In February 1998, President of the Israeli High Court, Aharon Barak, issued a statement explaining the temporary deferral of proceedings on an appeal known as the “Katzir case.” The 1995 appeal was lodged by an Arab citizen who was prohibited, because of his non-Jewish status, from leasing state land. [1] Barak, known as a champion of civil rights, urged both sides to find a personal housing solution for the appellant. He also noted that the deliberation of this case had been among the most strenuous in his legal career. The fact that in Israel’s fiftieth year, the state’s highest legal authority still finds it difficult to protect a basic civil right — such as equal access to state land — provides a telling starting point for reflection upon the country’s political geography. On the basis of such reflection I argue below that the Israeli polity is not a democracy but an “ethnocracy.”

Judaizing the Homeland

Following independence, Israel entered a radical stage of territorial restructuring. Some policies and initiatives were an extension of earlier Jewish approaches, but the tactics, strategies and ethnocentric cultural construction of the pre-1948 Jewish yishuv were significantly intensified. This was made possible by newly acquired state attributes including armed forces and the international legitimacy attached to national sovereignty. The territorial restructuring of the land has centered around an all-encompassing and expansionist Judaization (de-Arabization) program adopted by the nascent Israeli state. The flight and expulsion of close to 800,000 Palestinian refugees during the 1948 war created large “gaps” in the geography of the land, which the authorities were quick to fill with Jewish migrants and refugees who entered the country en masse during the late 1940s and early 1950s. [2] The Judaization program was premised on a hegemonic myth cultivated since the rise of Zionism that the land (ha’aretz) belongs solely to the Jewish people. An exclusive form of territorial ethnonationalism developed in order to quickly “indigenize” immigrant Jews and to conceal, trivialize or marginalize the existence of a Palestinian people on the land prior to the arrival of Zionist Jews.

The “frontier” became a central icon, and its settlement was considered one of the highest achievements of any Zionist. The frontier kibbutzim (collective rural villages) provided a model, and the reviving Hebrew language was filled with positive images such as aliyah lakarka (literally “ascent to the land,” i.e., settlement), ge’ulat karka (land redemption), hityashvut, hitnahalut (positive biblical terms for Jewish settlement), kibbush hashmama (conquest of the desert), and hagshama (literally “fulfilment,” but denoting the settling of the frontier). The glorification of the frontier thus assisted in the construction of both national and Jewish identity, and in the capturing of physical space on which this identity can be territorially constructed.

The glorification of frontier settlement was translated into a pervasive program of Jewish-Zionist territorial socialization, expressed in school curricula, literature, political speeches, popular music and other spheres of public discourse. Settlement thus continued to be the cornerstone of Zionist nation building even after the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state.

To be sure, the “return” of Jews to their ancestors’ mythical land and the perception of this land as a safe haven after generations of Jewish persecutions was powerfully liberating. Yet the darker sides of this project were nearly totally absent from the construction of a “natural return” of Jews to their biblical promised land. Very few dissenting voices were heard against these Judaizing discourses, policies or practices. If such dissent did emerge, the national Jewish elites found effective ways to marginalize, coopt or gag most challengers.

The hegemonic historical and political perception of the land as only Jewish created a national discourse dominated by an unproblematic historical linearity of “forced exile” and subsequent “return,” nearly 2,000 years later. [3] A parallel discourse developed in reaction to the Arab-Jewish conflict (and Arab rejectionism), elevating the exigencies of national security to unquestioned gospel. These discourses made most Jews blind to a range of discriminatory policies imposed against the state’s Palestinian citizens, including imposition of military rule, lack of economic or social development, political surveillance and under-representation, and — most relevant to this discussion — large-scale confiscation of Palestinian land. [4]

Settlement and Palestinian Land

With the establishment of the state, the Jewish settlement project swung into full gear with a mission to de-Arabize the country with a drive to control Palestinian Arab land. Prior to 1948, only 7-8 percent of the country was in Jewish hands, and about ten percent was vested with the representative of the British Mandate. The Israeli state, however, quickly increased its land holdings and it currently owns 92 percent of the state area within the Green Line. The lion’s share of this land transfer was based on expropriation of Palestinian refugee property, but even about two thirds of the land belonging to Palestinians who remained as Israeli citizens was expropriated. At present, Palestinian Arabs, who constitute around 16 percent of Israel’s population (including the Druze), own only around 3 percent of its land. Legal unidirectionality was a central aspect of Jewish land transfer as Israel created an institutional and legal land regime whereby confiscated land did not merely become state land, but jointly belonged to the entire Jewish people, and was prohibited from being sold. This ensured that all land transfers moved in one direction — from Palestinians to the state — and never vice versa. [5]

During the 1950s and 1960s, following the transfer of land to the state, more than 700 Jewish settlements were constructed, creating the housing infrastructure for Jewish immigrants who continued to pour into the country. The Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund, two bodies representing world Jewry, were granted legal rights to settle and develop the land on behalf of the state and the Jewish people.

The upshot was the penetration of Jews into most Palestinian areas, the encirclement of most Palestinian villages by exclusively Jewish settlements (where non-Jews are not permitted to purchase housing), and the practical ghettoization of the Palestinian minority. In the process, the Palestinian citizens of Israel not only lost individual property, but were also dispossessed of many collective territorial assets since nearly all state land was earmarked for Jewish use.

A particularly sophisticated system of exclusion was formulated in rural areas where Jewish settlements were allocated state land by a method known as a “triple contract.” Under this arrangement, land is held jointly by the Jewish village, the Israel Land Authority and the Jewish Agency. The landholding powers of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund create a situation in which Israel’s Palestinian citizens effectively are prevented from purchasing, leasing or using land in over 75 percent of the country. [6]

Settlement and Intra-Jewish Segregation

Beyond the obvious adverse consequences for the Palestinians, the Jewish settlement project also spawned the regressive processes of segregation and stratification within Jewish society. The social and ethnic nature of the Jewish settlement project advanced in three main waves. During the first wave, from 1949 to 1952, some 240 communal villages (kibbutzim and moshavim) were built, mainly along the Green Line. During the second wave, from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, 27 “development towns” and another 56 villages were built and populated mainly by North African Mizrahi immigrants. During the same period, large groups of Mizrahis were also housed in “frontier” urban neighborhoods, which were either previously Palestinian or adjacent to Palestinian areas. Given the low socioeconomic resources of most Mizrahis, their mainly Arab culture and their lack of ties to Israeli elites, the development towns and the frontier neighborhoods quickly became, and have remained, distinct concentrations of segregated, poor and deprived Mizrahi populations. [7]

The third wave, during the last two decades, resulted in the establishment of more than 150 small exurban developments known as “community” or “private"”settlements (yeshuvim kehilatiyim). These small suburban-like neighborhoods, located in prime areas on both sides of the Green Line, were presented to the public as a renewed effort to “Judaize” Israel’s hostile frontiers with the typical rhetoric of national security, Arab threat to state lands and the possible emergence of Arab secessionism. In the West Bank, an additional rationale for Jewish settlement was the notion of return to ancient Jewish biblical sites. But the people migrating into most of these high-quality residential localities were mainly middle-class Ashkenazi suburbanites. [8]

Notably, the different waves of settlement were marked by social and institutional segregation sanctioned and augmented by state policies. A whole range of mechanisms was devised and implemented not only to maintain nearly impregnable patterns of segregation between Arabs and Jews, but also to erect fairly rigid lines of separation between various Jewish ethno-classes. Segregation mechanisms included the demarcation of local government and educational district boundaries, the provision of separate and unequal government services (especially in education and housing), the development of largely separate economies, the organization of different types of localities in different statewide “settlement movements” and the uneven allocation of land on a sectoral basis. [9]

As a result, layered and differentiated Jewish spaces were created, with low levels of contact between the various ethno-classes. This has worked to reproduce inequalities and competing collective identities. Movement across boundaries has been restricted by allowing most new Jewish settlements built on state land to “screen” their residents by applying tests of “resident suitability.” This practice has predictably produced communities dominated by middle-class Ashkenazis. At least part of the ethno-class fragmentation and hostility currently evident in Israeli society can thus be traced to this settlement system and its institutionalized segregation.

Democracy or Ethnocracy?

The politico-geographic analysis of Jewish land and settlement policies, then, highlights two crucial factors often neglected in interpretations of Israeli society: Israel is a state and a polity without clear boundaries; and the country’s organization of social space is based on pervasive and uneven ethnic segregation. This leads to a necessary questioning of Israel’s ostensibly democratic status. [10] I argue that the Israeli polity is governed not by a democratic regime, but rather by an “ethnocracy,” which denotes a non-democratic rule for and by a dominant ethnic group, within the state and beyond its borders. [11]

On the question of boundaries and borders, the Jewish system of land ownership and development, as well as the geography of frontier settlement, have undermined the state as a territorial-legal entity. Organizations based in the Jewish diaspora, such as the Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund, possess statutory power within Israel to purchase and develop land, build new settlements and provide social services. These organizations operate on the basis of legal compacts with the Israeli state which allow them to operate as pseudo-statutory bodies despite a declared mandate to operate only on behalf of Jews, and despite being unaccountable to the residents of the state in which they operate.

In addition, Jewish settlement in the occupied territories has ruptured the Green Line as a meaningful border. Today, some 340,000 Israeli Jews reside in the territories, including East Jerusalem, and Israeli law has been unilaterally extended to each of the settlements located there. The Green Line has thus been transformed into a geographical mechanism of separating citizens not from fellow Jews, but from non-citizen Palestinians. [12]

The combination of the two factors mean that Israel as a definable, democratic political entity simply does not exist. The legal and political power of extraterritorial Jewish bodies and the rupturing of state borders empty the notion of “Israel” of the broadly accepted meaning of a state as a territorial-legal institution. Hence, the unproblematic acceptance of “Israel proper” in most social science writings (including some of my own previous work) and the media has been based on a misnomer. [13]

Israel has operated in recent decades as a polity without clear borders. Regardless of the historical reasons behind this reality, it simply does not comply with a basic requirement of democracy — the existence of a demos. The demos, as defined in ancient Greece, denotes an inclusive body of citizens within a given territory. It is a competing organizing principle to the ethnos, which denotes common origin. The term “democracy” therefore means the rule of the demos, and the modern application points to an overlap between permanent residency in the polity and equal political rights as a necessary democratic condition. This means the institutionalization of clear and permanent borders, without which the establishment of inclusive democratic institutions and civil society faces severe difficulties. As we have seen, Israel’s political structure and settlement activity have negated the relevance of these borders. The significance of this observation becomes clear when we examine Israel’s 1996 elections. Counting only the results inside the Green Line, Shimon Peres would have beaten Benjamin Netanyahu by a margin of over five percent. The involvement of the settlers in Israeli politics is, of course, far deeper than simply electoral. They are represented by 14 Knesset members out of 120 and several government ministers, and hold a host of key positions in politics, the armed forces and academia. In addition, around 60 percent of the West Bank is now held by Israeli Jews as private, state or military land. [14]

Despite this reality, the dominant view regarding the democratic nature of Israel continues to rule supreme, augmented by the durable operation of many important democratic features (distinct from structures), especially competitive politics and a free press. The Israeli democratic image has also been promoted by academia, the media, political rhetoric and congratulatory self-appraisals. It has had an enormously positive impact on the state’s international status, enabling Israel to maintain a regime which structurally discriminates against non-Jews, but avoids the kind of international pressures and costs suffered by structurally discriminatory regimes such as Turkey, Serbia or Slovakia. [15]

Careful analysis of the Israeli polity shows that ethnos and not demos is the main organizing political principle. Israel should therefore be characterized as an “ethnocracy.” I define ethnocracy as a regime type with several key characteristics: [16]

  • Despite several democratic features, ethnicity, not territorial citizenship, is the main logic behind resource allocation.
  • State borders and political boundaries are fuzzy: there is no identifiable “demos,” mainly due to the role of ethnic diasporas inside the polity and the inferior position of ethnic minorities.
  • A dominant “charter” ethnic group appropriates the state apparatus and determines most public policies.
  • Significant (though partial) civil and political rights are extended to minority members, distinguishing ethnocracies from Herrenvolk or authoritarian regimes. [17]

A Settling Ethnocracy

Ethnic settlement has been a major — indeed constitutive — feature of the Israeli ethnocracy, which should thus be labeled a settling ethnocracy. But the fusion of ethnocentric principles and the dynamics of settlement created uneven and stratified patterns of intra-Jewish social and ethnic fragmentation.

Here we can note that a fundamental rationale of the Jewish ethnocracy — the spatial exclusion of Palestinian Arabs — has been diffused into Jewish society and has legitimized patterns of intra-Jewish ethnicization. The most notable has been the segregation and tension between Ashkenazis and Mizrahis, as indicated. The political, legal and cultural tools of ethnic segregation that undergirded the Zionist project were also used to segregate Jewish elites from Jewish “minorities.” [18] To be sure, these mechanisms were relatively subtle, but the persisting gap between Ashkenazis and Mizrahis cannot be understood without accounting for the political geography of intra-Jewish relations. In the main, Mizrahis were spatially marginalized by the Israeli settlement project, whether in the isolated periphery or in poor and stigmatized neighborhoods of Israel’s main cities. This has limited their potential economic, social and cultural mobilization.

A parallel ethnic segregationist logic was also used to legitimize the creation of segregated neighborhoods and localities for Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, recent Russian immigrants and Palestinian Arabs. In other words, the uneven segregationist logic of the ethnocratic regime has been infused into spatial and cultural practices, which have worked to “ethnicize” Israeli society. Not all segregation is negative, and voluntary separation between groups can at times function to reduce ethnic conflict. But in a society which has declared the “ingathering and integration of the exiles” (mizuggaluyot) as a major national goal, levels of segregation and stratification between Jewish ethno-classes have remained remarkably high.

This process, however, is not unidimensional, and must be weighed against dynamic democratizing, such as the growing levels of equality of legal and social rights, cultural pluralism, a more inclusive media, higher levels of tolerance towards “others” and genuine political openings for non-mainstream ideological and lifestyle communities. Political resistance in the peripheries of the Israeli ethnocracy has also slowed Jewish expansion and caused significant (if partial) changes associated with the Oslo agreement. In addition, the absolute (but not the relative) socioeconomic standards of both Palestinians and Mizrahis have risen, due to Israel’s development programs.

Yet, the ethnicization trend has also been powerful, as illustrated by the growing tendency of political entrepreneurs to exploit “ethnic capital” and draw on ethno-class-religious affiliations as a source of political support. In the 1996 elections, such sectoral parties increased their power by 40 percent, and, for the first time in Israel’s history, overshadowed the largest and most heterogenous parties, Labor and Likud.

The Price

It is clear that the Zionist settlement project has caused a tremendous redistribution of resources. Palestinian Arabs, of course, have paid the highest price, witnessing their private and collective assets and powers seized, fragmented and eroded. As we have seen, however, several Jewish sectors have suffered too, most notably the North African peripheral Mizrahis. [19]

There is a clear nexus connecting the de-Arabization of the country with the marginalization of peripheral Mizrahis, who have been positioned culturally and geographically between Arab and Jew, between Israel and its hostile neighbors, between a “backward” Eastern past and a “progressive” Western future. But the depth and extent of discrimination against Palestinians and Mizrahis have been quite different, with the latter included in the Zionist project as active participants in the oppression of the former.

In a broader sense, the entire Israeli society has suffered from the preservation of a settling ethnocracy. The high level of intra-Jewish segregation and the ethno-class stratification of Israeli society cannot but harm social integration and breed conflict and political instability as Israel enters its sixth decade. Israel’s failure to develop meaningful inclusive state citizenship and identity, and its continuing reliance on exclusionary ethnic categories, are not only moral flaws but a prescription for continuing social and ethnic tension. Israel has yet to realize fully the costs of consistent breaches of democratic principle. While the internal costs of an ethnocratic regime have begun to surface (in the form of the Palestinian intifada, the frustration and hostility among Palestinian citizens, the tense ethnicization of the Jewish public and the growing level of societal violence), the external costs are still far from the mind of most Israelis. But if international reactions to the ethnocentric policies of countries such as Serbia and Turkey are any indication, such external costs may become a possibility.

Jewish Land, the Negev and Ethnocracy

Since September 1997, the Israeli government has announced on several occasions the introduction of new strategies to block “Arab invasion” of state lands within the Green Line, and to curtail “illegal” Bedouin grazing and construction. In most cases, “illegal dwellings” and “Arab invasion” are code terms for Bedouin residence on traditional tribal land and resistance to involuntary migration to a small number of towns designated by the state in the Negev and Galilee. [20] The recently announced strategy would combine the development of small Jewish settlements (mainly in the Negev’s northeastern hills), the establishment of single-family Jewish farms, the sale of Negev land to the Jewish Agency and diaspora Jews, and the application of greater pressure on Bedouins to migrate to the state-planned towns. The initiator of the policy was the then-director of the prime minister’s office, Avigdor Lieberman, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, and a resident of a West Bank Jewish settlement.

A closer look at this latest land control strategy raises several hard questions: If the Bedouin Arabs are Israeli citizens, as they are, why would their use of state land be considered an “invasion?” How do other sectors of Israeli society, such as moshavim and kibbutzim, which regularly build without planning permission, escape treatment as “invaders”? Given that the initiator of the policy is a West Bank settler (illegal according to international law), who is actually the “invader” here? How can a recent immigrant to the country campaign to evacuate residents who have been on that land for several generations and well before the state was established? How can the state lease large tracts of land to non-citizen (Jewish) organizations and continue to block its own (Arab) citizens from using it for residential purposes? [21]

At the end of its first 50 years, then, Israel’s persisting ethnocratic structure keeps surfacing — the ongoing Judaization project, the stratification of ethnic rights, the fuzziness of geographical and political boundaries and the legal and material involvement of extraterritorial Jewish organizations. Against this persisting reality, scholars, students and activists are called upon to destabilize the hegemonic Jewish discourse of a “Jewish and democratic state,” and participate in the task of transforming Israel from ethnocracy to democracy.

Author’s Note: The author would like to thank Lisa Hajjar, Uri Ram, Tovi Fenster, Michael Shalev, Ian Lustick, Baruch Kimmerling, Yoav Peled and As‘ad Ghanem for their helpful comments.


[1] Ka’adan vs. Israel Land Authority et al.
[2] Israel was declared a “Jewish state,” and its main immigration law (the Law of Return) made every Jew in the world a potential citizen while denying this possibility to many Palestinians born in the country. In the 1990s, two Knesset basic laws defined the state as “Jewish and democratic.”
[3] See Uri Ram, “Zionist Historiography and the Invention of Modern Jewish Nationhood: The Case of Ben Zion Dinur;” History and Memory 7/1 (1995), pp. 91-124. Historical records do not support the story of forced exile. Jews remained on the land for hundreds of years after the destruction of the Second Temple.
[4] On policies affecting Palestinian Arabs in Israel, see Ghazi Falah, “Israeli Judaization Policy in Galilee and its Impact on Local Arab Urbanization,” Political Geography Quarterly 8 (1989), pp. 229-53; Ian Lustick, Arabs in the Jewish State: Israel’s Control Over a National Minority (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1980); Dan Rebinowitz, Overlooking Nazareth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Sammy Smooha, “Existing and Alternative Policy Toward the Arabs in Israel,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 5 (1982), pp. 71-98; Oren Yiftachel, Planning a Mixed Region in Israel: The Political Geography of Arab-Jewish Relations in the Galilee (Aldershot, UK: Avebury, 1992); and Elie Zureik, Palestinians in Israel: A Study of Internal Colonialism (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979).
[5] For details of Israel’s land regime, see A. Kedar, “Israeli Law and the Redemption of Arab Land: 1948-1969,” Ph.D. thesis, Harvard Law School, Harvard University, Cambridge, 1996; Lustick, op cit.; and Yiftachel, op cit., ch. 5.
[6] The obstacles to Arab land use or ownership in these regional municipalities derive from the part-ownership of the Jewish Agency or Jewish National Fund in nearly all the “parcel” (mishbetzet) areas of Jewish rural settlements, and from the practices of most rural settlements to screen their new members. In addition, other land areas within regional councils usually insist of natural reserves, army training grounds, industrial areas, road reserves and other public resources — all blocked to Arab lease. A new regional councils include Palestinian Arab villages, but even residents of these villages are prohibited from leasing land elsewhere in the council area, outside the confines of their own villages.
[7] See Y. Gradus, “The Emergence of Regionalism in a Centralized System: The Case of Israel,” Environment and Planning 2 (1984), pp. 87-100; S. Hasson, “Social and Spatial Conflicts: The Settlement Prooess in Israel During the 1950s,’ L’Espace Geographique 3 (1981), pp. 169-79; S. Swirski and B. Shoshani, Development Towns: Toward a Different Tomorrow (Tel Aviv: Brerot 1985).
[8] In recent years, urban Jewish settlement in the West Bank accompanied the ongoing construction and expansion of small kehilati settlements. These towns have increasingly accommodated religious-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox Jews. See D. Newman, “The Tenrrorial Politics of Exurbanization: Reflections on 25 Years of Jewish Settlement in the West Bank,” Israel Affairs 3/1 (1993), pp. 61-85; and Ian Lustick, Unsettled States, Disputed Lands (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993).
[9] See Oren Yiftachel, “lsraeli Society and Jewish-Palestinian Reconciliation: ’Ethnocracy’ and Its Territorial Contradictions,” Middle East Journal 51/4 (1997), pp. 505-519.
[10] A large body of literature debates the characteristics of Israeli democracy, all assuming a priori that Israel is governed by such a regime. For notable examples, see A. Arian, The Second Republic: Politics in Israel (Tel Aviv: Zinora-Bitan, 1997); S. N. Eisenstadt, The Transformation of Israeli Society (London: Weinfield and Nicholson, 1985); B. Neuberger, Government and Politics in the Israeli State (Tel Aviv: Open University, 1991) [Hebrew]; and Sammy Smooha, Arabs and Jews in Israel: Change and Continuity in Mutual Intolerance (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992).
[11] It should be stressed that the non-democratic aspects of the “ethnocracy” model are expressed mainly vis-a-vis Israel’s Palestinian citizens. It is not argued that the situation of the Mizrahis is not democratic, but rather that the ethnocratic “rules of the game” have exacerbated their position. On the ethnic nature of the Israeli policy, see also As‘ad Ghanem, “State and Minority in Israel: The Case of an Ethnic State and the Predicament of its Minority,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 21/3 (1998), pp. 428-447 and Nadim Rouhana, Palestinian Citizens in an Ethnic Jewish State (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997).
[12] For a thorough, ground-breaking analysis of the role of borders in Jewish political culture, see A. Kemp, “Talking Boundaries: The Making of Political Territory in Israel, 1949-1957,” Ph.D. thesis, Tel Aviv University, 1997. [Hebrew] [13] Most accounts of the Israeli regime, including critical analyses, have continued to treat “Israel” concurrently as the land bounded by the Green Line and the body of Israeli citizens (including Jewish settlers of tile Occupied Territories). This contradiction was rarely problematized in the literature. For critical accounts which still take this approach, see Yoav Peled, “Ethnic Democracy and the Legal Construction of Citizenship: Arab Citizens of the Jewish State:” American Political Science Review 86/2 (1992), pp. 432-443; Rouhana, op cit.; and Smooha, op cit. For an early illuminating critique, see Baruch Kimmerling, “Boundaries and Frontiers in the Israeli Control System: Analytical Conclusions,” in Baruch Kimmerling, ed., The Israeli State and Society: Boundaries and Frontiers (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989), pp. 267-288.
[14] Reja Shehadeh, “Land and Occupation: A Legal Review,” Palestine-Israel Journal 4/2 (1997), p. 29.
[15] Another aspect of lsraeli ethnocracy which poses threats to democracy is the dual interpretation of “Jewishness” as ethnic and/or religious. The latter generates wide support among religious Jewish parties (including the six ministers in the Israeli government) to impose religious Jewish rule (medinat halacha). There is no scope here to enter this issue, except to note the intimate link between the project of excluding Palestinians and the threat of Jewish theocratic approaches to democratic values such as liberty, equality and popular soversignty.
[16] See also Yiftachel in Middle East Journal. In the application of this regime type, Israel can be compared to other “ethnocracies,” such as Estonia, Greece, Serbia, Slovakia or Sri Lanka.
[17] The concept of ethnocracy differentiates between two “ideal-type” levels of ethnicity: ethnic-nations and ethno-classes. It postulates that the main purpose of ethnocratic regimes is to exclude the weaker ethnic-nation. Ethno-national exclusion mechanisms are often used by elites to marginalize (more subtly) lower ethno-classes with their own nation.
[18] See Ella Shohat, “The Narrative of the Nation and the Discourse of Modernization: The Case of the Mizrahim,” Critique (Spring 1997), pp. 3-18.
[19] Although the main impact of deprivation is, of course, relative, we should note that both Palestinian Arabs and Mizrahis have enjoyed an absolute rise in living standards, partially due to Israeli development policies.
[20] On this issue, see Tovi Fenster, “Settlement Planning and Participation Under Principles of Pluralism,” Progress in Planning 39/3 (1993), pp. 169-242.
[21] The governments new strong-arm approach became clear in early April 1998 when three homes built by Bedouins on private Arab land in the Galilee were demolished. The event was followed by demonstrations, strikes and community efforts to rebuild the homes.

How to cite this article:

Oren Yiftachel "Democracy or Ethnocracy?," Middle East Report 207 (Summer 1998).

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