An unbearable price: War casualties and warring democracies

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Israeli society has changed its attitude to the sacrifice of life in war, a change that is reflected in the bereavement discourse. Attitudes have shifted from the unquestioned justification of military losses prior to the First Lebanon War (1982) to the emergence of an antiwar bereavement discourse after the war and during the South Lebanon war of attrition that followed it. More recently, following the Al-Aqsa Intifada and the Second Lebanon War (2006), a discourse that accepts losses has emerged. While the retreat from the hegemonic discourse prior to the First Lebanon War is explained by the changing attitudes to military sacrifice among the social elites, the latter shift took place in parallel with the alteration of the social composition of the Israeli Defence Force. It is argued that the social composition of the military affects the level of sensitivity to losses. While secular upper-middle class groups tend to show a high level of sensitivity to war losses, which they then translate into a subversive bereavement discourse, religious and peripheral groups with a hawkish agenda are more tolerant of military losses, or, alternatively, may seek to avoid excessive casualties by improving the military's performance or the quality of the political directives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-82
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Politics, Culture and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Bereavement discourse
  • Casualty aversion
  • Social composition of the army

RAMBI publications

  • Al-Aqsa Intifada, 2000-
  • Bereavement -- Israel
  • Intifada, 1987-1993
  • Lebanon War, 2006
  • Operation Peace for Galilee, 1982-1985


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