Conscientious Objectors in Israel
Citizenship, Sacrifice, Trials of FealtyUniversity of Pennsylvania Press The Ethnography of Political Violence
In Conscientious 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 Israel examines 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.
Chapter 1. The Interrupted Sacrifice
Chapter 2. Every Tongue's Got to Confess
Chapter 3. Confronting Sacrifice
Chapter 4. Pacifist? Prove It! The Adjudication of Conscience
Chapter 5. The Yoke of Conscience and the Binds of Community
Conclusion. False Promises
"Erica Weiss dramatically illuminates and revises our understanding of the tensions and fissures of liberalism, the Israeli state, and the notion of conscience, alongside the realities of militarism and of women's devaluation. This is an intellectually deep and ethnographically wide account of the privileges, perils, and impossibilities that claims of conscientious objection entail. Weiss describes paradoxes of military dissenters' dance with the state and presents a thoroughly historical view of conscience with which a wide range of scholars across the social sciences will now necessarily engage."—Catherine Lutz, author of Homefront: A Military City and the American Twentieth Century
"As a study of conscientious objection not just as a philosophical and ethical concept, but also as a political discourse fashioned by government committees, military review boards, documents, and social relationships, Conscientious Objectors in Israel is a nuanced and robust addition to the anthropology of ethics."—Juliana Ochs, author of Security and Suspicion: An Ethnography of Everyday Life in Israel