Striking Differences: Hunger Strikes in Israel and the USA.

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Although certain repertoires of collective action have been around for a very long time, many actors choose not to use them. Why does this happen? Applying a comparative framework, this paper examines hunger strikes in Israel and the USA over a period of twenty-six years. After showing that hunger strikes are much more widespread in Israel, the paper puts forward five explanations for this ‘striking’ difference. It argues that (1) Israelis' socialization with fasting, (2) together with the American creed, explain the different levels of awareness of, and access to, this repertoire. (3) In the USA, Congresspersons' constituent services, absent from Israel's nationally elected Knesset, solve numerous problems, prior to their culmination into hunger strikes. (4) Israel's parliament and statist tradition provide clear protest targets that in the USA' multi-layered government are more difficult to find. (5) Since the USA is a vast country, local strikes do not reach national media visibility, limiting awareness of this repertoire. The paper argues that hunger strikers should be regarded as rational actors, who base much of their decision-making processes on their socialization and the political action alternatives open to them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-300
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2005


  • UNITED States
  • HUNGER strikes
  • RESISTANCE to government
  • PASSIVE resistance
  • DIRECT action
  • Hunger strikes
  • Israel
  • repertoires
  • social movements
  • USA


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