Israel's death hierarchy: Casualty aversion in a militarized democracy

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Whose life is worth more? That is the question that states inevitably face during wartime. Which troops are thrown to the first lines of battle and which ones remain relatively intact? How can various categories of civilian populations be protected? And when front and rear are porous, whose life should receive priority, those of soldiers or those of civilians? In Israel's Death Hierarchy, Yagil Levy uses Israel as a compelling case study to explore the global dynamics and security implications of casualty sensitivity. Israel, Levy argues, originally chose to risk soldiers mobilized from privileged classes, more than civilians and other soldiers. However, with the mounting of casualty sensitivity, the state gradually restructured what Levy calls its "death hierarchy" to favor privileged soldiers over soldiers drawn from lower classes and civilians, and later to place enemy civilians at the bottom of the hierarchy by the use of heavy firepower. The state thus shifted risk from soldiers to civilians. As the Gaza offensive of 2009 demonstrates, this new death hierarchy has opened Israel to global criticism.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherNew York University Press
Number of pages255
ISBN (Print)9780814753347
StatePublished - 2012


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