“What makes you Israeli”: A qualitative study of young men’s testimonies on military service, nationality and identity in Israel

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för globala studier

Abstract: Military service is an important site of contact between the state and citizen. Studying militaryservice can highlight the penetrating power of nationalism, as the state makes a claim of theindividual’s sacrifice in the name of the nation. Israel provides an interesting example for such astudy, as military service has a prominent position in the nation building project – nationalismand militarism are intertwined and mutually enhancing discourses. Still, globalised discoursesthat emphasise individualism are also influential. Subsequently, this thesis investigates howyoung Israeli men relate to nationalistic and militaristic discourses contra individualisticdiscourses; how these discourses mediate their identification process and the space for choosingto go to military service or not. The study is also concerned with these young men’sidentification or counter-identification with their nationality and the role as a soldier in amilitarised state. Resistance towards militarism, and its manifestations in hegemonic masculinity,is explored and analysed. This was done through conducting qualitative interviews with eightmen who had either done their three full years of service, gotten an early release or evaded thedraft.The study found that the respondents were highly affected by nationalistic and militaristicdiscourses. Their contact with globalised discourses on individualism and personal freedom didnot entail diminished sense of pressure to serve the nation through military service. While thetwo respondents who had evaded service mostly framed their acts as driven by individualisticmotivations, individualism also provided a way to justify going to the military. I hold thatglobalisation and individualism are not necessarily antidotes to militarism and nationalism. Ifurther discovered that military service was a formative experience for several respondents, thatmade them disillusioned towards the nationalistic and militaristic discourses. Finally, therespondents who counter-identified with the role as a soldier expressed this in terms of adissonance with hegemonic masculinity, indicating the masculinist nature of militarism.

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