An Army Like No Other: How the Israel Defense Force Made a Nation

Published by Verso in 2020.

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The Israeli army, officially named the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), was established in 1948 by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, who believed that “the whole nation is the army.” In his mind, the IDF was to be an army like no other. It was the instrument that might transform a diverse population into a new people. Since the foundation of Israel, therefore, the IDF has been the largest, richest and most influential institution in Israel’s Jewish society and is the nursery of its social, economic and political ruling class.

In this fascinating history, Bresheeth-Zabner charts the evolution of the IDF from the Nakba to wars in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and the continued assaults upon Gaza, and shows that the state of Israel has been formed out of its wars. He also gives an account of his own experiences as a young conscript during the 1967 war. He argues that the army is embedded in all aspects of daily life and identity. And that we should not merely see it as a fighting force enjoying an international reputation, but as the central ideological, political and financial institution of Israeli society. As a consequence, we have to reconsider our assumptions on what any kind of peace might look like.


Professor Haim Bresheeth-Zabner is a Filmmaker, Photographer and a Film Studies Scholar, and Professorial Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He is the editor of The Gulf War and the New World Order, (with Nira Yuval-Davis), and the author of The Holocaust for Beginners (with Stuart Hood). His films include the widely shown State of Danger (1989, BBC2)—a documentary on the first Palestinian Intifada—and London is Burning, after the 2011 riots. He has also written in the Israeli Ha’aretz and the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Weekly.

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