A reporter interviews children at Itamar Rose; children are being taught to hate at such a young age. ---- ------ ------ The modern roots of Zionism go back to its founding at the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, in 1897, its programme being the “establishing for the Jewish people of a publicly and legally assured home in Eretz Yisrael”. Five decades later, this was accomplished by dispossessing indigenous Palestinians, denying them the right to their land, creating a new Jewish identity, legitimising Jews as rightful owners, and using superior military force to support the state against defenceless civilians who were no match against their powerful adversary.
Leading up to and after its war of independence, Israel stayed politically and militarily hard line, negotiating from strength, choosing confrontation over diplomacy, and naked aggression as a form of self- defence and occupation in order to seize as much of historic Palestine as possible and secure an ethnically pure Jewish state. These policies were called “Israelification [and] De-Arabisation” to preserve a “Jewish character”.
In his book, The Making of Israeli Militarism, author Uri Ben-Eliezer says writing about Israeli militarism involves “ventur(ing) into an intellectual minefield”, given Jewish history under the Nazis and the perception of Israel as a safe haven. Yet, decades of Arab- Israeli conflict have produced seven full-scale wars, two Intifadas, and many hundreds of violent incidents.
Ben-Eliezer believes that, beginning in the 1930s, militarism “was gradually legitimized within the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine, then within the new state [it was] crystallized into a value, a formula, and an ideology.” Over time, it acquired a dynamic of its own, and then, during the 1948 war, it “acquired full legitimacy” and became decisive in setting policy.
Politics and militarism were wedded to create a militaristic view of reality. Thereafter, it was institutionalised to the point that “the idea of implementing a military solution to [political problems] was not only enshrined as a value in its own right, but was also considered legitimate, desirable, and indeed the best option.”
Today, militarism is a “cardinal aspect of Israeli society”, its quintessential element under the 1986 National Defence Service Law that requires all Jewish Israeli citizens and permanent residents to serve. The law covers both men and women, with exemptions only for Orthodox Jews, educational inadequacy, health, family considerations, married or pregnant women or those with children, criminals, and other considerations at the Defence Ministry’s discretion. In addition, most Israeli leaders are former high-ranking Israel Defence Force (IDF) officers, politics and the military being inextricably connected.
Little wonder, then, that Israel is a modern-day Sparta, a nation of about 5.6 million Jews and another 500,000 settlers that is able to mobilise over 600,000 combatants in 72 hours, equipped with state-of-the art weapons and the backing of the world’s only superpower for whatever it wants to do.
Yet on 2 March 2008, the US McClatchy Newspapers writer Dion Nissenbaum headlined that, “Israelis show declining zest for military service,” saying that “….under the surface, something has been slowly shifting in Israel as the nation prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary on May 14. More and more Israelis are avoiding mandatory military service — something” earlier considered unthinkable.
According to author and former chief Israeli military psychologist, Rueven Gal, “in the past, it is true that not serving in the military was considered the exception. In more recent times, it became more tolerable and more acceptable to people.”
According to 1997 IDF statistics, fewer than one in 10 Israeli men avoided service. Now it’s nearly triple that number, or, according to some, even higher, given the resonance of conscientious objectors, refusniks, students unwilling to serve in the occupied territories, and “Breaking the Silence” reservists speaking out about IDF atrocities over the past decade, especially during the Gaza war.
Women are also opting out, around 44 per cent compared to 37 per cent a decade earlier. As a result, Israeli National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau has called the IDF no longer a “people’s army [but rather] half the people’s army.” Given Israel’s hardline militarism requiring mandatory service, officials are seeking new ways to deter avoidance.
One way of doing this is by indoctrinating Israeli young people to accept the militarism of Israeli society, particularly since various organisations in Israeli, such as the pressure group New Profile, are promoting themselves as being a “Movement for the Civilisation of Israeli Society” away from militarism and a culture of violence. Israeli “feminist women and men…. are convinced that we need not live in a soldiers’ state” and should no longer tolerate one.
In July 2004, a New Profile report entitled Child Recruitment in Israel examined how Israeli armed forces and Jew