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OSU group questions campus presentation of an Israeli soldier as a ‘feminist role model’

Rebecca Stoil

Rebecca Stoil

The Campaign for BDS at Ohio State issued this statement last week, about an event on the Columbus, Ohio, campus. The title of the press release was “The campaign for BDS at Ohio State stands against the pinkwashing of the IDF.” Pinkwashing is the practice by Israel supporters of touting advances in gender-related issues as a means of excusing human rights violations against Palestinians.  –Ed. 

COLUMBUS, OHIO — The Campaign for BDS at OSU was disturbed to see the event “Food for Thought: What is it like to be a Woman in Uniform? A Woman in a Man’s Shoes–How does it Work?” hosted by OSU Hillel and cosponsored by the Multicultural Center on March 18. The event featured [former] Israeli Defense Force soldier Rebecca Stoil [now a speaker for the Jewish National Fund and grad student and reporter], who “talked her way into the IDF, despite being told that she was ‘too old,’ and then talked her way out of serving as a secretary and into a combat unit.” On a campus that encourages critical thinking and claims to work to advance “the global community through the creation and dissemination of knowledge,” an event like this calls for an analysis of the power relations and structural inequalities that privilege some people over others, and make invisible the lives and perspectives of indigenous people.

Events that set up IDF soldiers as feminist role models simultaneously make invisible the actual nature of the IDF and the people it most affects. In a neutral framework, to be a woman in the military may be an accomplishment, yet one cannot separate Stoil’s story from the reality that she fought to be a part of a military that has devastated Palestine and the Palestinian people. To be a soldier in the Israeli military means to defend occupation, destroy lives and livelihoods, secure checkpoints in occupied Palestine that inhibit basic movement for arbitrary reasons, torture as a regular part of interrogations, and control access to basic resources in Gaza.

The call for BDS, or, the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and ends the occupation of Palestine, originated in Palestinian civil society, and is supported by several organizations committed to gender and sexual equality, such as Palestinian Queers for BDS and the Palestinian Federation of Women’s Action Committee. Feminist scholars like Angela Davis, Judith Butler, and Jasbir Puar have spoken out in favor of BDS. What draws such figures to join the movement against the Israeli state’s continued occupation is their mutual recognition that BDS is in line with an anti-colonialist politics that should be inseparable from any feminist politics. As Andrea Smith has shown, sexism and sexist violence are tools of colonialism and occupation. Amnesty International reports that, “Palestinian women have borne the brunt of the suffering but their plight has been largely ignored. The multiple violations committed by Israeli forces in the Occupied Territories have had grave and long-term consequences for the Palestinian population and a particularly negative impact on women.” Opposing occupation is a feminist stance.

In the past year, several academic organizations, including the Association for Asian American Studies, the American Studies Association, the Modern Language Association, and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association have adopted resolutions that, to different degrees, condemn Israeli aggression and call for greater attention to the plight of Palestinian people. At Ohio State, a BDS campaign has been reignited after the OSU administration wrote a letter condemning the ASA vote for a BDS resolution. For those who wish to sign our petition that responds to the OSU statement and supports the ASA decision, we have linked to it here. We also wanted to include some text from it, which recognizes whose voices are heard and whose neglected without such a movement:

“These [boycotting] organizations recognize that rather than inhibiting the free flow of ideas, boycotts effectively broaden the scope of academic dialogue and exchange by asserting that Palestinians, too, are endowed with the same fundamental rights to freedom, equality, and self-determination as everyone else—that they have the right to engage in the same dialogue about their academic freedoms as their Israeli counterparts. The boycott is a stand for justice, a stand for Palestinian academics and students who all too frequently find their schools arbitrarily closed and their ability to travel to classes, meetings, and conferences severely curtailed.”

The Israeli state and its defenders use women’s rights to distract from the suffering the IDF creates. We must respond by heeding the request Palestinian organizations made to the delegation of indigenous and women of color feminists on their visit in 2011:

“We are not asking you for heroic action or to form freedom brigades. We are simply asking you not to be complicit in perpetuating the crimes of the Israeli state.”

Susie Kneedler
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24 Responses

  1. Shuki
    March 26, 2014, 11:17 am

    The Israeli state and its defenders use women’s rights to distract from the suffering the IDF creates.
    No, BDS supporters and other Jew Haters use the myth of IDF created suffering to distract from the horrendous way they treat women in their own community.

    • puppies
      March 26, 2014, 12:26 pm

      Fine, Shuki.
      This murderer is a legitimate target, as is each and every one of your invaders and murderers.
      Not a good idea to publish her picture, don’t you think?

    • amigo
      March 26, 2014, 12:28 pm

      “No, BDS supporters and other Jew Haters use the myth of IDF created suffering to distract from the horrendous way they treat women in their own community.”shuki

      So shookie, why does Israel keep exploding that “Myth”.


    • justicewillprevail
      March 26, 2014, 1:29 pm

      A lot of BDS supporters are women. What on earth are you trying to say? Americans treat women horrendously? Ask Breaking The Silence about IDF violence and thuggery. It’s no myth.

    • seafoid
      March 26, 2014, 5:09 pm

      ‘No, BDS supporters and other Jew Haters use the myth of IDF created suffering to distract from the horrendous way they treat women in their own community.”

      Thanks Shuki
      We all love bagels but nobody needs to be tortured in their production.

    • Citizen
      March 26, 2014, 6:38 pm

      @ Shuki
      Yep. We all beat our women here on MW. IDF is most moral military in the world. Got It. Thanks for your contribution.

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick
      March 26, 2014, 9:24 pm

      “…the myth of IDF created suffering…”

      Shuki, please assure me that you are not completely wacko and admit that the IDF has caused some suffering. Otherwise I might not be able to take you seriously.

    • Kay24
      March 26, 2014, 9:57 pm

      Is it that hard to see that criticism of Israel’s brutal occupation, and the crimes committed by it’s trained, heavily armed, forces, against unarmed, occupied children, have nothing to do with being Jews? Or is it a reflex action, to silence criticism by calling all those who have the courage to speak of Israel’s atrocities, Jew haters? And if a Jewish person criticizes these very same crimes, the “self hating” card is quickly thrown at them. As for women treated badly in other communities, perhaps you missed the ugly incidents in Israel, where women were not allowed to sit in front of buses, with men, and the incident where a little girl was spat on and called ugly names on her way to school, for not dressing the way the stone age men wanted her to? How about the time when buses were stoned, because it had posters of women in them? Let me also remind you of this wonderful treatment toward a woman by Jewish men: “In early 2012, a group of ultra-Orthodox men attacked a woman in Beit Shemesh as she was hanging up posters. The men pelted the woman with stones and slashed her car tires.”
      Yep, this from the only democratic, liberal, open minded nation in the Middle East.
      This is how women are treated over there.
      People in glass houses…..

    • Sumud
      March 26, 2014, 11:21 pm

      No, BDS supporters and other Jew Haters use the myth of IDF created suffering to distract from the horrendous way they treat women in their own community.

      Nakba denial is a banning offence here Shuki. Nobody should have to put up with your hate speech. That the IDF has “created suffering” is incontestable.

      By way of demonstration:

      No, zionists and other Palestinian haters use the myth of nazis creating jewish suffering as a way of distracting from the way they treat Palestinians.

      This is obvious holocaust denial, also a banning offence.

      • BrianEsker
        March 27, 2014, 12:30 am

        “Nakba denial is a banning offence here Shuki.”

        That’s what I like about Mondo. It’s a place that welcomes a variety of viewpoints as long as they are hateful.

      • Naftush
        March 27, 2014, 3:19 am

        No, Sumud. Myth does not mean falsehood. Of course the IDF “created suffering.” But to equate any use of a state’s military arm with wrongdoing ipso facto, and to wrap that “finding” in demonization are myth and beyond.

    • The JillyBeans
      The JillyBeans
      March 27, 2014, 6:54 am

      Perhaps this will refresh your memory on how disgusting these IDF soldiers can be, even the girl ones.

      This is no less offensive than taking photographs of doing a quenelle in front of holocaust memorials.

  2. annie
    March 26, 2014, 12:19 pm

    “Food for Thought: What is it like to be a Woman in Uniform? A Woman in a Man’s Shoes–How does it Work?”…soldier Rebecca Stoil…who “talked her way into the IDF, despite being told that she was ‘too old,’ and then talked her way out of serving as a secretary and into a combat unit.”

    they should ask an american female soldier. unlike the vast majority of female israel soldiers, all american female soldiers do so voluntarily. whereas for some strange reason not explained, any girl in israel can become a soldier, in fact it’s required. and they’re not mostly secretaries either. this is just another boondoggle pr gambit to throw israelis in front of american audiences on campuses all across the country.

    and in todays world being a soldiers is no longer considered exclusively ” a Man’s Shoes”. that’s just ridiculous. there are female soldiers all over the world. what a scam.

    and who exactly is she fighting? civilians w/rocks? children? does she bust into civilian homes in the middle of the night to photograph kids and drag them away to the nearest settlement to get the sh*t kicked out of them.

    gag me!

  3. Shuki
    March 26, 2014, 12:40 pm

    Israel’s compulsory draft of men and women is reflective of the ongoing danger imposed by its arabs neighbors. They don’t put their daughters in harm’s way for “PR” purposes, they do it out of a refusal to be destroyed.

  4. Susie Kneedler
    Susie Kneedler
    March 26, 2014, 1:07 pm

    Thanks, Annie, for great points as always and especially for reminding us about the IDF’s oppression of children. Imprisoning kids and peaceful protestors in an illegal occupation is unworthy of anyone with a conscience–soldier or civilian. I’m with you: Women’s Liberation supports BDS.

    The link to The Campaign for BDS at Ohio State petition is: .

    • LeaNder
      March 26, 2014, 1:24 pm

      This is the most interesting of her special topics:

      “What are you doing here?” My own intimate story of the aliya experience, service as the only female combat soldier in an Armored Corps combat unit in Gaza and the West Bank, the Second Lebanon War, the Second Intifada and offering a front-seat view of pretty much anything else newsworthy that has happened in Israel since 2001.

      And I seem to have a problem what this is about:

      “Home Front Command Heavy Search and Rescue”

    • Naftush
      March 27, 2014, 3:26 am

      In college composition class I repeatedly made the instructor crack up by reducing all contested issues to someone’s war on innocent children. Your post does the same: the Isr-Pal conflict as IDF vs. children! Big rofl.

  5. seafoid
    March 26, 2014, 5:12 pm

    As an IDF woman I can put my boot on the throats of the Arabs as well as any man.
    And that’s liberating.
    But oppression isn’t. Sorry

    I can’t help thinking the IDF’s schtick on GLBT/amazons/ informality/most moral army is all very worn around the edges after 47 years of brutal occupation.

    • Accentitude
      March 27, 2014, 4:21 am

      You bring up a good point. Israel also uses the same tactics by exploiting the LGBT community in order to show how progressive and westernized it is in comparison to it MENA neighbors. The Israeli government’s PR machine is always ready to brag that it is the only country in the MENA region that hosts a Gay Pride Parade which marches through the heart of the old Jerusalem every year. While that may be true, it conveniently forgets that hate crimes and discrimination against the LGBT community in Israel is still a pretty big problem. It also don’t get a free pass for being progressive and liberal when its government is made up of rightist pro-settler government that is ready and willing to trample on the rights of all who are not in line with it, Arabs and Jews alike.

  6. Citizen
    March 26, 2014, 7:00 pm

    Why does this female version of “the most moral army in the world” live in the USA?!aboutme/cy2g

  7. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    March 26, 2014, 9:26 pm

    When do you think we’ll get an article about the brave Palestinian women who stand up to the IDF goons? They are real heroines and role models.

  8. Pixel
    March 26, 2014, 9:48 pm

    “As an IDF woman I can put my boot on the throats of the Arabs as well as any man. ”

    Awhile ago, I was watching a documentary(?) in which former IDF soldiers were being interviewed about their experiences. One woman, with great remorse, was recounting many such instances. When asked by the interviewer/film maker why she had participated in/perpetrated violations of human rights, her answer was honest, simple, and chilling:

    “Because I could.”

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