Minority status in an ethnic mdemocracy: The status of the Arab minority in Israel

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It is commonly assumed that democracy in deeply divided societies takes either a majoritarian or consociational form. While the state in both types is ethnically neutral, there are some countries that combine viable democratic institutions with institutionalized ethnic dominance. The article introduces this third, so far not recognized, general type of ‘ethnic democracy’ and demonstrates its utility for Israel in treating its Arab minority. The tensions and contradictions in Israel's dual character as a Jewish democratic state give rise to five Arab demands that the Jewish majority reject: making Israel non-Jewish and non-Zionist, accepting Palestinian nationalism, lifting all restrictions on Arab individual rights,\ granting Arabs certain national collective rights and incorporating Arabs into the national power structure. Each Arab demand is discussed in detail and the rationale for Jewish objections is spelled out. The problem can be reduced, but not resolved, by establishing a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the Palestinian people and by according Israeli Arabs the status of a Palestinian national minority within the Jewish state. These issues are not unique to Israel but rather common to ethnic democracies. It is concluded that the Israeli experience is becoming increasingly relevant to states which are democratizing but keeping appreciable ethnic dominance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-413
Number of pages25
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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