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

Eri­ca Weiss
  • Review
By – February 2, 2015

Israel is a coun­try with a cul­ture of compul­sory 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 milita­rized 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.

Relat­ed content:

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

Discussion Questions