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Israels Death Hierarchy

Israels Death Hierarchy: Casualty Aversion in a Militarized Democracy

Yagil Levy
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 269
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  • Book Info
    Israels Death Hierarchy
    Book Description:

    Whose life is worth more?That is the question that states inevitably face during wartime. Which troops are thrown to the first lines of battle and which ones remain relatively intact? How can various categories of civilian populations be protected? And when front and rear are porous, whose life should receive priority, those of soldiers or those of civilians? In Israel's Death Hierarchy, Yagil Levy uses Israel as a compelling case study to explore the global dynamics and security implications of casualty sensitivity. Israel, Levy argues, originally chose to risk soldiers mobilized from privileged classes, more than civilians and other soldiers. However, with the mounting of casualty sensitivity, the state gradually restructured what Levy calls its death hierarchy to favor privileged soldiers over soldiers drawn from lower classes and civilians, and later to place enemy civilians at the bottom of the hierarchy by the use of heavy firepower. The state thus shifted risk from soldiers to civilians. As the Gaza offensive of 2009 demonstrates, this new death hierarchy has opened Israel to global criticism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5335-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-14)

    In July 2006, Israel launched a full-scale war against Lebanon in response to the abduction of two soldiers by Hezbollah militiamen on the border between Israel and Lebanon. Initially, the government ruled out a ground operation, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) deployed the Air Force. However, when aerial assaults failed to stop the rockets that Hezbollah began launching at Israel’s northern towns, the army was gradually dragged into a ground operation. Ultimately, this resulted in more than one hundred casualties but the operation was conducted so indecisively that it failed to achieve any of the war’s goals—getting the...

  7. 1 The Right to Protect and the Right to Protection
    (pp. 15-36)

    As argued in the Introduction, an unequal burden that also guarantees rewards to those bearing the burden establishes the state’s capacity to provide protection to its citizens by sacrificing its young people. Thus, the implementation of the Hobbesian contract is anchored in a social hierarchy that creates a balanced affinity between two sets of rights—the right to protect and the right to protection. Imbalance between the rights may risk the state’s capacity to provide protection and encourages it to rebalance the rights. This chapter presents the theoretical framework that underlies the empirical study.

    The interplay between rights can be...

  8. 2 Unbalancing and Balancing the Rights
    (pp. 37-70)

    This chapter presents the dynamics of rights matching in Israel. Until the 1980s, rights were balanced: in exchange for upholding the right to protect, which was convertible to political and social rights, the secular middle class advanced the community’s right to protection. The legitimation of sacrifice, however, declined after the 1980s, following a drop in the motivation of the secular middle class to engage in such sacrifice, a drop that was exacerbated by the First Lebanon War (1982). For Israeli secular middle-class groups, the right to protect lost much of its role as a way to gain access to other...

  9. 3 Bereavement-Motivated Collective Actors
    (pp. 71-108)

    As we showed in chapter 2, after the 1970s, motivation for military service lessened among privileged groups. This was reflected, inter alia, in the framing of a subversive bereavement discourse. The fourth balancing strategy, burden distribution, gradually but imperfectly shifted the tone from a subversive to a submissive discourse. Still, sensitivity to casualties remained a cornerstone in bereavement discourse and imposed limitations on the military deployment. To better understand the limitations that the state faced, this chapter analyzes the link between the social composition of the IDF, as reflected in the social map of the casualties, and bereavement-incited collective action....

  10. 4 Bereavement-Motivated Collective Actors: A Comparison
    (pp. 109-126)

    To further understand the workings and impact of bereavement-motivated collective actors and to validate the conceptual framework offered in chapter 3, which highlighted the role of the mode of recruitment in mediating collective actors’ ability to leverage the politics of war, in this chapter I compare the Four Mothers movement to Gold Star Families for Peace in the United States. As noted in the previous chapter, the goals of Four Mothers were achieved, while Gold Star failed to induce the administration to pull its troops out of Iraq between 2005 and 2007. I also test alternative explanations guided largely by...

  11. 5 The Death Hierarchy
    (pp. 127-146)

    As attested to by the prudence shown by the military in deploying its ground forces in the Gazan and Lebanese arenas, the episodes with which this book opened, and the post-Second Lebanon War protest, the balancing strategies the state employed were partially effective, and limitations on risking soldiers’ lives remained in force.

    By redistributing the military burden using balancing strategy #4—whose main components were satellite armies, the counterfire doctrine, removal of reservists from friction zones, and social realignment of the ranks—the state expanded its freedom to deploy the army but still faced limitations. In the end, the state...

  12. 6 Casualty Sensitivity Breeds High Lethality
    (pp. 147-180)

    Right after Operation Cast Lead, in which Israel attacked the Hamas ministate in Gaza in December 2008-January 2009, Israel was globally criticized for excessive use of lethal force, leading to the deaths of about 1,400 Palestinians, about half of them noncombatants, while Israel sacrificed only a few soldiers (B’Tselem 2009). When the offensive ended, it became clear that the high lethality was intended to reduce IDF casualties, on the assumption that the Israeli public would be reluctant to accept heavy losses (Harel 2009d).

    It follows that Israel mirrors a global phenomenon that can be termed the force-casualty tradeoff (hereinafter FCT):...

  13. 7 Casualty Sensitivity and Political-Military Relations
    (pp. 181-204)

    Casualty aversion may affect the balance of power between generals and policymakers and therefore affect civilian control over the armed forces. As democracies suffer fewer military casualties in their wars than do other regimes (Valentino et al. 2010), this inevitably extends to the way democracies control their militaries. In the end, the willingness to pay the costs of war is one of the central mechanisms through which public opinion and collective actors may affect foreign policy choices, inspired by the impacts of the variables of politics of war as sketched in the previous chapters. Aldrich et al. (2006, 494–495)...

  14. 8 Conclusions
    (pp. 205-214)

    Inspired by the overwhelming casualty sensitivity that appeared in Israeli society in the first decade of the 2000s, this book has tackled the fundamental issue of how the state manages its citizens’ lives and deaths by prompting individuals to be willing to sacrifice their lives for their country. Adequate answers were not found in the existing literature on casualty aversion.

    In summing up the literature, what we found lacking was an integrative approach that links casualty sensitivity to its social origins, its reflection in bereavement discourse and bereavement-motivated collective antiwar protests, the manner by which the state adopts its course...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 215-218)
    (pp. 219-242)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 243-255)
    (pp. 256-256)