I CONDUCTED TEN MONTHS of what turned out to be challenging and profoundly humbling fieldwork from 2000 to 2005, and interviewed seventy-two Arab men and three Arab women who had served in various branches of the Israeli security apparatus, the military, the Border Guard, and the police force. They served for periods ranging from eight months to twenty-three years, many of them in more than one branch.
I attempted to interview soldiers from a variety of religious, economic, educational, and regional backgrounds. This group of men and women included Muslims, Christians, and Bedouins (I also interviewed eleven Druze soldiers). The majority of interviewees (59) identified themselves economically as lower- or lower-middle class, whereas the rest claimed middle-class status. Only two had a postsecondary education prior to enlistment (none had a Bachelor's degree). Most hailed from three major regions where Palestinians live in Israel (the Galilee, the Triangle, and the Naqab), in Arab villages (recognized and unrecognized) or towns in Israel, and four lived in mixed Arab-Jewish cities. Several were defined by the state as “present absentees” (refugees expelled from their homes but who remained within the borders of Israel).