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Conscience at War

The Israeli Soldier as a Moral Critic

Ruth Linn

Publication Year: 1996

An exploration of the moral and intellectual conflict of Israeli citizens who have resisted military service, and of how they justify their choices of action. Israel’s security is maintained largely by civilians in uniform. The chronic state of war in Israel requires that every Israeli civilian serve in the Israel Defense Forces as a reservist until the age of 55. The focus of this book is the intellectual and moral challenges selective conscientious objection poses for resisters in Israel. It is the first psychological study of the Intifada refusniks. The 1982–1985 Lebanon War was a dramatic turning point in the intensity, depth, forms, and magnitude of criticism against the army, and this war serves as the starting point for Ruth Linn’s inquiry into moral criticism of Israeli soldiers in morally no-win situations during the Intifada. In each of these conflicts, about 170 reserve soldiers became selective conscientious objectors. In each conflict, however, numerous objecting soldiers also “refused to refuse,” proclaiming that their right to voice their moral concern springs from their dedication to, and fulfillment of, the hardship of military obligation. Linn uses the theories of Rawls, Walzer, Kohlberg, and Gilligan as a framework for understanding and interpreting interviews with objecting soldiers. By this means, she seeks to answer such questions as: How would various groups of objecting soldiers justify their specific choice of action? What are the psychological, moral, and non-moral characteristics of those individuals who decided to be, or refused to be, patriotic? And how did the Intifada, as a limited yet morally problematic military conflict, affect the moral thinking, emotions, and moral language of long term soldiers?

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Israeli Studies


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

Many thanks go to Dr. Russell Stone for his thorough review of the book and to Dana Foote for her careful editorial help. Finally, I would like to convey my thanks to Mrs. Sybil and Mr. Stephen Stone, long-term advocates of justice and peace, who were the first to encourage me to do this project. ...

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The Silenced Civilian in Uniform: An Introduction

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pp. 3-16

I belong to a special generation within Israeli society, one born after the War of Independence (1948), and growing up with the hopes and illusion of their parents that in the post-Holocaust era this generation would never have to fight wars. For my generation, the Holocaust, even though not suffered directly, is a concrete event. ...

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1. Refusal as a Moral Position: From Separation to Connection

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pp. 17-34

In the name of science, developmental and moral psychologists traditionally detach themselves from two types of involvement. On the personal level, they most often refrain from taking a position as moral critics of real-life events. On the professional level, they refrain from studying moral critics in two ancient and very familiar ...

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2. Refusal as a Moral Decision: From Justice to Compassion

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pp. 35-54

There are two ways in which the individual soldier should judge a given war: first, in regard to the justice of the war objectives (), and second in regards to the conduct of the war (jus in bello). The distinction between jus ad bellum and jus in bello consists of "two clusters of prohibitions attached to the central principle

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3. Refusal in the Battlefield: From Passive to Active

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pp. 55-72

What does the combatant's moral competence tell about his moral action in general and while under pressure in particular? Kohlberg (1984) believes that one does not act directly on principles, but rather on specific content judgments engendered by those principles. Moral judgments serve two psychological functions that he ...

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4. Refusal in Context: From Vietnam to Algiers

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pp. 73-86

Service in the army is one of the most serious moral obligations of the Israeli male citizen. Refusal to serve in the IDF in order to protect a soldier's own moral integrity, and/or effect change in society, has no legal status. Objection on conscientious grounds by secular combatant soldiers has been very rare, consisting of a few individuals whose sporadic challenges to military service have hardly ...

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5. Refusal in Action: From Precedence to Option

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pp. 87-104

When deciding to detach themselves from the shared moral meaning of the army, the Intifada refusers suggest that this action was the only way in which they could be true to their moral selves, and that there was no other way in which their conscience could remain intact. The validation of this deliberate moral choice is not ...

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6. Forms of Criticism: From "Voice" to "Exit"

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pp. 105-136

This chapter tries to locate the action of selective refusal during the Intifada within the range of moral criticism during this conflict. For the sake of analysis, we choose to (partially) borrow the concepts of 'voice' and 'exit' from Hirschman's (1970) model of response to pressure in the world of business. In Hirschman's model, "loyalty," ...

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7. Criticism and Culture: From Collective Memories to Voice

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pp. 137-168

Critical thinking requires the use of imagination, "seeing things from perspectives other than our own and envisioning the likely consequences of our position" (Barnet and Bedau, p. 4). In this chapter we argue that the collective memories of the Holocaust serves as a central perspective for the Israeli civilian in uniform; ...

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8. Refusal and Motivation: From Moral and Political to Personal

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pp. 169-180

A full understanding of selective conscientious objection requires an appreciation of the motivation of the disobedient. For this, argues Cohen (1971), we must go beyond the analysis of the objectively performed act, inquiring into the subjective and, hence, murky sphere of the character and aims of the actor. Particularly in ...

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9. Refusal on Trial: From Morality to Credibility

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pp. 181-196

Combatants' understanding of principles of justice does not guarantee that these principles are honestly held or believed, particularly when one's own life is at stake as in a war situation. These principles might be used as an excuse for not doing one's own duty, as a cover for fear, or even for revolutionary plans. These principles ...

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10. Criticism in the Making: From Emotion to Cognition

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pp. 197-210

Israel's military preparedness rests heavily on the reserve force's availability for deployment in times of emergencies. The reservist's loyalty to this type of service was traditionally ascribed to his moral motivation-his belief in his right and necessity to fight a defensive and just war (Gal 1986). This belief was dramatically shaken for ...

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11. Refusal in Perspective: From the War of Attrition to Moral Attrition

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pp. 211-224

Seven years after the beginning of the war in Lebanon, and in the second year of the uprising in the territories, the Haifa Theater staged a play written by Irwin Shaw in 1936 called "The Rebellion of the Dead." In the play six dead soldiers raise their heads during the funeral service and refuse to be buried. Their refusal to comply ...

APPENDIX: Kohlberg's Form B Test

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pp. 225-226


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pp. 227-238


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pp. 239-245

E-ISBN-13: 9781438410982
E-ISBN-10: 1438410980
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791427774
Print-ISBN-10: 0791427773

Page Count: 245
Publication Year: 1996

Series Title: SUNY series in Israeli Studies