The Fabric of Israeli Society and its Codes

This week in Israel saw two tests of code of conduct. One took place at the highest level of the military echelons and one at the entrance to the highest level of political echelons, the Knesset.

In the military instance and with the greatest dignity the officer in question tendered his resignation. He knew he had erred and accepted that he must set an example to others, and to Israel society. His resignation once again shows that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is a moral and ethical army where it’s Generals assumes full responsibility and lead by action.

In the political instance there were no resignations. Those that had erred on the code of conduct chose to protest in demonstrations and to call in the mass media to defend their actions. They called to change the code of conduct where some even claimed that they were not even aware of its details. Such dealings of the political echelons contrary to those of the military echelons rest on words and the use of the media to incite rather than to display leadership through actions.

I am saying that the highest levels of the military and political should be predisposed in setting an example to Israeli society and the world. In both instances I am not saying that a code of conduct is a binding constitutional or legal obligation.  I am saying that the means of the military are better justified to the ends than those of the political.

A code of conduct is a set of rules outlining the social norms and rules and responsibilities of, or proper practices for, an individual, party or organization. A common code of conduct is written for employees of a company, which protects the business and informs the employees of the company’s expectations.

The code of conduct of the IDF does not permit for army computers to be taken home. So when an Army computer was stolen from the home of a General, the Chief of Manpower, he resigned.

The code of conduct for entrance to the Knesset is permitted only in appropriate attire (no tank/spaghetti tops, cropped tops, shorts or ¾ length trousers, ripped trousers, shirts with political slogans, short skirts and shorts dresses, flip-flops or open-back clogs). These rules apply to adults and youth aged 14 and over. This applies to staff and members of the public.

After complaints since October, Knesset security has stepped up enforcing this. This week numerous parliamentary assistants and advisors, all from Opposition parties chose to challenge security by wearing short dresses. They were not permitted entry to the Knesset. Instead of going home to change, they protested. The elected members of the Knesset for whom they are employed left the Knesset to join them.

I am not saying that this was not without merit. Protest is definitely a legitimate and acceptable means to bring about change. The problem arose during the protests. Instead of going home to change their clothes after they had made their point and opinion known, they continued to demonstrate.

Even though the media has covered this issue since October, some parliamentary assistants and advisors lied to the TV cameras and journalists. They claimed that they didn’t know that Knesset security would prevent their entry. They also claimed that they didn’t know the code of dress. In doing so they have lost respect in that their actions were setting the opposite example that a military General had set.

Studies of codes of conduct in the private sector show that their effective implementation must be part of a learning process that requires training, consistent enforcement, and continuous measurement/improvement. Simply requiring members to read the code is not enough to ensure that they understand it and will remember its contents.

So while the Knesset reviews the dress code and its wording, it would also be appropriate to send members of the Knesset and their advisors and assistants to a short course on how to behave and how to set an example.

No doubt the IDF would be more than willing to call them in for reserve duty to remind them that when they served as teenagers in obligatory service, the code of conduct of being a soldier and a citizen was instilled in them, as was the obligation to question any order. Leading by action by setting an example is the manner advised and not just by words and demonstrating what should be done.

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.
Related Topics
Related Posts