State and minority in Israel: The case of ethnic state and the predicament of its minority

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The connection between ethnicity and democracy has been the subject of much debate among scholars in various disciplines.This article deals with the ethnic divisions and the debate over democracy in Israel. How Israel should be defined, with regard to the democracy-ethnic affiliation nexus, has long been debated by scholars in the field. Some present Israel as a consociational democracy. Some Israeli scholars consider Israel to be a liberal democracy. Others define it as an 'ethnic democracy' that balances the ethnic and democratic components in its dealings with its Arab-Palestinian citizen. In this article I claim that Israel, like many other countries (Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Canada until the sixties, Malaysia) is not a democracy, if our criterion is the ethnic preference it shows for Jews. It is, instead, a textbook example of an ethnic state, applying sophisticated policies of exclusion and discrimination towards the Arab minority. In principle, it invites its Arab citizens to participate in its life; but under no circumstances does it offer them equality. It maintains Jewish superiority in all fields and grants them preference symbolically, structurally and practically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-448
Number of pages21
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1998


  • Arab citizens in Israel
  • Control of minorities
  • Ethnic relations in Israel
  • Ethnic state
  • Minority exclusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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