Academic journal article Shofar

Critical Issues in Israeli Society

Academic journal article Shofar

Critical Issues in Israeli Society

Article excerpt

Critical Issues in Israeli Society, edited by Alan Dowry. Westport: Praeger, 2004. 261 pp. $79.95.

The politics and sociology of Israeli society cannot be understood without considering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but often that particular conflict becomes the primary focus of analysis. Alan Dowty's edited volume, Critical Issues in Israeli Society, is a welcome addition to the literature because it goes beyond this limited view. There are, indeed, many other critical issues in Israeli society, and this book is a useful compendium of essays that address them. Overall, the book examines various points of confrontation within Israeli society. Though no single theoretical or methodological framework unites the volume, the individual chapters, sometimes in combination with each other, are quite valuable.

After an introduction by Dowty, the book is organized into "trends in the public sphere," "social cleavages," "social and economic trends," "security issues," and "Zionism and history." "Trends in the public sphere" includes discussions of the consequences of tweaking the institutions of governance for what is still an evolving democracy (Gideon Doron and Rebecca Kook), of the consequences of this tweaking on corruption (Menachem Hofnung), and of the limitations of and opportunities for policymaking by the High Court of Justice (Gad Barzilai). Each of these chapters asks an interesting question about the nature and evolution of governance and the challenges faced by the Israeli state as a result of its institutional structure.

The second section examines social cleavages, both inter- and intra-group. Asher Cohen discusses the way changes in the Orthodox camp have altered the relationship between the Orthodox parties vis-à-vis Labor and Likud. Zvi Gitelman examines the new wave of immigration from the Former Soviet Union. In both of these cases, Orthodox parties and waves of Soviet immigrants, intra-group as well as inter-group tensions introduce an important dynamic into the Israeli political mix. In contrast, although the Palestinian citizenry of Israel is a heterogenous community, the social conflicts between them and other groups are more pressing than intra-group tensions, as the chapter by Majid Al-Haj makes clear. The position of the Palestinian citizens of Israel in the "double periphery" places them at a severe political, social, and economic disadvantage since their interests are marginal to both Jewish Israel and the emerging Palestinian polity. …

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