Anti-Israel ads on Washington subway (& Why not El Salvador?)

April 30, 2007

* Anti-Zionist Israeli lights torch in honor of al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades to mark Israeli Independence Day
* “My belief in the righteousness of El Salvador’s cause knows no bounds”
* Baseball icon Sandy Koufax drafted by Israeli baseball league



1. Anti-Israel ads on Washington subway
2. Anti-Zionist Israeli to direct movie for Israel’s 60th birthday
3. 148,000 new babies in Israel
4. Haifa railway station named after Katyusha victims
5. Haifa and al-Quds universities team up on learning disabilities
6. Healthier Coke arrives in Israel
7. CSKA Moscow’s anti-Semitic display
8. Baseball icon Sandy Koufax drafted by Israeli baseball league
9. “My belief in the righteousness of El Salvador’s cause knows no bounds”
10. “The middle of nowhere” (By Edward Luttwak, Prospect Magazine, May 2007)
11. “Israel’s army eyes female role in battle” (AP, April 29, 2007)

[Note by Tom Gross]


The subway system of America’s capital, Washington DC, is to be adorned with 20 poster ads filled with anti-Israel rhetoric.

The “U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation” are to place the ads showing “an imposing tank pointing its main firing turret at a child with a schoolbag walking along a dirt road.”

The posters state “Imagine if this were your child’s path to school. Palestinians don’t have to imagine,” before continuing to call for an end to U.S. aid due to “Israel’s brutal military occupation... paid for by U.S. taxpayers like you.”

According to a report in the Canadian Jewish News, “CBS Outdoor, the New York-based firm that places in-station advertising for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), at first refused to consider the poster, but eventually relented to pressure from WMATA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).”

Both the executive of CBS Outdoor, Jodi Senese, and ACLU’s Legal Director in Washington, Arthur Spitzer, are Jewish, yet apparently don’t see anything wrong with these ads although they are a flagrant distortion of the true picture of life today in the West Bank and Gaza.


Eyal Sivan, a self-proclaimed “anti-Zionist” has been hired by Israeli television channel 8 to direct a film marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Israel next year.

Sivan will be given a grant of 650,000 shekels ($160,000), paid for by Israeli taxpayers, to direct a film for next year’s Israel Independence Day. The film will be part of the “Past and Present in Israel” project, meant to promote Israel’s “Jaffa” brand citrus fruit.

Sivan, who has lived in Paris for the past 15 years, directed the 1999 film “The Specialist,” which used footage from Adolf Eichmann’s trial to portray the architect of the Final Solution as just a Nazi party bureaucrat, Israel radio reported. The film also attempted to present Sivan’s view that Eichmann’s Jewish victims could have done more to prevent themselves from being murdered. In 2001, Sivan told the French newspaper “Le Monde,” that the UN’s 1947 partition plan, which called for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, was a “historical mistake.”

Sivan has also blamed Israel for the recent rise in French anti-Semitism. (Only last Thursday, a 22-year-old French woman, who was wearing a Star of David necklace, was attacked by youths at a Marseille railway station; they lifted up her shirt and carved a swastika on her stomach.)

During the fighting on the Lebanon-Israel and Gaza-Israel borders last summer, Sivan joined a group of Israeli filmmakers in signing a petition pledging support for the Lebanese and Palestinians. The petition read: “We the signatories are absolutely against the brutality and cruelty of the State of Israel as shown in the news from recent weeks.”

At an “alternative” Independence Day ceremony last week, another well-known anti-Israel Israeli, Tali Fahima, lit a torch in honor of Zakaria Zubeidi, the commander of al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (Fatah’s terrorist wing). “I light this for my friend Zakaria Zubeidi, with whom I have demolished fortresses,” she said.

Both Sivan and Fahima have been widely denounced in Israel as self-loathing Jews, and Alan Finkelkraut, the leading French intellectual, called Sivan’s movie “incitement to murder”.

For a previous reference to Sivan, see the sixth note in the dispatch “Israeli Apartheid Week” kicks off around the world (Feb. 13, 2007).


Israel celebrated its 59th Independence Day last Tuesday. Figures published by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics before the annual celebration indicate that the current population of Israel is 7,150,000.

When the state was founded in 1948, there were 806,000 residents. A third of those still live in the country. Of the current population, 5,725,000 (or 80 percent) are Jewish, and most of the remainder are Arab.

In 1948, Tel Aviv was the only city with more than 100,000 residents. Today, Israel has five cities with over 200,000 inhabitants: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon Lezion and Ashdod.

Since last Independence Day, 148,000 babies have been born in Israel. The Arab birthrate remains higher than the Jewish one.


Israel Railways have announced that the Haifa central train station will be renamed after the eight railway workers who were killed when a Hizbullah rocket hit it during last summer’s Lebanon-Israel War.

The dedication ceremony for the station, which will be renamed “Haifa Central – The Eight”, will take place on the anniversary of their deaths on July 16.

For more, see the sixth picture on this page.

This afternoon the Winograd Committee will present Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz with a draft report of its investigation into last summer’s war. The report is expected to be highly critical of their conduct and that of former chief of staff Dan Halutz. Halutz has already resigned and Olmert and Peretz are expected to come under intense pressure to do so.

The vast majority of the draft report will focus on the decision-making process that led to the war. The committee has limited itself in this report to analyzing the five first days of the war. The final report is due in the summer.

In further trouble for Olmert, his close ally Abraham Hirchson, Israel’s Finance Minister, who is suspected of theft, has decided to suspend himself until the end of a police investigation. Hirchson has recently been questioned on charges of embezzlement. He continues to deny the allegations.


Up until now diagnostic tests for learning disabilities in Israeli Arab schoolchildren have always been translated from Hebrew. As a result of cultural differences this has often produced inaccurate results, reports the Jerusalem Post.

This should now change following a $1.5 million U.S. government grant to finance a project to produce the test in three versions: for Jewish-Israelis, Arab- Israelis and Palestinians. The cooperative project is being conducted by the University of Haifa and al-Quds University in east Jerusalem.

Professor Zvia Breznitz, director of the University of Haifa’s Center for Brain Research and Learning Disabilities said: “We always talk about grandiose ideas of peace, justice, love, and we never make any progress… But if a connection starts with a specific, professional project, at the end of the day friendships are established. In my opinion, this is the recipe for coexistence.”

As a result of the project, a center for children at risk has been established at al-Quds University.


Israel is among the first counties to successfully produce a much healthier version of Coca-Cola free of any preservatives or artificial coloring, while maintaining the drink’s taste, claim the manufacturers of the soft drink according to Israeli press reports.

Muhtar Kent, worldwide president of the Coca-Cola Company, has given his Israel branch the go-ahead to implement the advanced technological procedure, calling the breakthrough “a great achievement.”

The new formula, which is kosher, and will include both regular and diet Coke, will be on the market as of this week.


CSKA Moscow, the Russian basketball team, beat Maccabi Tel Aviv to progress to the Euroleague’s final-four stage in Athens.

Prior to their third and final confrontation at the Moscow stadium, Maccabi’s players and fans found themselves watching what many regarded as an anti-Semitic laser show aimed at livening up the local audience.

Macabbi Tel Aviv was presented at the laser show as an ultra-orthodox Jew wearing a traditional fur hat, being run over by a steam train, wearing the Moscow colors.

The heads of the Israeli team have filed an official complaint with their Moscow counterparts.


Forty-one years after he retired from baseball, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax was the final player chosen in the draft for the six teams taking part in the inaugural season of the Israel Baseball League.

Koufax, 71, was picked by the Modi’in Miracle in the draft conducted last Thursday. “His selection is a tribute to the esteem with which he is held by everyone associated with this league,” said former big leaguer Art Shamsky, who will manage the Miracle.

In the 1965 World Series, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 for Los Angeles because it fell on Yom Kippur, a day considered by Jews to be the holiest of the year. Koufax retired due to an arm injury after the 1966 season and was later voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Israeli league begins play June 24 with the six teams playing a 45-game schedule. Players from nine nations were drafted, with only a minority of the 120 players in the league expected to be Israeli citizens.

For more, see Israel to have its own baseball league (& Iran bars women from soccer matches) (May 19, 2006).


I attach an article below, by Edward Luttwak, a senior adviser at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. Robbie Millen, a writer on the Times of London’s blog, “Comment Central,” had this to say about the piece:

“I’m sure that like me you’ve got strong views on the rights and wrongs of the ‘Soccer War’ of 1969. Honduras’s treatment of El Salvador and its noble people is an enduring international shame; the Peace Treaty of 1980 was a sham which robbed the victimised Salvadoreans of their land. I am still very diligent in boycotting Honduran produce; I will never, despite numerous invitations, attend a lecture given by a Honduran academic; naturally, I have disinvested my large stake in the Honduran economy. My belief in the righteousness of El Salvador’s cause knows no bounds.

“You would think me mad, a stranger to that region, if I held such strong views about a tiny sliver of land in Central America. But it’s no madder than Brits who get overexcited about a tiny sliver of land in the Middle East and join the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, organise boycotts of Israeli universities and demand that British companies not do business in Israel. I’ve never understood why the Israel-Palestine conflict gets so much coverage (many more people die in African border wars but they only make the news-in-brief columns) or why Western statesmen think that they should get involved in pointless summiteering there.

“Do we have any strategic interests there? Not really. Maybe it’s the frontline in a clash of civilisations, and we need to bolster Israel against the forces of Islamofascism? Well, given that Osama bin Laden seems to be as upset that Spain pushed out the Moors as any perceived injustice against the Palestinians, I’m not sure that a peace deal between Israel and Palestine will stop al-Qaeda lunatics trying to blow us up. Sure, if I had to choose, I would rather be an Arab living in Israel than in any of the neighbouring Arab kleptocracies and failed states, but still I don’t feel like I have a dog in that fight.

“So am I mistaken? Am I missing something fundamental? Edward Luttwak in a brilliant article for Prospect reassures me that the Middle East is really quite irrelevant (unless you happen to be a Middle Easterner).”

The second article below looks at the role of women in the Israeli army as an “army-appointed commission of academics and officers is studying whether to integrate the army’s last all-male preserve: infantry, armor and special forces.”

-- Tom Gross



The middle of nowhere
Western analysts are forever bleating about the strategic importance of the middle east. But despite its oil, this backward region is less relevant than ever, and it would be better for everyone if the rest of the world learned to ignore it
By Edward Luttwak
Prospect Magazine
May 2007

Why are middle east experts so unfailingly wrong? The lesson of history is that men never learn from history, but middle east experts, like the rest of us, should at least learn from their past mistakes. Instead, they just keep repeating them.

The first mistake is “five minutes to midnight” catastrophism. The late King Hussein of Jordan was the undisputed master of this genre. Wearing his gravest aspect, he would warn us that with patience finally exhausted the Arab-Israeli conflict was about to explode, that all past conflicts would be dwarfed by what was about to happen unless, unless… And then came the remedy – usually something rather tame when compared with the immense catastrophe predicted, such as resuming this or that stalled negotiation, or getting an American envoy to the scene to make the usual promises to the Palestinians and apply the usual pressures on Israel. We read versions of the standard King Hussein speech in countless newspaper columns, hear identical invocations in the grindingly repetitive radio and television appearances of the usual middle east experts, and are now faced with Hussein’s son Abdullah periodically repeating his father’s speech almost verbatim.

What actually happens at each of these “moments of truth” – and we may be approaching another one – is nothing much; only the same old cyclical conflict which always restarts when peace is about to break out, and always dampens down when the violence becomes intense enough. The ease of filming and reporting out of safe and comfortable Israeli hotels inflates the media coverage of every minor affray. But humanitarians should note that the dead from Jewish-Palestinian fighting since 1921 amount to fewer than 100,000 – about as many as are killed in a season of conflict in Darfur.

Strategically, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been almost irrelevant since the end of the cold war. And as for the impact of the conflict on oil prices, it was powerful in 1973 when the Saudis declared embargoes and cut production, but that was the first and last time that the “oil weapon” was wielded. For decades now, the largest Arab oil producers have publicly foresworn any linkage between politics and pricing, and an embargo would be a disaster for their oil-revenue dependent economies. In any case, the relationship between turmoil in the middle east and oil prices is far from straightforward. As Philip Auerswald recently noted in the American Interest, between 1981 and 1999 – a period when a fundamentalist regime consolidated power in Iran, Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war within view of oil and gas installations, the Gulf war came and went and the first Palestinian intifada raged – oil prices, adjusted for inflation, actually fell. And global dependence on middle eastern oil is declining: today the region produces under 30 per cent of the world’s crude oil, compared to almost 40 per cent in 1974-75. In 2005 17 per cent of American oil imports came from the Gulf, compared to 28 per cent in 1975, and President Bush used his 2006 state of the union address to announce his intention of cutting US oil imports from the middle east by three quarters by 2025.

Yes, it would be nice if Israelis and Palestinians could settle their differences, but it would do little or nothing to calm the other conflicts in the middle east from Algeria to Iraq, or to stop Muslim-Hindu violence in Kashmir, Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia and the Philippines, Muslim-Buddhist violence in Thailand, Muslim-animist violence in Sudan, Muslim-Igbo violence in Nigeria, Muslim-Muscovite violence in Chechnya, or the different varieties of inter-Muslim violence between traditionalists and Islamists, and between Sunnis and Shia, nor would it assuage the perfectly understandable hostility of convinced Islamists towards the transgressive west that relentlessly invades their minds, and sometimes their countries.

Arab-Israeli catastrophism is wrong twice over, first because the conflict is contained within rather narrow boundaries, and second because the Levant is just not that important any more.

The second repeated mistake is the Mussolini syndrome. Contemporary documents prove beyond any doubt what is now hard to credit: serious people, including British and French military chiefs, accepted Mussolini’s claims to great power status because they believed that he had serious armed forces at his command. His army divisions, battleships and air squadrons were dutifully counted to assess Italian military power, making some allowance for their lack of the most modern weapons but not for their more fundamental refusal to fight in earnest. Having conceded Ethiopia to win over Mussolini, only to lose him to Hitler as soon as the fighting started, the British discovered that the Italian forces quickly crumbled in combat. It could not be otherwise, because most Italian soldiers were unwilling conscripts from the one-mule peasantry of the south or the almost equally miserable sharecropping villages of the north.

Exactly the same mistake keeps being made by the fraternity of middle east experts. They persistently attribute real military strength to backward societies whose populations can sustain excellent insurgencies but not modern military forces.

In the 1960s, it was Nasser’s Egypt that was mistaken for a real military power just because it had received many aircraft, tanks and guns from the Soviet Union, and had many army divisions and air squadrons. In May 1967, on the eve of war, many agreed with the prediction of Field Marshal Montgomery, then revisiting the El Alamein battlefield, that the Egyptians would defeat the Israelis forthwith; even the more cautious never anticipated that the former would be utterly defeated by the latter in just a few days. In 1973, with much more drama, it still took only three weeks to reach the same outcome.

In 1990 it was the turn of Iraq to be hugely overestimated as a military power. Saddam Hussein had more equipment than Nasser ever accumulated, and could boast of having defeated much more populous Iran after eight years of war. In the months before the Gulf war, there was much anxious speculation about the size of the Iraqi army – again, the divisions and regiments were dutifully counted as if they were German divisions on the eve of D-day, with a separate count of the “elite” Republican Guards, not to mention the “super-elite” Special Republican Guards – and it was feared that Iraq’s bombproof aircraft shelters and deep bunkers would survive any air attack.

That much of this was believed at some level we know from the magnitude of the coalition armies that were laboriously assembled, including 575,000 US troops, 43,000 British, 14,663 French and 4,500 Canadian, and which incidentally constituted the sacrilegious infidel presence on Arabian soil that set off Osama bin Laden on his quest for revenge. In the event, two weeks of precision bombing were enough to paralyse Saddam’s entire war machine, which scarcely tried to resist the ponderous ground offensive when it came. At no point did the Iraqi air force try to fight, and all those tanks that were painstakingly counted served mostly for target practice. A real army would have continued to resist for weeks or months in the dug-in positions in Kuwait, even without air cover, but Saddam’s army was the usual middle eastern faηade without fighting substance.

Now the Mussolini syndrome is at work over Iran. All the symptoms are present, including tabulated lists of Iran’s warships, despite the fact that most are over 30 years old; of combat aircraft, many of which (F-4s, Mirages, F-5s, F-14s) have not flown in years for lack of spare parts; and of divisions and brigades that are so only in name. There are awed descriptions of the Pasdaran revolutionary guards, inevitably described as “elite,” who do indeed strut around as if they have won many a war, but who have actually fought only one – against Iraq, which they lost. As for Iran’s claim to have defeated Israel by Hizbullah proxy in last year’s affray, the publicity was excellent but the substance went the other way, with roughly 25 per cent of the best-trained men dead, which explains the tomb-like silence and immobility of the once rumbustious Hizbullah ever since the ceasefire.

Then there is the new light cavalry of Iranian terrorism that is invoked to frighten us if all else fails. The usual middle east experts now explain that if we annoy the ayatollahs, they will unleash terrorists who will devastate our lives, even though 30 years of “death to America” invocations and vast sums spent on maintaining a special international terrorism department have produced only one major bombing in Saudi Arabia, in 1996, and two in the most permissive environment of Buenos Aires, in 1992 and 1994, along with some assassinations of exiles in Europe.

It is true enough that if Iran’s nuclear installations are bombed in some overnight raid, there is likely to be some retaliation, but we live in fortunate times in which we have only the irritant of terrorism instead of world wars to worry about – and Iran’s added contribution is not likely to leave much of an impression. There may be good reasons for not attacking Iran’s nuclear sites – including the very slow and uncertain progress of its uranium enrichment effort – but its ability to strike back is not one of them. Even the seemingly fragile tanker traffic down the Gulf and through the straits of Hormuz is not as vulnerable as it seems – Iran and Iraq have both tried to attack it many times without much success, and this time the US navy stands ready to destroy any airstrip or jetty from which attacks are launched.

As for the claim that the “Iranians” are united in patriotic support for the nuclear programme, no such nationality even exists. Out of Iran’s population of 70m or so, 51 per cent are ethnically Persian, 24 per cent are Turks (“Azeris” is the regime’s term), with other minorities comprising the remaining quarter. Many of Iran’s 16-17m Turks are in revolt against Persian cultural imperialism; its 5-6m Kurds have started a serious insurgency; the Arab minority detonates bombs in Ahvaz; and Baluch tribesmen attack gendarmes and revolutionary guards. If some 40 per cent of the British population were engaged in separatist struggles of varying intensity, nobody would claim that it was firmly united around the London government. On top of this, many of the Persian majority oppose the theocratic regime, either because they have become post-Islamic in reaction to its many prohibitions, or because they are Sufis, whom the regime now persecutes almost as much as the small Baha’i minority. So let us have no more reports from Tehran stressing the country’s national unity. Persian nationalism is a minority position in a country where half the population is not even Persian. In our times, multinational states either decentralise or break up more or less violently; Iran is not decentralising, so its future seems highly predictable, while in the present not much cohesion under attack is to be expected.

The third and greatest error repeated by middle east experts of all persuasions, by Arabophiles and Arabophobes alike, by Turcologists and by Iranists, is also the simplest to define. It is the very odd belief that these ancient nations are highly malleable. Hardliners keep suggesting that with a bit of well-aimed violence (“the Arabs only understand force”) compliance will be obtained. But what happens every time is an increase in hostility; defeat is followed not by collaboration, but by sullen non-cooperation and active resistance too. It is not hard to defeat Arab countries, but it is mostly useless. Violence can work to destroy dangerous weapons but not to induce desired changes in behaviour.

Softliners make exactly the same mistake in reverse. They keep arguing that if only this or that concession were made, if only their policies were followed through to the end and respect shown, or simulated, hostility would cease and a warm Mediterranean amity would emerge. Yet even the most thinly qualified of middle east experts must know that Islam, as with any other civilisation, comprehends the sum total of human life, and that unlike some others it promises superiority in all things for its believers, so that the scientific and technological and cultural backwardness of the lands of Islam generates a constantly renewed sense of humiliation and of civilisational defeat. That fully explains the ubiquity of Muslim violence, and reveals the futility of the palliatives urged by the softliners.

The operational mistake that middle east experts keep making is the failure to recognise that backward societies must be left alone, as the French now wisely leave Corsica to its own devices, as the Italians quietly learned to do in Sicily, once they recognised that maxi-trials merely handed over control to a newer and smarter mafia of doctors and lawyers. With neither invasions nor friendly engagements, the peoples of the middle east should finally be allowed to have their own history – the one thing that middle east experts of all stripes seem determined to deny them.

That brings us to the mistake that the rest of us make. We devote far too much attention to the middle east, a mostly stagnant region where almost nothing is created in science or the arts – excluding Israel, per capita patent production of countries in the middle east is one fifth that of sub-Saharan Africa. The people of the middle east (only about five per cent of the world’s population) are remarkably unproductive, with a high proportion not in the labour force at all. Not many of us would care to work if we were citizens of Abu Dhabi, with lots of oil money for very few citizens. But Saudi Arabia’s 27m inhabitants also live largely off the oil revenues that trickle down to them, leaving most of the work to foreign technicians and labourers: even with high oil prices, Saudi Arabia’s annual per capita income, at $14,000, is only about half that of oil-free Israel.

Saudi Arabia has a good excuse, for it was a land of oasis hand-farmers and Bedouin pastoralists who cannot be expected to become captains of industry in a mere 50 years. Much more striking is the oil parasitism of once much more accomplished Iran. It exports only 2.5m barrels a day as compared to Saudi Arabia’s 8m, yet oil still accounts for 80 per cent of Iran’s exports because its agriculture and industry have become so unproductive.

The middle east was once the world’s most advanced region, but these days its biggest industries are extravagant consumption and the venting of resentment. According to the UN’s 2004 Arab human development report, the region boasts the second lowest adult literacy rate in the world (after sub-Saharan Africa) at just 63 per cent. Its dependence on oil means that manufactured goods account for just 17 per cent of exports, compared to a global average of 78 per cent. Moreover, despite its oil wealth, the entire middle east generated under 4 per cent of global GDP in 2006 – less than Germany.

Unless compelled by immediate danger, we should therefore focus on the old and new lands of creation in Europe and America, in India and east Asia – places where hard-working populations are looking ahead instead of dreaming of the past.



Israel’s army eyes female role in battle
The Associated Press
April 29, 2007

When Alice Miller petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court in 1995 to let her become an air force pilot, the country’s president, himself a famous airman in his younger days, laughingly compared women flying planes to men darning socks.

But the court ruled in her favor, opening combat jobs to women for the first time. One of them was Keren Tendler, a flight technician killed last summer when her helicopter was shot down by Hezbollah guerrillas over Lebanon.

The fighting Israeli woman soldier may endure as a stereotype, but in reality, a female death in combat is extremely rare. Save for isolated cases in the Jewish state’s 1948 war for independence, women traditionally were confined to clerical and support jobs. But things have changed, and now an army-appointed commission of academics and officers is studying whether to integrate the army’s last all-male preserve: infantry, armor and special forces.

Commission member Naomi Chazan, a prominent feminist and a former lawmaker, says the focus will be on “increasing the equality” of women in uniform – and that means admitting them to tank and infantry formations.

The move is not crucial for the army, Chazan said, but for Israeli women. The army plays a central role in Israel, Chazan said, and “If the army consciously creates inequality on any basis, these values get into Israeli society.”

But Yaakov Amidror, a retired major general, says such principles cannot drive military policy in a country that feels its national survival is at stake.

“As we’ve seen in other armies, gender integration causes sexual tension and is detrimental to combat performance, and it’s just not worth it,” Amidror said. “It’s not coincidental that throughout human history, men have done the fighting.”

Feminists might call his views old-fashioned, but they face a question: Do Israeli women even want to be on the front lines?

Lt. Col. Liora Rubinstein, a women’s affairs adviser to the military chief of staff, acknowledges that few women volunteer for combat units. Many are turned off by having to sign on for an extra year to serve in most combat jobs.

“My son does soccer and judo, and my daughter does ballet. But then we tell her: ‘Go to the army, be equal to the men, go ahead.’ But of course it doesn’t work like that,” Rubinstein said.

Lt. Sivan Ben-Ezra, 21, commands a platoon in a mixed-gender “light infantry” unit, currently the closest women can get to front-line infantry. She isn’t surprised more women aren’t interested in jobs like hers.

“We have girls who come for the boots and the cool uniform. Those girls don’t last,” she said.

All Israelis except Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews are drafted – men for three years, women for two.

Ben-Ezra’s unit is 70 percent female, and its main duty is to patrol Israel’s peaceful borders with Egypt and Jordan. Another mixed unit operates remote cameras and sensors to police the more sensitive Syrian and Lebanese borders, and women also serve in the border police and checkpoint units that maintain the occupation of the West Bank.

During last summer’s Lebanon conflict, a small number of women soldiers fired artillery shells and cluster bombs, served on navy vessels and flew combat sorties as pilots and weapons system operators. All told, around 1,500 women serve in combat jobs – some 2.5 percent of female conscripts, according to army figures.

The turning point was Miller’s Supreme Court petition, which provoked then-president Ezer Weizman to belittle her in a phone conversation as a “maidele,” Yiddish for a young girl, and ask if she could imagine a man darning socks. He later said the comment was in jest.

Miller, then 23, failed the flight school entrance exams, but the court ruling forced the army to open all jobs to women or present a good reason not to.

Some Orthodox Jews protested that mixing the sexes was immodest, and other Israelis voiced concerns that the public would not tolerate women being killed or falling captive. But even the grim circumstances of Tendler’s death last summer – rescue forces spent a day and a half in enemy territory searching for her body, then carried it on a stretcher back to Israel – did not draw calls to reverse the policy, suggesting it has won broad acceptance.

The military has taken the precaution of making strict separation of barracks and bathrooms mandatory, and many commanders bar all physical contact save for shaking hands and patting shoulders.

The reformers are inspired by Canada and several European nations which have integrated infantry units, and from the apparent easing of the U.S. military’s ban on women in ground combat.

Lory Manning, a retired U.S. Navy captain at the Virginia-based Women’s Research and Education Institute, said women have been quietly serving with U.S. ground combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and over 70 have died there.

“The consensus is that the women serving with these troops are doing very well,” said Manning.

Says feminist Chazan: “People ask me, do you really want your daughter to serve in a unit like that? Well, I want my daughter to be able to decide, just like your son.”

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.