Israel is a militaristic state. For many years now, it has ranked first in the Global Militarisation Index (GMI). By way of contrast, the USA ranks twenty-seventh, the UK seventy-seventh. The GMI bases its rankings on a set of quantifiable indicators, for example, GMI compares a country’s military expenditure with its Gross Domestic Product, and its health expenditure. Notwithstanding this ranking, it seems to me insufficient evidence to justify what amounts to the charge laid down in my opening sentence: ‘Israel is a militaristic state’.
Militarism is not simply a matter of having armed forces, nor even the fact that a state might take pride in them. Rather, militarism is the expression, and propagation, of a totalising ethical, cultural, economic and political ethos such that the military, and ‘the military way’ of thinking, is the prism through which the world is viewed. Jeff Harper in War Against the People puts it thus:
Encapsulated in symbols, narratives, rituals, holidays, educational curricula and political discourse internalised by generations of Israeli Jews and reinforced by nearly universal military service, cultural militarism has become part of the natural order in Israel.
With the establishment of Israel in 1948:
Militarism was officially entrenched in Israeli culture and policy-making. The army became the primary instrument of nation building. Identification with the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] would define and mobilise “Israel-ness”…For Ben-Gurion, [Israel’s first Prime Minister] Israel as a “nation-in-arms” should foster “a desire to fight and an ability to fight…Israel’s military culture keeps its populace in a constant state of mobilisation.”
It is because the ‘military way’ is Israel’s default setting, justifying both its existence and any action – vile and violent though they may be – that the charge of militarism can be sustained. Israel is a militaristic state.
Militarism, as a totalising system, must maintain and reproduce itself. Special heed, therefore, is to be paid to the state’s young, in particular its Jewish young, for it is they that must – must! – carry forward the State’s ethnonationalist project of Jewish supremacy.
A key objective of the Israeli education system, the Jewish education system, is to prepare the young – from the very, very young through to the high school graduate – for military service; to prepare them for combat, for readiness to fulfil their role as controllers of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In other words, readiness to control Palestinians, children, women and men.