Of course, contrary to right-wing rants, the Supreme Court will not consider this case from Israel a precedent here, but it shows the evolution of legal thinking, which eventually can come to America as well.

Another thought: all of what she is saying about "feminist beliefs" could be accepted by male feminists as well. If this precedent stands, would feminist men be able to claim the same exemption? If not, then there is no equal protection of the law. Not that any of that matters to my own personal opposition to any draft, period, of anyone, regardless of sex. (I'm not a pacifist; just a feminist who hates involuntary servitude.) This is just a delightful sign that humanity is growing up, gradually continuing to recognize more individual liberty for all. Good for the committee that authorized this.

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