Dis/Acknowledging Military Violence: Women Soldiers Testify Against the Occupation

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Edna LOMSKY-FEDER, Department of Sociology and Anthropology and School of Education, Israel
Orna SASSON-LEVY, Department of Sociology and Anthroplogy Bar Ilan University, Israel
The paper explores the link between women’s military participation and their political voice, using the Israeli case of Women Breaking the Silence (WBS). WBS is a collection of testimonies from Israeli women veterans who served in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The testimonies express the voices of women who are not victims, but rather complicit to one degree or another in acts of victimization. As such, they provide a unique case of women's antiwar protest, which is based on a new symbolic legitimacy of women's political discourse.

In analyzing WBS testimonies, we found that the women soldiers offer a critical gendered voice based on their direct experiences in the OPT and their military professional skills, yet at the same time, they expressed of lack of certainty in their military knowledge. We argue that the ongoing tension between knowing and not knowing constitutes the meta-narrative that organizes the women’s testimonies, and stems mostly from the women’s dual positioning in the military, as “outsiders within”. For women soldiers, therefore, the challenge of giving testimony lies in overcoming the gendered silencing mechanisms underlying their position in a hyper- masculine organization. From this uneasy standpoint, they criticize Israeli militarism, yet compared to men soldiers, the women’s testimonies serve less as a means of self-rehabilitation, and more as ethical and political statements. Thus, the women’s testimonies are a political and a feminist act at the same time: They protest the occupation while offering a new politics of gender and knowledge.