Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel

In This Review

Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel

By James Ron
University of California Press, 2003
272 pp. $49.95

In the best tradition of classical social science research, Ron examines state-directed violence to find out not how states ought to act but how they do act. His two case studies cover Serbia's 1992-93 campaign against non-Serbs in Bosnia and the Israeli effort to put down the first Palestinian intifada in 1988. To explain his findings, Ron draws a distinction between a frontier and a ghetto. In the former, the targets of state violence are on the margins of or beyond state borders. In the latter, they are territorially and administratively enveloped within the state. Frontier situations (such as Serbian incursions into Bosnia or, for that matter, the Israelis in Lebanon) are more likely to lead to greater violence and even ethnic cleansing. The ghetto situation produces violence as well, but more often in the form of what Ron labels "ethnic policing." In both cases, the state adopts the form of violence most appropriate to the task at hand. Kosovo provides an interesting demonstration of this thesis: when international intervention threatened to take the province away from Serbia, it was transformed from a ghetto to a frontier, and violence escalated to the point of ethnic cleansing. Frontiers and Ghettos offers both a well-documented study of Ron's chosen examples and a sophisticated framework for understanding other such situations, including the post-1988 history of Israel and the Palestinians.

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