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Shay Hazkani

This article explores themes in the political education and indoctrination of soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the 1948 War. It argues that the army command attempted to advance the notion that a form of militarism rooted in Judaism was the only way to win the war. Education officers explained to soldiers that 'the Jewish tradition' sanctioned the eradication of the invading armies and indifference to the fate of Palestinians. The article also traces the influence of Abba Kovner's lurid propaganda on the rest of the IDF's education apparatus. Kovner, the education officer of the Givati Brigade, believed that hate propaganda made killing the enemy easier, and his views were shared by many other education officers who saw his work as a road-map for the entire military. Nevertheless, there were some officers who opposed his work out of fear for the consequences that it would have on the future of Israeli society.

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the Sociology of Military Knowledge in the IDF

From 'Forging' to 'Deciphering'

Zeev Lerer and Sarit Amram-Katz

This article discusses the links between military knowledge production and the cultural representations of war based on the Israeli experience during the past two decades. It argues that the locus of military knowledge production has moved from what can be described as 'forging knowledge' to 'deciphering knowledge'. This transition is linked to a crisis in the classic representation of war, which is based on the congruence between three binary signifiers: enemy, arena, and violence. The article asserts that the blurring of these three signifiers has created a Bourdieuian field of military knowledge production in which symbolic capital is obtained from the production of knowledge that deciphers the new uncertainty. The article follows the relations between the binaries and the types of knowledge that have been imported and translated in the IDF with regard to four major operational settings: the Oslo redeployment, the Second Intifada, the disengagement from Gaza, and the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War.

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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 activities of the ground forces of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (hereafter, Territories) of the West Bank, including areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, have often been described as

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From Jewish Sentiments to Rational Exhortations

Battle Missives in the Israel Defense Forces

Netta Galnoor

battle missives written by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commanders during wars, incursions, and military exercises between 1948 and 2014. This original database provides an opportunity to explore how Israeli commanding officers—regarded as representatives

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Nir Gazit

In a recent article published in the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) strategic journal Bein HaKtavim , Major-General (Res.) Gershon HaCohen (2018) outlines his strategic vision for the Israeli ‘frontier’, that is, the West Bank territories

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Yagil Levy

In March 2016, Elor Azaria, an Israeli conscript soldier, was filmed shooting and killing an immobilized Palestinian attacker (Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif) in the West Bank city of Hebron. The decision by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) to

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Shifra Mescheloff

Rabbi Shlomo Goren (1918–1994) served as the first Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from 1948 to 1971 and as Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1972 to 1983. In his youth, he studied the Torah in the institutions of the ‘old Yishuv’ in

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Looking Out from the Tent

Internal Social Research at the IDF

Yehudith Sher and Hadass Ben-Eliyahu

In this article we investigate the unique position of intra-military social research units in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). These units, associated with the IDF's Behavioral Sciences Department, have conducted social research on a vast range of topics for more than five decades. By analyzing developments in the studies on reserve service over the years, we have identified three phases of research. Each phase reflects changes in research questions, theoretical concepts, and definitions of issues to be explored. According to our analysis, researches conducted during the first two phases have similar characteristics and derive from the same theoretical discipline and research paradigm. It is mainly during the third phase that theoretical and paradigmatic changes are evident. The researches carried out in this most recent phase are rooted in critical episte- mology, which enables us to discuss the implications of critical intra-social research within the military and in comparison to the academic world.

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The Academic Reserve

Israel's Fast Track to High-Tech Success

Gil Baram and Isaac Ben-Israel

Why is Israel world-renowned as the ‘start-up nation’ and a leading source of technological innovation? While existing scholarship focuses on the importance of skill development during Israel Defense Forces (IDF) service, we argue that the key role of the Academic Reserve has been overlooked. Established in the 1950s as part of David Ben-Gurion’s vision for a scientifically and technologically advanced defense force, the Academic Reserve is a special program in which the IDF sends selected high school graduates to earn academic degrees before they complete an extended term of military service. After finishing their service, most participants go on to contribute to Israel’s successful high-tech industry. By focusing on the role of the Academic Reserve, we provide a broader understanding of Israel’s ongoing technological success.

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Randy Friedman

Whether refusal is an act of civil disobedience meant to challenge the state politically as a form of protest, or an action which reflects a deep moral objection to the policies of the state, selective conscientious objection presents the state and its citizens with a number of difficult legal and moral challenges. Appeals to authority outside of the state, whether religious or secular, influence both citizenship and the behavior of the government itself. As Israel raises funds to defend IDF officers from charges of human rights violations in the United Kingdom, it may find itself in need of a better defense against those citizens hesitant to be placed in harm's way, militarily and legally. At some point in the future it may find itself unable to field soldiers for whom service in the Occupied Territories is prohibited by inviolable secular or religious law. And for those who will continue to argue that they cannot abide service in an army of occupation, an expression sounded in 1968 by Yeshayahu Leibowitz, the moral crisis of an individual conscience rent between obligations to the state and obligations to self, will linger along with the pain of a conscience nurtured and then rejected by this democratic society.