The politics of lands and housing in Israel: A wayward republican discourse

Yossi Yonah, Ishak Saporta

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Abstract

Being a settler society - a society dominated by a non-indigenous settler group - Jewish Israel has always been intensely preoccupied with issues of land and housing. These matters have, in consequence, had important ramifications for the very construction of Israel's national identity and its definition of citizenship, alongside the practices of national exclusion and ethnic marginalisation they necessarily entail. The discussion will proceed along the following stages. In the first stage (section 1) we present three case studies that represent official policies in matters of land and housing with respect to different social groups in Israeli society: farmers, residents of public housing and Bedouins. In the second stage (section 2) we will show, following the public debate as it unfolded in the media, the role that the republican ethos plays in the attempts made by different interest groups to win public support for their claims in matters of land and housing. This debate will enable us to assess the exclusionary and discriminatory effects of the republican discourse. In the third stage (section 3) we discuss the dialectical relationship between three different challenges to the ideal of liberal democracy: the new right's challenge, the republican challenge and the challenge associated with the politics of difference and multiculturalism. Although Israel's political system does not satisfy the conditions of liberal democracy, we still find these challenges valuable for assessing and critiquing the construction of Israel's national identity in view of its land and housing policies. In the fourth stage (conclusion) we will further develop our claim that the politics of difference and multiculturalism suggest a viable path for meeting the deficiencies intrinsic to the construction of Israel's national identity and definition of citizenship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-117
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Identities
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2002

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