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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .

The Making of Israeli Militarism
Uri Ben-Eliezer

(Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press)
278pp. Index. Hb.: 28.50; 0253333873.

Uri Ben-Eliezer's excellent analysis, exhaustively researched, of two decades of foment from 1936 within the nascent Israel hopes to persuade us that man and his social groupings readily drench themselves in blood not because of any innate aggression but rather that 'social organisation, politics and culture' are the principal components of conflict.

Militarism and the effect of 'praetorianism', a term denoting 'the army's possible intervention in politics under the threat or actual use of arms' is the focus of Ben-Eliezer's analysis of how the 'military way' evolved as Israel's new solution to the 'Arab Problem' in the settling of Palestine. The catalyst for this apparent sea-change in Jewish outlook was the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939 when the majority population revolted against the continued Jewish settlement of Palestine. Concomitant events in Europe, a shift in British Middle East policy and a possible German invasion of Palestine created a situation where the idea of getting your revenge in first took hold amongst ideological youths then later became the 'official' State policy that led the Arab demographic in Palestine to fall from 90% in 1917 to 20% at the end of the 1948 conflict. Now as we know, there is nothing like an ideological youth with his mind untrammelled by other peoples realities to start a bit of bother. In one of the book's many insights which Ben-Eliezer reveals to us we learn that these youths liked nothing better than a campfire, a singsong and night-time operations against Arab villages. What is this fascination that canvas holds for right-wing youth groups? This author quotes a contemporary British source who spoke of the 'saliently totalitarian, militaristic and national-socialist approach of the new Zionism'.

You may have gathered that I am not a Zionist and this book hasn't changed that. It is however a thoroughly enjoyable read, obviously well researched without letting its footnotes trip up the flow of what is a dramatic period of history. It is blatantly partisan especially in the opening chapters where the author writes in reverential terms of 'military operations' which in reality were little more than opportunistic murders by the all-singing all-camping brigade. His description of the 1948 conflict, in particular the refugee problem pulls no punches however. Tellingly there is not a single mention in this book of an Arab name.

Adrian McNickle

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