Embattled Identities: Palestinian Soldiers in the Israeli Military
Roughly 5,000 Palestinians living inside Israel currently volunteer to serve in the Israeli military. These soldiers’ multiple and contradictory loyalties highlight the contingent nature of identity and the complex relationships subalterns have to institutions of rule. This paper calls for a move beyond viewing these volunteers simply as “traitors,” or, less negatively, as “accommodationists.” By understanding them as marginal agents at the edges of Palestinian society within Israel, their successes and failures at integration through the military richly illustrate the contradictory workings of citizenship in Israel and its limitations.
Rhoda Kanaaneh is an assistant professor of anthropology at American University, Washington, D.C. She is the author of Birthing the Nation: Strategies of Palestinian Women in Israel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). She wishes to thank Ayse Caglar, Elaine Combs-Schilling, Geraldine Chatelard, Frances Hasso, Roger Lancaster, Annelies Moors, Salim Tamari, Elia Zureik, and three anonymous reviewers for their feedback and comments at different stages of writing. Research was made possible by a Faculty Fellowship at New York University’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and by a Jean Monnet Fellowship at the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies of the European University Institute (EUI). Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Middle East Studies Association annual meetings and at the EUI Mediterranean Seminars in 2001.