The paper explores the relation between religion and populism in Israel. Jewish identity has been an important marker of citizenship and belonging in Israel since its inception. The founders of the Zionist movement and the dominant elites of early statehood remained dependent upon Jewish religion to demarcate national boundaries and legitimate territorial claims. With the establishment of the state, Jewish identity helped create and legitimate a segmented citizenship regime that secured privilege for Jews. Gradually, and especially in the past two decades, Jewishness became more contested, demarcating not only Jews from non-Jews but also authentic Jews from allegedly cosmopolitan elites, thus becoming part of populist politics, central to Israeli politics. The complex relation between religion and populism in Israel is demonstrated by the development of two populist parties; an inclusive one (Shas) and an exclusionary one (Likud). The study of the two parties shows the role of religious identities, tropes, and symbols in boundary-making and political strategies. In Israel, religion functions both as the positive content of the political community (the ethnos - the Jewish people - is conflated with the demos) and the demands for inclusion; and as the marker of a threat (non-Jewish citizens, asylum seekers, and allegedly disloyal secular elites).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Religious studies
- Sociology and Political Science