Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

7/1/2009 - 6/30/2010

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

Jews, War, and the Military in Modern History

FAIN: FA-54396-09

Derek Jonathan Penslar
President and Fellows of Harvard College (Toronto M5S 1A5 Canada)

I want to write a book about Jews' involvement in the military and attitudes towards the use of armed force in modern history. Zionism had a strong military ethos, and it did not emerge from a vacuum. In modern states, although Jews frequently saw the military as something to be feared and avoided, there were many situations, especially in lands where Jews were emancipated and felt themselves to be part of the body politic, in which they had no qualms about military service. Moreover, the countries where Jews were most resistant to military service were those where Jews were most likely to engage in rebellions and revolution. Thus modern Jews made choices about military service that were dictated by individual and collective self-interest. Before and beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict, modern Jews faced ethical dilemmas about the use of force and challenged their traditional self-image as a people who shunned war.

Associated Products

Jews and the Military: A History (Book)
Title: Jews and the Military: A History
Author: Derek Penslar
Abstract: Jews and the Military is the first comprehensive and comparative look at Jews' involvement in the military and their attitudes toward war from the 1600s until the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Derek Penslar shows that although Jews have often been described as people who shun the army, in fact they have frequently been willing, even eager, to do military service, and only a minuscule minority have been pacifists. Penslar demonstrates that Israel's military ethos did not emerge from a vacuum and that long before the state's establishment, Jews had a vested interest in military affairs. Spanning Europe, North America, and the Middle East, Penslar discusses the myths and realities of Jewish draft dodging, how Jews reacted to facing their coreligionists in battle, the careers of Jewish officers and their reception in the Jewish community, the effects of World War I on Jewish veterans, and Jewish participation in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Penslar culminates with a study of Israel's War of Independence as a Jewish world war, which drew on the military expertise and financial support of a mobilized, global Jewish community. He considers how military service was a central issue in debates about Jewish emancipation and a primary indicator of the position of Jews in any given society. Deconstructing old stereotypes, Jews and the Military radically transforms our understanding of Jews' historic relationship to war and military power.
Year: 2013
Primary URL: /
Primary URL Description: Princeton University Press
Access Model: Published book - available for purchase and in libraries.
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978069116809
Copy sent to NEH?: No