Resistance at the Limits: Feminist Activism and Conscientious Objection in Israel


Natanel, Katherine. 2012. “Resistance at the Limits: Feminist Activism and Conscientious Objection in Israel.” Feminist Review 101 (1): 78–96. doi:10.1057/fr.2011.51.

Author: Katherine Natanel


This article investigates the relationship between feminism and conscientious objection in Israel, evaluating the efficacy of feminist resistance in the organised refusal movement. While recent feminist scholarship on peace, anti-occupation and anti-militarism activism in Israel largely highlights women's collective action, it does so at the risk of eliding the relations of power within these groups. Expanding the scope of consideration, I look to the experiences of individual feminist conscientious objectors who make visible significant tensions through their accounts of military refusal and participation in the organised conscientious objection movement. Drawing on original ethnographic research, this article problematises feminist activism in the organised Israeli refusal movement through three primary issues: political voice; privilege; and the realisation of gender agendas. Using Michel Foucault's conceptualisation of power as it has been critiqued and qualified by feminist scholars, I consider the ways in which resistance may be both multiple and a diagnostic of power, allowing activists and academics not only to envision new avenues for social change, but also to recognise their constraints. Critically, feminist theories of intersectionality enrich and complicate this Foucauldian approach to power, providing further modes of critique and strategy in the context of feminist activism in Israel. Ultimately, I argue not only for engagement with the limits of power, but also attention to their function, as in theory and praxis these boundaries critically inform our theorising on gender and resistance.

Keywords: conscientious objection, intersectionality, Israel/Palestine, New Profile, power and resistance, feminist activism

Topics: Armed Conflict, Feminisms, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Israel, Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories

Year: 2012

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