After more than 50 years of statehood ethnicity still looms large in Israeli politics as the division between Israelis of non-European and European descent plays a central part in Israeli politics. This article, examining patterns of immigrant assimilation in the 1950s, seeks to explain why, despite an all embracing Jewish identity and the massive efforts of the state to erase ethnic identities, the categories have retained so much of their weight. Assimilation and modernization, directed towards immigrants, were both constituted and limited by the mutually constitutive, yet sometimes contradictory dictates of state building and the formation of a market economy. Assimilation facilitated the settlement of immigrants along the frontier, mobilized and motivated them into shouldering security demands, and helped to create a productive labour force. But, contrary to the inclusive military apparatus, the policies of settlement and employment relegated immigrants to the periphery. Consequently, while immigrants assimilated and gradually achieved some economic progress and political leverage due to the remaining disparities and past resentments ethnic identity persisted.
ASJC Scopus subject areas