Theories of Nationalism - The Israeli Experience as a Test Case

in Israel Studies Review
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The field of general theories of nationalism has been a subject of frequent reference for scholars of Israel. The uses to which the vari- ous theories have been put are manifold. While it is not possible to draw an exact correlation, it may be maintained that a general pattern may be observed, where perennialist and ethno-symbolic theories have proved of particular attraction to scholars seeking to locate Israel as a 'normal' state, sharing aspects of its development and identity with other Western democracies. Modernist and instrumentalist theories, by contrast, have often been associated with more critical views that point to perceived oppressive or undemocratic aspects of the Israeli polity or Israeli history. What is noteworthy in all these examples is the important role the discussion on nationalism plays in the process of 'opening up' the study of Israel for comparative purposes, and in deepening analysis of historical, social, and political processes.