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Chapter 13

POLS 3060 Chapter Notes - Chapter 13: Six-Day War, National Religious Party, Haganah

Political Science
Course Code
POLS 3060
Janine Clark

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Chapter 13: Israel 516-543 (The Middle East by Ellen Lust):
History of State-Building:
Israel emerged from interaction with the British mandate, the contact with the local Arabs, the reality
of war in Europe, and Jews’ collective memory of being a dispersed people seeking a homeland
At the time of establishment in May 1948, the new state faced many problems
The dominant Labor Party, Mapai, headed by David Ben-Gurion, was best positioned to take the lead
during and after the 1948 war of independence as it dominated most of the pre-state institutions
Two weeks into the war, the provisional government under Ben-Gurion transformed the Haganah, the
main Jewish militia force in the prestate period, into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and banned
independent militias other militias were integrated into the IDF as separate units
Elections were held in January 1949 Ben-Gurion’s Mapai won the largest number of seats in the
Knesset and headed the coalition government
By promoting centralization and holding most of the important cabinet portfolios such as foreign
affairs, treasury, education, and defense as well as controlling the labor union, Mapai achieved
dominance to the extent that the party and the state became almost indistinguishable
State encouragement of Jewish immigration was another cornerstone of state-building in the years
after independence
The state responded to the challenge of population expansion by focusing its effort on the
establishment of agricultural settlements in the Israeli periphery a great number of kibbutzim and
moshavim (farm collectives with private ownership) were established
Non-agricultural “development towns” were also built to house the new population to populate the
Israeli periphery
Another of Mapai’s state building projects was the construction of a unifying ethos that would provide
a coherent Israel identity to the diverse immigrant groups that made up the country’s population
In 1949, the Knesset passed a law establishing mandatory education but did not end the independent
school system
In 1953, the government terminated the political education streams and introduced a standardized
state education system made up of two branches: religious and non-religious
The Declaration of Independence of May 14, 1948, announced the establishment of a “Jewish state,”
but the specifics of what constituted the state as a Jewish one remained to be debated
To get the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community on board with the Zionist state project, in 1947, Ben-
Gurion sent what became known as the “status quo letter” to its leaders in which he outlined the
relationship between state and religion in the nascent state
The letter made several concessions to the ultra-Orthodox community: it guaranteed that the Sabbath
would be nationally observed as the holy rest day; that personal status maters would be divided into
religious and secular codes; and the autonomy of the ultra-Orthodox education system from state
control would remain intact
The June 1967 War, in which Israel gained control over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and with
them the large Palestinian population residing in these territories, marked the start of a new era of
Israel’s political history
Mapai dominated the first period of state consolidation and had been impressively successful in
meeting the economic, security, and social challenges facing the new state
The second period has been consumed by the dilemmas attendant on the struggle to extricate the
country from the fruits of the 1967 victory, including seeking accommodation with the Palestinians
Social Transformations and Challenges:
Israel today is a contemporary society populated largely by immigrants attracted by the idea of a
Jewish state
In 1948, less than 6% of the world’s Jews lived in Israel, and by 2008, 41% did
With Israel’s Declaration of Independence in May 1948, the Arabs again protested, this time through
force of arms, with neighbouring Arab states attacking the new state in an attempt to abort its birth
In 1948, the remnants of European Jewish society who survived the Holocaust immigrated to Israel,
but soon communities of Jews born in Asia and Africa made up the bulk of the new immigrants

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The Israeli economy was unprepared for the absorption of such a large number of immigrants Israel
experienced a severe balance of payment crisis, and austerity measures were introduced to curb the
threat of inflation
By 1953, the economy was starting to stabilize later the inflow of funds from West Germany as part
of its 1953 Holocaust reparations agreement with Israel as well as aid from the US government and
the Jewish Diaspora slowly brought a recovery to the Israeli economy and contributed to rising living
Another demographic challenge presented itself in the aftermath of the June 1967 War the
conquest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip brought the entire Palestinian population of these
territories under Israeli control
Cheap Palestinian labour meant that Mizrahi Jews could no longer compete for low-paying
agricultural and construction employment; but the consequence of the June 1967 War led to a boom
in the Israeli economy, and many Mizrahi Jews were able to become employers, often as contractors
to mainly Palestinian laborers
Ethnic Divisions Intra-Jewish Cleavages:
Intra-Jewish ethnic divisions have been a prominent feature of Israeli politics
The terms Ashkenazim and Sephardim have their origins in the medieval period of the various
communities’ sojourning in the Diaspora following different expulsions throughout history
A Mizrahi is the oriental or eastern community of Jews who never left the Middle East
In 1959, the dissatisfaction of Mizrahi immigrants over this state of affairs (inequality) exploded in
semi-spontaneous violent demonstrations and clashes with police
The police successfully contained the protest, but in its aftermath, the government took some steps to
alleviate the poor ,living conditions of the Wadi Salib residents by providing them new housing outside
of the neighbourhood
Nevertheless, socioeconomic inequalities as well as discrimination and cultural marginalization
It was in the 1970s when the Mizrahi-Ashkenazi cleavage reached its height in Israeli politics in
1971, a group of young, second-generation Mizrahi residents of Jerusalem formed the Black
Panthers movement
The group organized a series of mass demonstrations protesting the discrimination and
marginalization of the Mizrahim
In 1977, the majority of Mizrahi Jews voted for the right-wing political opposition Likud Party, a move
that helped bring an end to the dominance of Mapai Mizrahi Jews identified Mapai as responsible
for their discrimination
The Likud government did little to improve the socioeconomic conditions of Mizrahi Jews, and it
focused its efforts on the settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 this inattention
led to a new pattern of Mizrahi political organizing in the 1980s and 1990sthe rise of sectarian
Mizrahi parties
Palestinian Citizens of Israel:
Before the establishment of the state of Israel, Palestinian Arabs were a large majority in mandatory
With statehood in 1948, their relative weight fell to 18% because the new state boundaries did not
include the West Bank and Gaza and many refugees departed from areas that came under Israeli
Jewish immigration after Israel’s establishment further diminished the relative share of Arabs in the
population, which reached a low of 11% in 1966
Arab citizens of Israel are those who remained after the 1948 war; they are full citizens of the country
Although Arabs are full citizens and no longer face the egregious violations of the early years, their
relationship with the state and its Jewish population remains tense they live in a Jewish country
whose symbols, flag, and national anthem are Zionist and give little expression to their Palestinian
identity and heritage
Arab citizens have mixed feelings about the state and their place in it, and they are cross-pressured
by their ethnic ties to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and by the Israeli government
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