Conscientious Objectors in Israel: Citizenship, Sacrifice, Trials of Fealty

University of Pennsylvania Press  2014


Israel is a country with a culture of compul¬≠sory military service. The country’s survival requires the ability to defend itself, but military service often requires acts of violence that bring harm to innocent people. Weiss, who teaches anthropology at Tel Aviv University, has done long-term field work studying the lives of Israelis who have refused to serve in the military. In this ethnography, she examines two generations of conscientious objectors. The first group has served and found that the current situation—occupation—is unjust and not morally justified. The second group is younger and has never served. They are pacifists who are morally opposed to a milita¬≠rized society as well as to the occupation of Palestinian territory. Weiss's study examines ethical questions as well as the effects of conscientious objection on the lives of these young people who may face prison, court trials, and ostracism. It also exposes contradictions in modern Israeli society. Is moral autonomy really permitted? Is military violence ethical? Under what conditions? Readers will meet brave young people who are willing to oppose their government and their society to stand up for their personal beliefs. They will be challenged to think about their own positions about this issue. Although the book’s focus is academic, general readers interested in this subject will find it compelling.

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