Israel's Death Hierarchy: Casualty Aversion in a Militarized Democracy

Israel's Death Hierarchy: Casualty Aversion in a Militarized Democracy

by Yagil Levy


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2012 Winner of the Shapiro Award for the Best Book in Israel Studies, presented by the Association for Israel Studies

Whose life is worth more?

That is the question that states inevitably face during wartime. Which troops are thrown to the first lines of battle and which ones remain relatively intact? How can various categories of civilian populations be protected? And when front and rear are porous, whose life should receive priority, those of soldiers or those of civilians? In Israel’s Death Hierarchy, Yagil Levy uses Israel as a compelling case study to explore the global dynamics and security implications of casualty sensitivity. Israel, Levy argues, originally chose to risk soldiers mobilized from privileged classes, more than civilians and other soldiers. However, with the mounting of casualty sensitivity, the state gradually restructured what Levy calls its “death hierarchy” to favor privileged soldiers over soldiers drawn from lower classes and civilians, and later to place enemy civilians at the bottom of the hierarchy by the use of heavy firepower. The state thus shifted risk from soldiers to civilians. As the Gaza offensive of 2009 demonstrates, this new death hierarchy has opened Israel to global criticism.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814753347
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 11/05/2012
Series: Warfare and Culture , #4
Pages: 269
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Yagil Levy is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, Political Science and Communication at the Open University of Israel. His recent books include Israel's Materialist Militarism, Israel since 1980, and Who Governs the Military? Between Control of the Military and Control of Militarism.

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables ix

Acknowledgments xi

Preface from the Series Editor Wayne E. Lee xiii

Introduction 1

1 The Right to Protect and the Right to Protection 15

1.1 The Essence of Rights 15

1.2 Balancing Strategies 26

1.3 Conclusions 34

2 Unbalancing and Balancing the Rights 37

2.1 Balanced Rights 38

2.2 Unbalanced Rights 42

2.3 Demands for Burden Reduction 46

2.4 The Subversive Bereavement Discourse 51

2.5 Balancing Strategies 59

2.6 Conclusions 68

3 Bereavement-Motivated Collective Actors 71

3.1 The South Lebanon Guerrilla War (1985-2000): The Impact of Four Mothers 72

3.2 Explaining Four Mothers' Success 76

3.3 The Al-Aqsa Intifada (2000-2005) 82

3.4 The Second Lebanon War (2006) and Operation Cast Lead (2009) 96

3.5 Conclusions 106

4 Bereavement-Motivated Collective Actors: A Comparison 109

4.1 Gold Star Families for Peace 109

4.2 Alternative Explanations 115

4.3 Theoretical Conclusions 121

5 The Death Hierarchy 127

5.1 The Principles of the Death Hierarchy 128

5.2 The Structure of the Death Hierarchy 129

5.3 Conclusions 145

6 Casually Sensitivity Breeds High Lethality 147

6.1 The Essence of the Force-Casualty Tradeoff 149

6.2 Israel's Wars against Gaza: A General Outline 153

6.3 The Tradeoff 154

6.4 Conclusions and Theoretical Implications 171

7 Casualty Sensitivity and Political-Military Relations 181

7.1 Civilian Control of the IDF: General Background 182

7.2 Casualty Sensitivity Reinforces the Military 185

7.3 Conclusions and Theoretical Implications 200

8 Conclusions 205

Notes 215

Bibliography 219

Index 243

About the Author 256

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Levy effectively blends theory and case analysis to explore the underlying social dynamics that influence how society responds to the threats and perils of war. In so doing he bridges the wide gap between IR/Political Science and Sociology." -Patricia M. Shields,Texas State University

"A superb analysis of the relationship between the changing social structure in Israel, the makeup of its military, and the resulting strategic posture. It is unique in that it explores these relationships through the analysis of the social and economic characteristics of the casualties in Israel’s limited conflicts with the Palestinians and with Lebanon. It also blends sociological and political theories of civil-military relations in a manner that is insightful and thought-provoking. Anyone who is interested in societal-military relations and in Israeli society and politics should put this book on top of their reading list."-Zeev Maoz,Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis

"Yagil Levy provides powerful contribution to the debate about the degree to which liberal democracies are ‘casualty sensitive.’ With his concept of ‘death hierarchy’ he reflects on whether these states tend to favor their soldiers' lives over those of enemy civilians and how far this is explained by the declining motivation among their own privileged groups to sacrifice their lives in the military. Although focused on the case of Israel, the argument encompasses other cases and will appeal to scholars of ‘casualty aversion’ on both sides of the Atlantic."-Christopher Dandeker,Co-Director, King's Centre for Military Health Research

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