Trending Topics:

‘Everyone’s a veteran’ in Israel, says Junger. Well, not really

US Politics
on 12 Comments

Sebastian Junger has a new book out called Tribe, about the tribal pull inside human societies, the need to belong to a subgroup to derive meaning in life. Much of his book involves the bonding and closeness that soldiers experience by being together in armies, in which people are equal, and everyone suffers the same fears and privations.

Junger was on Leonard Lopate’s show ten days ago, and I can’t let this pass, Lopate asked him about his belief that veterans don’t like special treatment– say, boarding first on airplanes — when they reintegrate into American society. And Lopate injected that Israelis would never grant such privileges to veterans.

Lopate: It’s different in Israel because everybody, or almost everyone, serves.

Junger: Everyone serves in the military, they’re not letting vets go first on airplanes because everyone’s a vet. And no one says, thank you for your service, because it’s like saying thank you for paying your taxes. I mean everybody does it. So what you want from veterans is to reincorporate them into the society.

Just a casual moment, yes, but Junger’s an impressive American storyteller, so it’s worth correcting the record here. Palestinian Israelis do pay taxes, but they are exempted from serving in the Israeli army, though they constitute roughly one-fifth of the country’s population. That’s because they are not considered sufficiently loyal to the country, for obvious reasons: Israel is constituted as a “Jewish state,” and many of its enemies are Palestinians, people who were forced off their lands to permit the state’s establishment, or who now live under occupation with no rights, right alongside Jewish colonists who have full rights, and have to serve in the army. So the Israeli army is overwhelmingly Jewish (though many Druze serve).

Junger’s misstatement is understandable in that most Americans surely share his view of the Israeli army. But it’s just not the case that everyone serves. The United States has not had a situation anything like this in generations. Blacks served in segregated units during World War II. The army was integrated in 1948.

Americans ought to be asking, Why would you want to have a society that one-fifth of the population wouldn’t want to defend? Because the definition of citizenship overlaps with a tribal definition that is highly exclusive, and not at all equal, is why. And that is a big reason that the Palestinian solidarity movement is intent on reforming that society.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

Other posts by .

Posted In:

12 Responses

  1. just
    June 3, 2016, 12:18 pm

    Thanks, Phil. I read a review of his book in the Chicago Tribune ( yesterday, and I thought that perhaps his premise applies primarily to US and other western militaries that embark on foreign soil to engage or start wars. It certainly cannot really apply to the ca 80% of Israelis who serve in the IOF. From wiki:


    In Tribe (2016) Junger studies war veterans from an anthropological perspective and asks how “do you make veterans feel that they are returning to a cohesive society that was worth fighting for in the first place?”. Junger’s premise is that “soldiers all but ignore differences of race, religion and politics within their platoon,” and upon return to America, find a fractious society splintered into various competing fragments, many of them hostile to one another.[53]”

    O/T, but interesting article about another author that you have written about (“Chabon calls occupation ‘the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life’ and says he is ‘culpable’” – See more at: appeared in Haaretz:

    “The power couple of American literature wants to save Israel from itself

    The dissonance generated by a visit to Hebron and a dinner in Tel Aviv jolted Israeli-born writer Ayelet Waldman. It also sparked the genesis of a project with her husband, writer Michael Chabon, and Breaking the Silence: enlisting world-famous writers to document life under occupation. …”

    read more:

  2. Walker
    June 3, 2016, 3:26 pm

    In the US media “Israeli” practically always means “Israeli Jew”. In my observation the same tends to be true among Israeli Jews themselves.

    This is something to bear in mind when defenders of Israel go on about Israel’s supposed multicultural society.

  3. pabelmont
    June 3, 2016, 3:38 pm

    Why did Lopate raise the issue (seemingly off the topic of “Tribe”) of Israeli soldiers? Just couldn’t help himself, hmm?

    BTW, I sense that I have not been a “member of a political tribe” until Sanders showed that there was a way. It’s a bad thing, but I nearly take offence from my friends who (proudly?) proclaim that they voted for Clinton and will do it again. Tribes. Justice. Maybe those friends feel tribal about corporate governance.

  4. WH
    June 3, 2016, 4:58 pm

    Don’t forget the Haredim too.

  5. Sulphurdunn
    June 4, 2016, 3:00 pm

    Through the Haredim into the mix and about 1/3 of Israelis are exempt from compulsory military service.

  6. JLewisDickerson
    June 4, 2016, 3:34 pm

    RE: “So the Israeli army is overwhelmingly Jewish (though many Druze serve).” ~ Weiss

    FOR INSTANCE: “Israeli Druze attacked by gang of Jews in Jerusalem after speaking Arabic” | Roi Yanovsky | | Published: 01.23.15, 14:09 / Israel News
    • President Rivlin calls victim Tommy Hasson’s father to show support for young man who had recently completed IDF service, moved to Jerusalem in order to study at a music academy.

    [EXCERPTS] An Israeli Druze student was brutally attacked by a group of ten Jewish men in Jerusalem on Thursday – reportedly after they heard that he was speaking Arabic. What Tommy Hasson’s assailants did not know was that they were attacking a young man who had just completed his IDF service three months ago and recently moved to Jerusalem to study music.

    The men, who were wearing skullcaps, hit the 21-year-old Druze student and broke a glass bottle on him.

    Hasson was hospitalized suffering from bruises on his face and on the back of his head.

    Hasson, a musician who grew up in the Druze town of Daliyat al-Karmel near Haifa, had recently moved to Jerusalem to begin his studies at a music academy. Hasson had completed his IDF just three months ago where he served in a Druze combat unit and later on at the President’s Residence. . .

    . . . The attack
    “I finished work at 11 pm at the Jerusalem Gold Hotel, near the central bus station. As soon as I got out, at the bus station, there was a group of people – about ten individuals. They saw that I spoke Arabic with another person from East Jerusalem who was with me. They started to say a few words and threw a small trash can at my head. I stayed for a few minutes and then someone said to me, “What do you want?” insultingly.

    “Someone spat at me and I hit him. And then everyone came at me. They all hit me. (With) glass, bottles. They were a big group (and) they yelled – they could not do anything and did not stop. I only managed to escape to the bus station’s entrance after a few minutes and there a few people sat me down, gave me water and took care of me – they called an ambulance until the police arrived. They started asking me questions. In the meantime, blood ran down all over me – my head, my ears and on my shirt,” said Hasson. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE –,7340,L-4618430,00.html

    • JLewisDickerson
      June 4, 2016, 3:42 pm

      P.S. ANOTHER INSTANCE: “Druze soldier attacked after speaking Arabic” | By Ahiya Rave | | Published: 02.08.15, 00:17 | Israel News
      • For second time in less than two weeks, Israeli Druze who serves as IDF soldier attacked by group of Jews after speaking Arabic: ‘The insult is worse than the physical pain but this just shows that it’s not a matter of patriotism or the IDF.’

      [EXCERPTS] Razi Khasisi, an Israeli Druze who serves as a combat soldier in the IDF’s Golani Brigade, was beaten after speaking Arabic while at a ‘soldier’s night’ event at a bar in northern Israel. A similar incident took place only a few weeks ago in Jerusalem, highlighting the risks of growing racism in Israel.

      Khasisi, from the Druze town of Daliyat al-Karmel, was beaten at the Ultra-Sound bar in Kibbutz Yagur on Thursday and taken to a hospital in Haifa.

      [PHOTO: Razi Khasisi after attack]

      Amir Khasisi, his cousin, spoke to Ynet and said his cousin was attacked after a group of fellow Jewish bar-goers called him “Arab” in a derogatory manner and told him that “you are not wanted here” after they overheard the cousins speaking Arabic – their mother tongue and an official language in Israel.

      The two sides began to argue vocally, prompting the owner of the bar to throw both groups out. Razi, Amir and another friend went to their car and began to leave the place when the violence began.

      “A friend of my cousin was driving and Razi was sitting next to him. The group from the bar attacked us in the parking lot. One of them picked up a stone and smashed it through the window. It broke my cousin’s jaw,” Amir recalled.

      The combat soldier was then taken to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa where he underwent surgery and is still hospitalized because of his wounds. . .

      ENTIRE ARTICLE –,7340,L-4624022,00.html

  7. iResistDe4iAm
    June 4, 2016, 10:51 pm

    Maybe Junger should mention the “special treatment” for dead Israeli soldiers in Israeli military cemeteries.

    One burial policy for fallen Jewish Israeli soldiers (but with separate burial rows for soldiers “of Jewish descent but who are nevertheless not Jewish according to Jewish law”), a different burial policy for fallen non-Jewish Israeli soldiers = Israeli apartheid

    • Mooser
      June 5, 2016, 12:01 pm

      “(but with separate burial rows for soldiers “of Jewish descent but who are nevertheless not Jewish according to Jewish law”)”

      Gee, “tokyobk” was right! There is such a thing as illegitimate Jews! Oh well, bury my heart in Mamzer’s Row.

  8. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    June 5, 2016, 6:57 am

    This brought to mind another author named Junger who glorified tribal brotherhood in arms — first name Ernst.

  9. Mooser
    June 5, 2016, 11:30 am

    Well, if you’re not an IDF vet, and you’re feeling bad about it, have some nice chickenhawk soup. It couldn’t hurt.

Leave a Reply