Rethinking Contemporary Warfare

A Sociological View of the Al-Aqsa Intifada

By Eyal Ben-Ari, Zeev Lerer, Uzi Ben-Shalom, and Ariel Vainer

Subjects: Israel Studies, Sociobiology, History, Public Policy, Political Science
Series: SUNY series in Israeli Studies
Paperback : 9781438431840, 212 pages, July 2011
Hardcover : 9781438431857, 212 pages, July 2010

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Table of contents

1. Introduction
2. Methodology, Analysis, Positioning
3. Schoolbook Wars—Textbook Units
4. War on the Frontier: A Hybrid Conflict?
5. The IDF Reacts: Loose Coupling, In-between Organizations, and Organizational Adaptation
6. Swift Trust, Speedy Organizing: Cohesion and Modularity in Military Operations
7. “Tactical Bubbles,” “Civilian Seductions,” and “Three-Block Warfare”: The Military, the City, and Urban Combat
8. The Sociology and Psychology of Contemporary Urban Warfare
9. Technology, Gender, and New Combat Roles: Forces along the Separation Barrier
10. “Human Rights,” “Precision Warfare,” and Violence: Minimizing Casualties and the Al-Aqsa Intifada
11. Conclusion: Social Science, Textbook Units, and the Realities of Contemporary Combat

Examines the combat experience of Israel’s ground forces in the Al-Aqsa Intifada in order to offer a set of innovative concepts for understanding irregular warfare.


The combat experience of Israel's ground forces in the second Palestinian uprising, the Al-Aqsa Intifada (2000–2006), is given full critical attention in this engaging study. Based on extensive interviews and observations, Rethinking Contemporary Warfare explores the ongoing debate about how the armed forces of industrial democracies wage contemporary military operations. Irregular warfare presents challenges, as routine activities can suddenly turn into violent action, forcing military forces to quickly adapt under the changing circumstances of the conflict. Such "new wars" are a messy reality consisting of high and low intensity conflict, the involvement of media and human rights movements, and the martial administration of civilian populations. Exploring the broad social and organizational features of these militaries, this volume sets forth new analytical tools to understand the peculiarities of irregular warfare in the post-Cold War era. These critical concepts include loose coupling between units, organizations that mediate between ground forces and civilian environments, and the militarization of civilian environments in urban warfare

Eyal Ben-Ari is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the coeditor (with Edna Lomsky-Feder) of The Military and Militarism in Israeli Society, also published by SUNY Press Zeev Lerer was formerly Head of Research to the Chief of Staff Advisor on Gender Issues of the Israeli Defense Forces. Uzi Ben-Shalom is Head of Research for the Military Psychology Center at the Ground Forces Command, Israeli Defense Forces, and Ariel Vainer is Military Psychologist at the Ground Forces Command, Israeli Defense Forces.


"…this study is indeed unique in documenting and analyzing the actual experience of ground troops fighting a low-intensity, messy, local war, and as such it is an interesting read for military sociologists who seek to expand their knowledge on the challenges facing industrial democracies that fight irregular wars. " — Review of Middle East Studies