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Paul L. Scham and Yoram Peri

This is the first of three special, guest-edited issues of ISR that will precede the retirement of the current editors from the journal. This issue, co-edited by Nir Gazit and Yagil Levy, takes on the unusual and seemingly somewhat arcane subject of military policing in Israel—that is, in the West Bank and on the Gaza border. The subject seemed somewhat arcane when we started planning it early in 2019, but now, as this issue reaches publication, we find that military policing is closely related to current events around the world, especially in the US, sometimes even competing with the coronavirus pandemic for the headlines. See the guest editors’ introduction immediately following this note for a fuller exposition before delving into the articles that follow.

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Yoram Peri

David Greenblum, From the Heroism of the Spirit to the Sanctification of Power: Power and Heroism in Religious Zionism between 1948 and 1968 (Tel Aviv: Open University, 2016).

Uri S. Cohen, The Security Style and the Hebrew Culture of War (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2017).

Dan Arev, Dying to Watch: War, Memory, and Television in Israel 1967–1991 (Tel Aviv: Resling, 2017).

Dalia Gavriely-Nuri, Tel Aviv Was Also Once an Arab Village: The Normalization of the Territories in Israeli Discourse, 1967 (Cambridge, MA: Israel Academic Press, 2017).

Nitza Ben-Dov, The Life of War: On the Military, Revenge, Loss, and War Consciousness in Israeli Prose (Jerusalem: Schocken Books, 2016).

Haya Milo, Songs Through the Barrel of the Gun: Israeli Soldiers’ Folk Songs (Tel Aviv: Open University, 2017).

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From Jewish Sentiments to Rational Exhortations

Battle Missives in the Israel Defense Forces

Netta Galnoor


What exhortations were given to Israeli soldiers when sent to a possible sacrifice of their lives in war? This article introduces the genre of ‘battle missives’ written by Israel Defense Force (IDF) commanders as a prism to investigate this question. Battle missives are short texts sent to soldiers on the eve of battle to mobilize them to fight and to justify the risk to their lives. I employ narrative and hermeneutic methods to analyze an original database of 289 missives written between 1948 and 2014, which reveal the changing motivations and justifications preceding combat. My findings indicate a move from ‘Jewish sentimental’ exhortations that prevailed from 1948 until 1973 toward ‘rational’ exhortations between 1982 and 2014. This study locates battle missives as key to understanding the social norms and values relating to sacrifice in war, and the ways in which military commanders adjusted the language of sacrifice to reflect major transformations in both Israeli society and the IDF.

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The Hyphen Cannot Hold

Contemporary Trends in Religious-Zionism

Hayim Katsman


This article presents an innovative sociological framework to discuss recent social, ideological, and religious trends within the Religious-Zionist sector in Israel. The article challenges the prevalent conceptualization of Religious-Zionism as a sui generis ideology. Contrary to researchers who emphasize the synthesis of religion and Zionism in the Religious-Zionist ideology, the author argues that the Religious-Zionist identity is based primarily on social connections (kinship, geographical, institutional) between the members of the group. The author uses this approach to make sense of recent Religious-Zionist trends: post-Zionism, the ‘religious-lite’, Orthodox feminism, and neo-liberalism.

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Israel's Ground Forces in the Occupied Territories

Policing and the Juridification of Soldiering

Eyal Ben-Ari and Uzi Ben-Shalom


The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) routinely rotate ground forces in and out of the Occupied Territories in the West Bank. While these troops are trained for soldiering in high-intensity wars, in the Territories they have long had to carry out a variety of policing activities. These activities often exist in tension with their soldierly training and ethos, both of which center on violent encounters. IDF ground forces have adapted to this situation by maintaining a hierarchy of ‘logics of action’, in which handling potentially hostile encounters takes precedence over other forms of policing. Over time, this hierarchy has been adapted to the changed nature of contemporary conflict, in which soldiering is increasingly exposed to multiple forms of media, monitoring, and juridification. To maintain its public legitimacy and institutional autonomy, the IDF has had to adapt to the changes imposed on it by creating multiple mechanisms of force generation and control of soldierly action.

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Nir Gazit


Since 1967, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been engaged in various military missions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including occasional high-intensity fighting and counter-insurgency, as well as civilian duties, such as administration and policing. While existing literature emphasizes the organizational and professional burden this combination of duties places on the military, the actual forces that shape soldiers’ policing practices in the field remain largely unexamined. The present article offers a micro-sociological examination of the patterns of military policing implemented by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. It explores the social and political forces that shape soldiers’ ‘logics of action’ and demonstrates the reciprocal relations between the IDF's disparate modes of policing of Jewish settlers and Palestinians. Three clusters of factors shape these interrelations: the relationships between soldiers and settlers, the blurring between ‘security’ and ‘civilian’ missions, and situational variables. The research for this article was conducted between 2004 and 2018.

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Chava Brownfield-Stein


Examining the activities of the Israel Defense Forces along the Gaza-Israel border, this article identifies a new phase in what the author calls ‘military-police fusion’. The analysis focuses on novel technologies—remote-controlled weapon stations and unmanned ground vehicles—and on the women soldiers who operate these systems. The central claim is that the blurring of boundaries between military and policing missions, combined with high-tech weaponry, has resulted in the development and implementation of new modes of violence that are currently undergoing a process of redefinition and feminization. The article addresses three key dimensions of the processes occurring in the hybrid operational environment along the Gaza-Israel border: the legal dimension, the technological dimension, and the gender dimension.

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The Missing Policing

The Absent Concept of Policing and Its Substitutes in Israeli Military Doctrine

Ofra Ben-Ishai


The Israeli army's policing since 1967 has raised public awareness of the suffering of the Palestinian population, thereby implicating it as a key player in the Israeli political debate. This article discusses how policing has been presented in the leading military journals Ma'arakhot and Bein HaKtavim from 1967 to 2018. It argues that this coverage has served to mitigate the controversy by avoiding the explicit term ‘policing’ and replacing it with euphemisms that construct it differently in three distinct periods. In particular, since early in the twenty-first century, these journals have suggested alternative terms, which provide policing with hybrid military connotations that respond to pressure from both nationalist and liberal groups. New terms such as ‘the war between the wars’ promote broad public acceptance of the intractable nature of the conflict and legitimize the need to use violence.

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Yagil Levy


Since the 2000s, a fundamental structural change has led to the development of two armies within the IDF. In co-existence with the ‘official’ army, a ‘policing’ force has emerged in the West Bank. Ostensibly subordinated to political authority, it has evolved into a quasi-militia force, enacting policies that often deviate from the official line. The question of who controls this policing army is central to this article. I argue that this policing army, unlike the official army, is controlled by a matrix rather than a hierarchical structure. Characterized by a web of mostly extra-military mechanisms, it is embedded within the civilian communities of the Jewish settlers, and this embeddedness shapes the form of control by creating several control mechanisms. Therefore, this policing army is only partially controlled by the official echelon of command.

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Barriers and borders

Human mobility and building inclusive societies

Anthony Turton