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The Invention and Decline of Israeliness: State, Society, and the Military

Baruch Kimmerling
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 278
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  • Book Info
    The Invention and Decline of Israeliness
    Book Description:

    This thought-provoking book, the first of its kind in the English language, reexamines the fifty-year-old nation of Israel in terms of its origins as a haven for a persecuted people and its evolution into a multi- cultural society. Arguing that the mono-cultural regime built during the 1950s is over, Baruch Kimmerling suggests that the Israeli state has divided into seven major cultures. These seven groups, he contends, have been challenging one other for control over resource distribution and the identity of the polity. Kimmerling, one of the most prominent social scientists and political analysts of Israel today, relies on a large body of sociological work on the state, civil society, and ethnicity to present an overview of the construction and deconstruction of the secular-Zionist national identity. He shows how Israeliness is becoming a prefix for other identities as well as a legal and political concept of citizen rights granted by the state, though not necessarily equally to different segments of society.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93930-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    This book offers an overview and analysis of the construction and deconstruction of hegemonic, secular Zionist Israeli national identity from the early years of the Zionist movement to the present. Today, for better or for worse, Israel is a very different polity than was envisioned by any of the streams of Zionism, or even by the builders of the Israeli state and society. During the past two decades, changes have accelerated, and few earlier assumptions about Israel’s demographic composition, political and social boundaries, cultural character, or social and economic structures remain valid. In addition, Israel is undergoing processes of change...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Mythological-Historical Origins of the Israeli State An Overview
    (pp. 16-55)

    In Israel, even more than in any other society, the past, present, and future are intermingled; collective memory is considered objective history, and history is a powerful weapon, used both in domestic struggles and external conflict. On the domestic terrain, the past is used in order to determine who is entitled to full membership in the collectivity and according to what criteria, the type of laws and regime, and the desired borders of the state. Different pasts and their interpretations are also a central component in the construction of conflicting identities and identity politics.

    In the foreign sphere, and to...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Building an Immigrant Settler State
    (pp. 56-88)

    Analyzed in terms of the state/civil-society paradigm that seeks to “bring the state back into” sociological discourse, contrasting it to civil society,¹ the Israeli sociopolitical system presents something of a puzzle, because there is contradictory evidence about the strength of the Israeli state, its capacity to govern, and its ability to make critical decisions.

    On the one hand, the Israeli state has been classified, by Joel Migdal, for example, as a “strong state” with a tremendous capacity to mobilize its citizens (e.g., for wars or shaping an emergency economy).² This capacity is characterized by considerable law-enforcement power, which penetrates into...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Invention and Decline of Israeliness
    (pp. 89-111)

    There was, unfortunately, no commonly agreed upon replacement for the national identity that had been invented for the new Israeli state when the built-in structural and ideological contradictions of that identity led to its decline and decomposition. For the purposes of this chapter, the process is divided into four periods: (1) The creation of a local Jewish ethno-communal identity in colonial Palestine,¹ (2) the attempt to create a hegemonic national identity, dominated by a bureaucratized monocultural system, (3) the challenging of this hegemony by one of its own inner components, the national religious subculture, and (4) the final disruption and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The End of Hegemony and the Onset of Cultural Plurality
    (pp. 112-129)

    Israel’s hegemonic secular Zionist metaculture has declined, and a different social order has risen in its place. The appearance and persistence of a new system of competing cultures and countercultures and an escalating cultural war between them and the still dominant culture has accompanied the decline of the hegemonic order. These countercultures are not based on innovative or new ideas, orientations, rules of the game, rituals, or practices; in fact, most of them were present even within the original Zionist hegemony, as described in the previous chapters. Lately, however, they have been becoming increasingly coherent, owing to a process of...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Newcomers
    (pp. 130-172)

    The partial success of Gush Emunim in redefining Zionism in more explicitly religious and ethnocentric terms, and its even more successful reshaping of the national agenda and allocation of material and human resources, shattered both the hegemony of secular Zionism and Ashkenazi ethnic dominance. New cultural, ethnic, and national groups, previously completely excluded from the boundaries of the collectivity or located on its margins, began to play increasingly central roles in the state at the expense of veteran cultural and political groups. The most important and influential newly empowered political-cultural movement was Mizrahi traditionalist revivalism.

    Traditionalism can be regarded in...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Cultural Code of Jewishness: Religion and Nationalism
    (pp. 173-207)

    Despite the segmentation of the Israeli state into seven cultures and countercultures, two common metacultural codes or narratives remain intact for at least most Jewish citizens of the state. The first code is the power-oriented “securitistic” one, which is analyzed in chapter 7. The other is a local Israeli version of “Jewishness.” The main characteristic of the social and political order in Israel is its definition as a “Jewish state,” in large measure blurring the boundaries between nationalism and religion in many societal spaces. This situation is expressed in a taken-for-granted equivalency between the Jewish religion, on the one hand,...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Code of Security: The Israeli Military-Cultural Complex
    (pp. 208-228)

    In a well-known eulogy for Roy Rothberg, an Israeli frontier settler who was killed in May 1956, Moshe Dayan, then chief of staff, said:

    We are a generation of settlers, yet without a helmet or a gun barrel we will be unable to plant a tree or build a house. Let us not be afraid to perceive the enmity that consumes the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs around us. Let us not avert our gaze, for it will weaken our hands. This is the fate of our generation. The only choice we have is to be armed, strong...

  12. Conclusions
    (pp. 229-238)

    Modern Israeli or Hebrew identity and nationalism were originally created by the veteran pre-state Jewish community’s political and cultural leadership as a part of a sociopolitical and monocultural control system over the unselective immigration that was flooding the country when the state was established. In light of the very fast, deep, and wide-ranging demographic and cultural changes that were occurring in the population as a result of unselective immigration and the 1948 war, it was perceived as an unquestionable necessity.

    The veteran population regarded the new Jewish populations from Europe, Asia, and North Africa both compassionately and suspiciously as Holocaust...

  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 239-256)
  14. Index
    (pp. 257-268)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-269)