The politics of language in multiethnic militaries: The case of oriental Jews in the Israel defence forces, 1950-1959

Alon Peled*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article argues that effective linguistic policies in multiethnic militaries do not evolve by themselves. Rather, they require both political pressure on the military to reform its language policy and the willingness of the military to learn from the experience of other militaries. It also provides new evidence to explain how a new quality classification system of manpower excluded Oriental conscripts (Jews who emigrated from Arab and Muslim countries) from the IDF's aptitude testing process because the tests were in Hebrew, not in their native languages, and therefore did not measure their true aptitude. Poor exam results were in turn interpreted as indications of widespread illiteracy among Oriental soldiers who were assigned to low-prestige vocations, with few succeeding in gaining entry into officer courses. The article also explains why David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister and Defence Minister, senior military officers, and Oriental leaders did nothing to rectify this situation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)587-605
Number of pages19
JournalArmed Forces and Society
Volume26
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2000

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