Competing ethical regimes in a diverse society

Israeli military refusers

by Erica Weiss

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All Jewish military refusers in Israel defy state law and incur public acrimony for their transgression. Yet different social groups use distinct ethical regimes to justify this controversial act. While liberal Ashkenazi refusers cite personal conscience, ultra-Orthodox refusers rely on scriptural authority, and Mizrahi refusers often appeal to familial responsibilities. In addition, refusers of different groups condemn one another as ethically misguided, despite their shared act. The stakes of these ethical rifts concern not only questions of military service and legitimate refusal but also larger issues of cultural hegemony, the social contract, and collective legitimation within the Israeli state. The framework of “competing ethical regimes” captures the intersection of the ethical and the political, revealing the deep entanglement of cultural values and civic virtues.

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