Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Soldiering under Occupation

Soldiering under Occupation: Processes of Numbing among Israeli Soldiers in the Al-Aqsa Intifada

Erella Grassiani
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 168
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Soldiering under Occupation
    Book Description:

    Often, violent behavior or harassment from a soldier is dismissed by the military as unacceptable acts by individuals termed, "rotten apples." In this study, the author argues that this dismissal is unsatisfactory and that there is an urgent need to look at the (mis)behavior of soldiers from a structural point of view. When soldiers serve as an occupational force, they find themselves in a particular situation influenced by structural circumstances that heavily influence their behavior and moral decision-making. This study focuses on young Israeli men and their experiences as combat soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), particularly those who served in the "Occupied Palestinian Territories" (OPT) during the "Al AqsaIntifada," which broke out in 2000. In describing the soldiers' circumstances, especially focusing on space, the study shows how processes of numbing on different levels influence the (moral) behavior of these soldiers.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-957-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  6. Chapter 1 Introduction: Understanding Israeli Soldiers
    (pp. 1-15)

    In this work I argue for a broader, more extensive look into all factors that can influence the often violent behaviour of Israeli soldiers and their moral decision making. Looking at this issue from the point of view of the soldier, I want to gain a deeper understanding into the ways these young men view and interpret their day-to-day lives. I will argue in this work that the behaviour of soldiers under occupation, while performing the work and duties that are implied in the strategies and modes of power employed by the Israeli state and its military, is deeply influenced...

  7. Chapter 2 Studying Soldiers
    (pp. 16-29)

    In this chapter I will frame my argument theoretically. First of all, I perceive this work as being part of a small but growing field of the anthropology of morality. Many anthropologists have concerned themselves with what is perceived as ‘good’ or ‘ bad’ in different cultures and what people, according to their beliefs, ought to or ought not to do. Without describing their work in such terms, the study of these anthropologists dealt with issues of morality. Mead already ‘suggested that every human group has separate sets of behaviour for the treatment of in-group members and out-group members’, clearly...

  8. Chapter 3 Checkpoints, Arrests and Patrols: Spaces of Occupation
    (pp. 30-51)

    In this chapter I will discuss the central arenas or spaces within which Israeli soldiers perform their work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As I believe the physical surroundings of soldiers have a profound effect on the way they feel and thus act, I will try to understand ‘physically’ what soldiers go through while working in the OPT. In order to do this I will focus on the characteristics of the spatial surroundings the soldiers work in and their physical circumstances.

    These spatial surroundings are, first of all, the checkpoints where many Israeli combat soldiers spend months, if not years,...

  9. Chapter 4 Performing as Occupiers: Operational Dynamics
    (pp. 52-72)

    The Israeli soldier quoted above describes a process he went through while serving at a checkpoint in the OPT. With time, he got more and more impatient with the Palestinians who came through the checkpoint where he worked, which resulted in an indifference towards their pleas and, eventually, in him shouting at them. Several elements that contributed to this process are mentioned: long hours of work at the checkpoint, fatigue, feeling burnt out and frustration.

    In this chapter I will look more closely at the performance of soldiers within the work spaces described before. I will highlight a few central...

  10. Chapter 5 Tired, Bored and Scared: Emotional, Physical and Cognitive Numbing
    (pp. 73-89)

    As the soldiers quoted above make clear, there seems to exist a relationship between the spatial surroundings or work arena of a soldier, the operational dynamics present, such as the period of time he serves there and the routine he faces, and his ‘mental state’ or emotional state, as I will call it here. After a while of being subjected to these dynamics, the soldiers get ‘bitter’ and ‘pissed off’ as described above.

    This state is a complex one and so are the processes that lead to it. I propose to analyze the processes Israeli soldiers go through during their...

  11. Chapter 6 Blurring Morals: the Numbed Moral Competence of Soldiers
    (pp. 90-101)

    Having looked at the spaces Israeli soldiers move and work within and the implications of the operational dynamics of these spaces on their behaviour, I will now discuss the issue of numbing within what could be categorized as a fourth dimension: the moral one. This moral numbing, I argue, can be seen as the end product of the different processes of numbing discussed above. I define moral numbing as the numbing of the ability to recognize and act upon a moral aspect of a specific situation. The ability to do this also has been called moral professionalism (Verweij 2007). After...

  12. Morality in Speech: Discursive Strategies of Soldiers
    (pp. 102-130)

    When people recount their experiences, when they get the opportunity to talk about what they have seen and been through, we end up with accounts. These accounts are highly individual and subjective and this is the reason they have the potential to give us an insight into how people think. Most importantly, though, they can give us insights into the specific ways people speak about their past experiences and thus the way they understand them and want us to understand them. When such experiences and the behaviour of the speaker are complex and ambiguous by nature, and especially when they...

  13. Chapter 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 131-136)

    My main goal with this work was to gain a deeper understanding of the everyday experiences and the moral behaviour and decision making of Israeli soldiers engaged in the practice of occupation in the Palestinian Territories. This understanding I was looking for would go beyond the most common strategy of politicians and military officials: simply seeing soldiers’ aggressive and harassing behaviour as immoral ‘anomalies’ and leaving it at that. Too many factors seemed at play to reach this conclusion and it was, therefore, my goal to investigate these factors in detail. I have tried to show the reader the manifold...

  14. References
    (pp. 137-144)
  15. Index
    (pp. 145-152)