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Department of Politics and International Studies

Critical Issues in Israeli Politics and Society

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate

  • a critical understanding of the Israeli political system, stakeholders and institutions.
  • an understanding of the main trends, developments and challenges facing the Israeli state.
  • an understanding of the main theoretical approaches for the analysis of the Israeli society and their limitations.
  • a critical approach for the analysis of current political processes in Israel.  
  • ability to apply and evaluate theoretical tools in the analysis on the Israeli case such as nationalism, democracy, settler-colonialism, identity politics, political economy and militarism.

Scope and syllabus

The course is organised into three sections. The first (4 sessions) examines the boundaries of what might be termed ‘Israeli politics’, critically examining the ways in which national, political and social groups have been defined or described in relation to one another, and to the proposed limits of Israeli society. The second section (4 sessions) introduces different theoretical approaches for the analysis of political and social processes in Israel, illustrating their relative analytic potential as well as their limitations as explanatory tools. The last section (2 sessions) discusses focuses on significant changes occurring in Israeli politics and society since the 1990s and offering a close reading of radical political formations in Israel during this period, from the extreme right to the radical left.

Course outline:

Part I: Conceptualising the Israeli state
1) What/where is Israel? The boundaries of the ‘Israeli collective’: citizens, residents, Jewish diaspora, immigrants,
2) Israeli State and polity: institutional framework   
3) Contemporary Zionist ideologies: From the Labour movement to Gush Emunim
4) Palestinians in Israel: citizenship, law and resistance

Part II: Understanding Israeli politics and Society
5) Post-colonial approaches I – ethno-nationalism, the occupation, the Mizrahi question in colonial perspective
6) Post-colonial approach II – colonial legacies and realities: law and land
7) Culturalist approach - Identity political and the role of the military (Mizrahi-Ashkenazi; Religious-Secular); militarism and its social and material implications
8) Political economy: between the colonial and the neo-liberal

Part III: Israeli politics since the 1990s
9) Changes and developments in the 1990s – from the Russian immigration to the Oslo accords.
10) Radical politics in Israel: from right to left