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Conscientious Objectors in Israel

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

Erica Weiss
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Conscientious Objectors in Israel
    Book Description:

    InConscientious Objectors in Israel, Erica Weiss examines the lives of Israelis who have refused to perform military service for reasons of conscience. Based on long-term fieldwork, this ethnography chronicles the personal experiences of two generations of Jewish conscientious objectors as they grapple with the pressure of justifying their actions to the Israeli state and society-often suffering severe social and legal consequences, including imprisonment.While most scholarly work has considered the causes of animosity and violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,Conscientious Objectors in Israelexamines how and under what circumstances one is able to refuse to commit acts of violence in the midst of that conflict. By exploring the social life of conscientious dissent, Weiss exposes the tension within liberal citizenship between the protection of individual rights and obligations of self-sacrifice. While conscience is a strong cultural claim, military refusal directly challenges Israeli state sovereignty. Weiss explores conscience as a political entity that sits precariously outside the jurisdictional bounds of state power. Through the lens of Israeli conscientious objection, Weiss looks at the nature of contemporary citizenship, examining how the expectations of sacrifice shape the politics of both consent and dissent. In doing so, she exposes the sacrificial logic of the modern nation-state and demonstrates how personal crises of conscience can play out on the geopolitical stage.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0942-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    Conscience twinges. It pinches, tugs, stabs and pricks. It must be wrestled with, when one is not plagued by it. It calls and dictates. It is a worm, and a court. Conscience is articulated in these ways as the most solitary, individual, and idiosyncratic of faculties. Yet, as both a personal ethical experience and a potent public discourse, conscience also dramatically reshapes the social terrain. Conscience can make the illegal legal and the offensive admirable, or have the opposite effect. Beliefs regarding the inviolability of conscience in Western ethical traditions persist in close relation to idea that religious beliefs need...

  4. 1 The Interrupted Sacrifice
    (pp. 29-60)

    On the route to the Palestinian West Bank village of Susiya, the mood in the bus was excited and jovial. I was traveling with a group of Israeli conscientious objectors from Combatants for Peace (CFP) to meet with Palestinian ex-fighters, members of the same activist organization. At their meetings, Israelis and Palestinians tell their life stories and how they came to reject a militarized solution to the conflict between their two peoples. As we made our way out of southern Jerusalem and crossed into the Palestinian West Bank, the trip turned into a macabre guided tour of the memory sites...

  5. 2 Every Tongue’s Got to Confess
    (pp. 61-80)

    One late Wednesday afternoon, I met up with Meir. Over the previous months, he had introduced me to other members of Combatants for Peace (CFP) and was very helpful in actively including me in key conversations. I had noticed that a few people were growing weary of my questions after realizing that I wanted more from them than the journalists who requested public relations materials and sound bites on specific incidents. Meir, though, was an enthusiastic supporter of my peculiar interest and tried to help me as much as possible. This time he was bringing me to a house meeting,...

  6. 3 Confronting Sacrifice
    (pp. 81-106)

    My interactions with the younger generation of conscientious objectors began at a party, a launch party for a new youth group sponsored by the feminist antimilitarism organization New Profile. I went early to meet up with my friend Enon, whom I had met earlier my fieldwork. A member of New Profile, he had invited me to the gathering. I took the bus to the address he had given me, on a badly lit street in Tel Aviv. When I arrived, the building seemed dark and abandoned. A large piece of plywood leaned against the front of the building. I called...

  7. 4 Pacifist? Prove It! The Adjudication of Conscience
    (pp. 107-130)

    According to military policy, an individual will be exempted from service if he or she can demonstrate pacifist belief. This pacifism must be demonstrated before a military body—the Conscience Committee—using testimony, witnesses, and additional evidence. Some of the members of the New Profile youth group sought pacifist exemptions because the only possible exemption from military service is based on principled objection to military service. Becoming keenly interested in this encounter between conscientious objectors and the military, I sought out many other applicants for this exemption to learn more about their pacifist beliefs and their experiences with the exemption...

  8. 5 The Yoke of Conscience and the Binds of Community
    (pp. 131-158)

    This chapter is about responsibility to conscience and to community. Like circumcision, the binds of community are about the violent demarcation of the here from the there, the rending of the mine from the theirs that takes place on the body and mind of an individual. This chapter is also about the faith my interlocutors put in the liberal promise of freedom from communal constraint, and their discovery that the “heavy hand of human values” has set limits in their lives from the beginning. In breaching the limits of the tolerable in refusal, they almost accidentally tear away much of...

  9. CONCLUSION. False Promises
    (pp. 159-172)

    In the preceding pages, we have seen the drama of conscientious objection play out in the encounter of personal and public ethics, dilemmas of responsibility and sacrifice, and struggles for inclusion. At the base of this turmoil are a number of guarantees promised by the state that ultimately cannot be fulfilled. This ethnography has highlighted several guarantees for ethical fulfillment that the state claims to be in the position to provide but is not. I focus on three such promises. One is the liberal promise of moral autonomy, the idea that one’s conscience can be circumscribed both by collective understandings...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 173-178)
    (pp. 179-196)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 197-202)
    (pp. 203-204)