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Israel in Comparative Perspective

Challenging the Conventional Wisdom

Michael N. Barnett

Publication Year: 1996

Challenges the social-science image of Israel as a historical peculiarity by situating Israel's history in comparative context; by building bridges between Israel and other Middle Eastern states; and by using the Israeli case to reconsider existing social science theories and correct common misperceptions about the comparative method. Because Israel is unique in many dimensions, many social scientists consider it a historical peculiarity. Neither East nor West, developed nor undeveloped, capitalist nor socialist, Third World nor First World, Israel has little in common with other countries and their historical experiences. This book of original essays challenges the image of Israeli uniqueness and the status of the Israeli case and at the same time corrects some common misperceptions about the comparative method in general and case selection in particular. At the same time, it compares Israeli and Arab experiences and addresses critical issues in Middle Eastern studies. To challenge the image of Israeli uniqueness, the authors situate Israel’s history in comparative context; employ macrohistorical concepts both to reexamine the Israeli case and to build bridges between Israel and other historical experiences; and use the Israeli case to reconsider existing social science theories. [Articles by Michael Barnett, Yehezkal Dror, Rebecca Kook, Ian Lustick, Joel Migdal, Gershon Shafir, Gabriel Sheffer, Shibley Telhami, and Mark Tessler and Ina Warriner] Israel in Comparative Perspective demonstrates how our understanding of the region can be enriched by using models and theories developed in other regions to reexamine Israeli history.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Israeli Studies

Front matter

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

I want to thank the Davis Center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Truman Institute for sponsoring the conference, "Is Israel Unique?" (June 1993), which was the forebearer of this volume. In this respect, I am deeply indebted to Gabriel Sheffer for helping to organize and oversee the conference and its activities. Raymond Duvall, imported from Minnesota to be the...

I. Introduction

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1. The Politics of Uniqueness: The Status of the Israeli Case

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pp. 3-25

The Israeli case lives an uncomfortable existence in comparative research. The challenge of classifying and categorizing the Israeli experience leads many to question the suitability of the Israeli case. Neither East nor West, developed nor undeveloped, capitalist nor socialist, Third World nor First World, there is relatively little about Israel that automatically reminds...

II. Israel and International Politics

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2. Israeli Foreign Policy: A Realist Ideal-Type or a Breed of Its Own?

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pp. 29-51

If revisionist interpretations of the cold war have proliferated with the decline of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry, so too will new assessments of Israeli foreign policy multiply with the achievement of Arab-Israeli peace. Neorealist theorists, who have found much empirical confirmation for their...

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3. Israel Diaspora Relations in Comparative Perspective

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pp. 53-83

The purportedly extraordinary distinctiveness of the Israeli case, the consequent inappropriateness of comparing it to other states and the inability to draw theoretical conclusions from its experience has first and foremost been attributed to the protracted Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. It is claimed that consequently security and defense considerations...

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4. Gender and International Relations: A Comparison of Citizen Attitudes in Israel and Egypt

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pp. 85-105

This chapter presents and analyzes original public opinion data from Israel and Egypt against the background of growing analytical interest in the connections between gender and international relations. More specifically, it asks (1) whether there is a relationship between gender and attitudes toward issues of war and peace; (2) whether attitudes about the status...

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5. Israel in the World Economy: Israel as an East Asian State?

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pp. 107-140

Soon after Israeli independence, a team from the World Bank arrived in Israel to assess its economic future. It did not offer an uplifting prognosis: with few natural resources, a near doubling of its population in a few years, a tremendous welfare burden because most immigrants arrived with little capital and immediately depended on the state for meeting their daily...

Ill. Israel and Domestic Politics

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6. The Fetish of Jerusalem: A Hegemonic Analysis

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pp. 143-172

If Israel is unique, or unique in ways that other countries are not, then surely this kind of uniqueness should be evident in that most unusual of all cities--Jerusalem. If Israel is not unique, or is at least not unique in a way that any other country is not also unique, then it should be possible to apply general propositions about political processes even to that part of Israel, or the...

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7. Society-Formation and the Case of Israel

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pp. 173-198

To my surprise, critics aimed many of their choicest criticisms of my book, Strong Societies and Weak States, at the use of Israel as one of the case studies.1 Several complained that Israel was not a Third World state at all and that it skewed the entire analysis. That charge might indeed be true if we had an agreed-upon definition of Third World (Israel did fit into my...

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8. Between Uniqueness and Exclusion: The Politics of Identity in Israel

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pp. 199-225

During the period between the Six Day War and the October War, Israeli society was imbued with an entire repertoire of nationalist songs. Among these was one entitled "Ha'olam Kulo Negdainu"-"the entire world is against us." Curiously, this song was sang with an enthusiasm and almost arrogance which, in retrospect, seems somewhat misapplied. It was, however...

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9. Zionism and Colonialism: A Comparative Approach

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pp. 227-242

Studies telling the story of Israeli state-building usually have two plots. One tells the story of the Zionist immigrants who constructed their institutions according to their ideals and ideologies, mostly socialist ideas imported from the Pale of Settlement, occasionally in disagreement with other non-socialist immigrants who had different blueprints for the state-to-be....

IV. Conclusion

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10. On the Uniqueness of Israel: Multiple Readings

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pp. 245-261

As elucidated by T. S. Eliot's statement in The Cocktail Party that all cases are unique and similar to another, the question of whether, how, and to what extent Israel is "unique" is not one of "facts" but of interpretations and "readings."! Israel's uniqueness, in this regard, cannot be answered in terms of classical "true-false" categories. Rather, we are in the domain of...


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pp. 263-285


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pp. 287-289


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pp. 291-296

E-ISBN-13: 9780791495803
E-ISBN-10: 0791495809
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791428313
Print-ISBN-10: 0791428311

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 1996

Series Title: SUNY series in Israeli Studies