Panel and Paper at AJS Conference


Next week, I will be making a quick trip to Chicago for the annual conference of the Association for Jewish Studies from December 16-18.

I am fortunate to be joining a panel of very talented academics including Arnon Golan, Rachel Havrelock, Jacob Lassner, and Yael Zerubavel to discuss the place of the Land of Israel in contemporary Israeli national memory and politics. I have included the panel abstract and my paper abstract after the jump. For a full listing of our panel and the AJS conference in general, click here.

Panel: Eretz Israel in Israeli National Memory & Politics

Few concepts in contemporary Israeli national identity are as conspicuous or as contentious as the relationship between the modern State of Israel and the historical Land of Israel. Although deep cultural-religious attachments to the homeland remain at the heart of Zionism, these territorial ambitions have frequently clashed with other fundamental political and national aspirations, namely safeguarding the physical security and Jewish character of the State of Israel. Conflict and compromise over international borders at the state and international level are mirrored by competing religious and cultural discourses within Israeli society. All are struggling to define the character and appropriate boundaries of national space. This session examines how such ancient and contemporary narratives of Eretz Israel coupled with competing cultural and religious agendas have shaped the contours of Israeli territorial politics. Papers explore debates between and within different sectors of Israeli society on this theme of homeland and identity from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

Paper: Defending the Homeland: Territorial Conflict, Popular Narratives, and the Limits of Elite Issue Framing

This paper challenges the argument that mass support for nationalist policies results from elite manipulation rather than broadly-held strategic and ideological commitments. Concerning irredentism, it hypothesizes that democratic societies are only selectively supportive of such policies varying according to territories claimed and narrative justifications provided. This proposition is tested through controlled individual-level experiments administered to diverse populations in Israel in which participants are exposed to competing justifications for continued Israeli control of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank. It is found that narratives depicting these territories as integral to national defense or the historic homeland generate significant support only when they conform to dominant public discourse regarding the territory in question. This strongly suggests that preexisting popular beliefs regarding the value of disputed territories constrains politicians’ rhetorical scope for popular mobilization. This likely also limits the discursive strategies politicians can employ to promote territorial compromise.

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