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.
From 'Forging' to 'Deciphering'
Zeev Lerer and Sarit Amram-Katz
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.
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.
The Absent Concept of Policing and Its Substitutes in Israeli Military Doctrine
Although the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has been engaged in policing for over 50 years ( Yossef 2019 ), like Western armies ( Beers 2007 ) it has done little to develop a general policing doctrine ( Michael and Siboni 2016 ). This is particularly
Some Liturgical Ground Clearing
and children. The precise figures for that day are not central to the debate. The media response was predictable. Israel came under attack for ordering the shooting of unarmed civilians, to which the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) replied that they
The Road to Elections for the Constituent Assembly, 1948–1949
Department demanded the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to the line in force before Operation Yoav, according to the UN Security Council resolution of 16 November, in return for the willingness of the Security Council to consider the acceptance
Reconsidering “Religionization” within an IDF Bible Seminar
Nehemia Stern, Uzi Ben-Shalom, Udi Lebel, and Batia Ben-Hador
This article presents an ethnographic analysis of the educational and religious tensions that emerged during a five-day biblical seminar run by the Israel Defense Forces’ Identity and Jewish Consciousness Unit. We argue that despite the official focus on professionalization as a pedagogical parameter, the seminar participants themselves reacted to biblical narratives in ways that indicate a distinct kind of personal and individualized discourse. By focusing on this disjuncture, we highlight the very real limitations larger (governmental or civilian) institutional entities face as they attempt to shape religious attitudes within the Israeli public arena. Examining how seminar participants interpret biblical narratives can enable scholars to portray a more nuanced account of how religion and “religionization” function within the Israel Defense Forces.
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
Representations of Israeli Combat Soldiers in the Media
Zipi Israeli and Elisheva Rosman-Stollman
In this article we examine the representation of combat soldiers in Israel through their media image. Using two major national Israeli newspapers, we follow the presentation of the Israeli combat soldier over three decades. Our findings indicate that the combat soldier begins as a hegemonic masculine figure in the 1980s, shifts to a more vulnerable, frightened child in the 1990s, and attains a more complex framing in the 2000s. While this most recent representation returns to a hegemonic masculine one, it includes additional, 'softer' components. We find that the transformation in the image of the Israeli soldier reflects changes within Israeli society in general during the period covered and is also indicative of global changes in masculinity to a certain extent. We conclude by analyzing two possible explanations: the perception of the threat and changes in the perception of masculine identity.
Battle Missives in the Israel Defense Forces
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