The combat troops love Itamar Ben-Gvir. Gideon Levy even claims that two out of 10 soldiers voted for his party; after all, they practice what he preaches (Haaretz, November 6). In light of this trend and the disclosure of violent incidents involving soldiers – most recently, the beating of a left-wing activist in Hebron – one may adopt the prevalent approach in the Zionist left and stereotype soldiers, to the point of characterizing them as Kahanists, as Levy suggests (Haaretz, November 27).

More conservative approaches will likely blame social media, as the Israel Defense Forces did in the wake of the Elor Azaria affair, or view the military as a mirror image of society, after the example of the Israel Democracy Institute.

These positions ignore the deep currents within the military. As I argued after the furor that followed the death of Barel Hadaria Shmueli, in August 2021, the military is experiencing nothing less than an uprising by Israel’s social-cultural peripheries. They send their children to the military and feel frustration at a service perceived as thankless: dirty policing work that bestows no prestige on those who perform it, breathes no life into the ethos of bravery and racks up no glorious achievements, but only the maintenance of the status quo. That is why they rebel against the military’s official cultural codes, as manifested in the matters of Shmueli, Azaria and “David the Nahlawi.”

Every terror attack is like a failure that the right pins on the army and its political masters. But in fact it is also burned in our consciousness as a failure of the soldiers. The soldiers, many of them from the geographic and socioeconomic periphery, watch their counterparts from more-advantaged backgrounds, who are funneled into technology units, become the symbol of the high-tech army cultivated by Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi. The soldiers meet the latter as “left-wing activists” who monitor their actions.

These soldiers are discharged into a cruel labor market without having gained valuable professional skills in the course of their service – during which they must fight for proper conditions. They accuse the politicians of endangering their lives with restrictive rules of engagement, even when these rules actually become permissive. The extensive media coverage of every fallen soldier in the policing wars illustrates where the fallen come from: The vast majority do not come from secular, well-to-do circles. Thus is their identity, which revolts against the military’s culture, created and nurtured.

And then came Ben-Gvir, religious and Mizrahi, like many soldiers. For the first time, they see a politician who understands their distress, demands that they be protected from the politicians who are “abandoning” them and given immunity from prosecution, even if they erred. Ben-Gvir treats them as castrated heroes, prevented from triumph by the politicians. He speaks to them in their own language, not in the rhetorical flourishes of the brass, the language of the pseudo-”statesmanlike” elites.

Ben-Gvir gives blue-collar policing the significance of a national mission, far from the remnants of the Zionist left’s resistance to occupation, or at least its demand for an ethical occupation at the soldiers’ expense. Suddenly these soldiers feel that their work matters, and they stand up straighter. Use of violence is no longer at odds with “IDF values,” but expresses what the army is supposed to embody. Denouncing the soldiers and the final efforts to delegitimize Ben-Gvir and his party only deepen the alienation felt by these soldiers.

There is no panacea except stopping what the state has done since its founding: pitting society’s most disadvantaged groups against the Palestinians, be they Israeli citizens or residents of the territories. The cultivation of this enmity, which was necessary to instill a fighting spirit in soldiers in the years immediately following the 1948 war, is gradually becoming a golem that turns on its creator, to the point of fear of a change in the form of government.

QOSHE - Ben-Gvir, the Soldiers’ Favorite - Yagil Levy
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Ben-Gvir, the Soldiers’ Favorite

21 4 19
30.11.2022

The combat troops love Itamar Ben-Gvir. Gideon Levy even claims that two out of 10 soldiers voted for his party; after all, they practice what he preaches (Haaretz, November 6). In light of this trend and the disclosure of violent incidents involving soldiers – most recently, the beating of a left-wing activist in Hebron – one may adopt the prevalent approach in the Zionist left and stereotype soldiers, to the point of characterizing them as Kahanists, as Levy suggests (Haaretz, November 27).

More conservative approaches will likely blame social media, as the Israel Defense Forces did in the wake of the Elor Azaria affair, or view the military as a mirror image of society, after the example of the Israel Democracy Institute.

These positions ignore the deep currents within the military. As I argued after the furor that followed the death of Barel Hadaria Shmueli, in August 2021, the military is experiencing nothing less than an uprising by Israel’s social-cultural peripheries. They send........

© Haaretz


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