Militarisation of Israeli society: The long-term effects of an ongoing conflict

Militarisation is a process taking place in many countries. In a country like Israel that has been at war for a very long time, the military and militaristic values transform the society at large. Militaristic values like unquestioning obedience and performance are normalized in this process. Army colonel’s visiting schools is not a neutral act, it is a job fair and means said school is – even if passively – supporting militaristic values; this inevitably affects students’ perception of the military and their way of thinking about society and themselves.

Israel is an interesting case study, because it represents the epitome of a militarized society having been ranked the world’s most militarized society though the Global Militarisation Index released by the Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC) funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development. Almost every Israeli is mandatorily conscripted (at least 2 years for women and 3 years for men), opting out is not really an option unless you are prepared to face severe social exclusion. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is not an army as we know it in Europe, it is one of the most important institutions in Israel, deeply influencing economy and culture and everyday life.

I argue that militarization justifies a constant state of emergency in a society and that is inherently undemocratic. A state of emergency makes for rushed and exaggerated reactions, shortening the time between reflection and action – a time necessary for any democratic process, i.e. discussion and dialogue. I think this is why we can see oversimplified stereotypical portrayals of Palestinians in Israeli schoolbooks, that a relationship between a Jewish girl and an Arab boy “pose a threat to the Jewish majority in the country” and that violence as a form of solving problems is constructed as legitimate.

Apart from the obvious physical dangers that living in a country at war brings with it, let’s not forget about the long-term effects a conflict has on society. It is a vicious cycle: Conflict and violence prompt militarization; but if we do not open up the space for discussion and dialogue, the possibility of establishing peace is zero.

(AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)