Between urban and national: Political mobilization among Mizrahim in Israel's 'development towns'

Erez Tzfadia, Oren Yiftachel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


In the face of persisting deprivation, marginalized ethno-classes generally mobilize against their governments and/or against rival groups. Two key arenas of such mobilization are extra-parliamentary protest and local electoral campaigning. The paper examines these arenas in Israel's peripheral 'development towns', established during the 1950s, and populated primarily by "Mizrahim"-Jews who migrated to Israel from the Muslim world. The public protest by Mizrahim in the towns has been consistent, though not intense. Generally, it voiced 'external' demand to the state for a fairer share of public resources, falling within the 'legitimate' boundaries of Zionist political discourse. In local elections, however, the Mizrahim raised a more militant political voice, focusing mainly on their competition against the large number of 'Russians' immigrants who arrived during the 1990s. Local election campaigns often transgressed the acceptable boundaries of Zionist discourse, by questioning the core values of immigrant absorption and Jewish unity. In explaining the different agendas and discourses, we argue that the answer is rooted in two related phenomena. First, on a national level, Mizrahi identity at the Israeli periphery has been 'trapped' by the settlement agendas of the Zionist project. The local election discourse, however, demonstrates the centrality of place for the Mizrahim in both their communal identity and political power. While the towns were created as peripheral and impoverished places in the attempt to Judaize the land, they have now become a significant, and threatened, ethnic and political resource. The external and internal discourses therefore combine as two key 'layers' in the making of the peripheral Mizrahi ethno-class.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-55
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2004


  • Development
  • Elections
  • Immigration
  • Regions
  • Zionism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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