Frontiers and Ghettos

Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel

James Ron
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 286
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pp587
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  • Book Info
    Frontiers and Ghettos
    Book Description:

    James Ron uses controversial comparisons between Serbia and Israel to present a novel theory of state violence. Formerly a research consultant to Human Rights Watch and the International Red Cross, Ron witnessed remarkably different patterns of state coercion.Frontiers and Ghettospresents an institutional approach to state violence, drawing on Ron's field research in the Middle East, Balkans, Chechnya, Turkey, and Africa, as well as dozens of rare interviews with military veterans, officials, and political activists on all sides. Studying violence from the ground up, the book develops an exciting new framework for analyzing today's nationalist wars.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93690-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xxii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  6. Introduction: Puzzles of Violence
    (pp. 1-12)

    In the midst of Israel’s hotly contested 1996 election campaign, Palestinian militants launched a series of deadly bomb attacks in Israel, killing dozens of Jews in downtown Tel Aviv. The deaths came at a particularly inopportune time for the then-ruling Labor Party, preoccupied as it was with convincing Jewish voters it could be as tough as the political right on national security. Some Labor ministers proposed dramatic acts of retaliation, including expelling entire groups of Palestinians or destroying Palestinian villages. The government vetoed those suggestions as too drastic, however, preferring instead to intensify ongoing policing measures such as arrests, coercive...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Institutional Settings and Violence
    (pp. 13-24)

    Since the end of the Second World War, most violent conflicts have begun as struggleswithinstates, not as international disputes. More often than not, strife is triggered by state discrimination against marginalized populations.¹ Some state bureaucracies categorize insiders and outsiders by national, ethnic, or religious criteria, while others rely more heavily on kinship, tribe, or social class. Although states use different methods to classify privileged and excluded populations, systematic discrimination of any type tends to provoke resistance and violence, prompting even greater state repression.² This dynamic is particularly acute in semidemocratic or ethnocratic states such as Serbia and Israel,...

  8. PART ONE Patterns of Serbian Violence
    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 27-34)

      THE FOLLOWING CHAPTERS DISCUSS THREE distinct arenas of Serbian state violence. The first is Bosnia during 1992 and 1993, when Serbian officials tacitly encouraged semi-private Serbian nationalists to engage in ethnic cleansing as part of an undercover effort to secure disputed lands. The second arena includes ethnically mixed regions of Serbia known as the Sandžak and Vojvodina. In both regions, the Serbian state blocked Serbian national radicalism to a certain extent, capping levels of private Serbian paramilitary violence. The third arena is Kosovo, where Serbia moved from ethnic policing in 1990–97 to ethnic cleansing in 1998–99. Serbia’s style...

    • CHAPTER 2 Bosnian Frontier Formation
      (pp. 35-43)

      Bosnia was transformed into a frontier in the spring of 1992 when it escaped formal Yugoslav control and won international recognition of its independence. Serbia had by then become the dominant player in the collapsing Yugoslav federation, and international acceptance of Bosnian sovereignty meant that the republic was slipping from Serbia’s formal political orbit. The result was not true Bosnian independence, however, but rather frontier-like status vis-à-vis its powerful Serbian neighbor. Bosnian actions played a key role in this process, but similar challenges to Serbian concerns were occurring elsewhere, including in Kosovo and the Sandžak. It was Western support for...

    • CHAPTER 3 Ethnic Cleansing on the Bosnian Frontier
      (pp. 44-64)

      Serbian disengagement from Bosnia severed overt links between Serbian nationalism in Bosnia, on the one hand, and Serbian (and Montenegrin) state organizations, on the other. Within Serbia proper, nationalism was promoted, upheld, or maintained by the police, the interior ministry’s state security agency, and the newly reduced federal Yugoslav army. Those agencies could not function openly inside Bosnia, however, generating a demand for alternative organizational forms satisfied by the Serbia-based paramilitaries, local Bosnian Serb crisis committees, and clandestine cross-border agents. These bodies filled the gap between Serbian territorial aspirations, which transcended Serbia’s official borders, and the global norm of sovereignty,...

    • CHAPTER 4 Ethnic Harassment in the Serbian Core
      (pp. 65-86)

      The ability of institutional settings to shape repertoires of state violence was dramatized in 1992 and 1993 when Serbian paramilitaries returning home periodically from Bosnian fighting behaved quite differently within the borders of the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). Although local, republican, and federal officials all permitted and perhaps even encouraged the ethnic harassment of non-Serb minorities living in Serbia and Montenegro, they blocked Bosnia-style ethnic cleansing by paramilitaries. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the Sandžak and Vojvodina, two ethnically mixed areas along Serbia and Montenegro’s western borders.

      The Serbian state prevented mass expulsions on...

    • CHAPTER 5 Kosovo’s Changing Institutional Fate
      (pp. 87-112)

      In spring 1999, Serbia attempted to ethnically cleanse Kosovo because the province had become an internal frontier. Through a combination of local armed insurgency and international diplomatic and military action, Serbia’s infrastructural power in the province was severely undermined, prompting its resort to extreme despotism. Although many observers had anticipated such a campaign since the early 1990s, Serbia had waited until the decade’s end to make its move; until March 1999, Kosovo had been a ghetto within Serbia. Like Sandžak and Vojvodina, Kosovo remained firmly lodged within the Serbian core for most of the 1990s, granting Serbian authorities both juridical...

  9. PART TWO Patterns of Israeli Violence
    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 115-126)

      PART II FOCUSES ON REPERTOIRES OF Israeli violence, implicitly comparing their style, organization, and results to the Serbian patterns explored in Part I. My goal is to explain why Israel engaged in ethnic policing rather than ethnic cleansing during the 1988 Palestinian uprising, despite the potential for more despotic measures. My explanation focuses on institutional setting: whereas Bosnia was a frontier vis-à-vis Serbia, Palestine was constituted as an ethnic ghetto within Israel, which exercised infrastructural control over the West Bank and Gaza. When combined with international human rights pressures, this regime of power led to ethnic policing, rather than forced...

    • CHAPTER 6 Creating the Palestinian Ghetto
      (pp. 127-143)

      Just prior to the first Israeli-Arab war, Zionist leader David Ben Gurion warned against extending citizenship to Palestinians slated to live in the new, UN-designated Jewish state. Citizenship for the new state’s Arab community, Ben Gurion believed, would mean that in wartime, “it would only be possible to imprison [the Palestinians],” rather than to expel them.¹ When fighting erupted soon after, the relevance of his comments became clear, as Jewish troops participated in the often forced removal of some 750,000 Palestinians over international borders in a campaign that today would be termed ethnic cleansing. By 1949, only 150,000 Palestinians remained...

    • CHAPTER 7 Policing the Ghetto
      (pp. 144-165)

      The first Palestinian revolt against Israeli rule, or Intifada, began in December 1987 with the organization of popular committees, mass demonstrations, and stone throwing (or occasional firebombing) against Israeli troops. Israel’s military and border police responded with a harsh, police-style repertoire including mass incarcerations, coercive interrogations, and widespread beatings.¹ Jewish paramilitary vigilantes often joined in, criticizing the military’s restraint and initiating their own assaults. Although Israeli leaders discussed the notion of using overwhelming military force to crush the uprising, the ghetto acted as a constraint, limiting Israel’s options.² The military did not destroy large numbers of Palestinian homes, massacre, or...

    • CHAPTER 8 Alternatives to Policing
      (pp. 166-188)

      Ethnic policing was the dominant Israeli repertoire in Palestine, but other, more despotic, alternatives existed as well. One of these was grounded in semi-private Jewish paramilitaries in the West Bank, some of which were strongly supportive of the notion of “transferring” Palestine’s non-Jewish population. Yet as was true in the Serbian case, the Israeli state refused to tolerate ethnic cleansing by paramilitary freelancers in territories under its official control. Israeli officials did, however, permit the sort of ethnic harassment witnessed in Sandžak and Vojvodina. The situation was different in Lebanon. In Lebanon, configured institutionally as a frontier vis-à-vis Israel from...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 189-202)

    This book’s central question has been “Why did Serbia support ethnic cleansing in Bosnia during 1992, whereas Israel engaged in ethnic policing in Palestine during 1988?” My answer has focused on the importance of context or “institutional setting.” Bosnia and Palestine were structured as different types of institutional environments, channeling repertoires of nationalist state violence in different directions. By spring 1992, Bosnia had become a frontier vis-à-vis Serbia, whereas Palestine (in 1988) was a ghetto within Israel. These different institutional con-figurations shaped Serbia’s and Israel’s repertoires of violence and responses to challenges by ethno-national rivals. The more a specific territory...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 203-252)
  12. Index
    (pp. 253-262)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-263)