Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Reinterpreting the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Constructivism Theory of Understanding a Cross-Ethnic Phenomena

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Reinterpreting the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Constructivism Theory of Understanding a Cross-Ethnic Phenomena

Article excerpt


This study proposes the use of constructivist analysis approaches to analyze Israel's policies toward the Palestinians. Constructivism theory is important for understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The building of a social-political reality can determine the trajectory of protests and violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past 60 years in direct association with the crystallization of nationalism and national identity. This paper analyses and explains the Israeli-Palestinian relations through the international relations theory in constructivism and elucidates in depth the reasons for the current struggle in the historical context and the concept of identity.

Keywords: constructivism, conflict, Israel, Palestine

1. Introduction

In the field of international relations (IR), constructivism theory has stood strong for a number of reasons. These reasons include the limitations of realism and liberalism. The constructivist viewpoint has explanatory capacity and power through which the issues that arose post 9/11 can be successfully addressed. In situations when decisions contradict conventional rationality, constructivism plays an important role in determining interests through norms and identity of specific ethnic groupings within and across nations.

Constructivism has progressed to define the modification in IR, particularly on identity factors and norms. This change in scope was possible towards the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s due to the studies by Ounf (1989), Wendt (1992), Finnemore (1996), and Katzenstein (1996). The article by Finnemore and Sikkink (1998) entitled "International Norm Dynamics and Political Change" published in the International Organization further promoted the ideas of constructivism. Similar articles were written by Kubalkova, Onuf, and Kowert (1998) entitled, "International Relations in a Constructed World" and Wendt (1999) entitled "Social Theory of International Politics". Constructivism posits the idea that the world is a social construction; hence, norms and identities of social groupings are crucial in understanding this constructed world. In actuality there is arguably an ontological overlap between realism and constructivism whereby realism recognizes issues related to internal dynamics including those related to people, cultures and identities, even more so with communities of neighbouring nations (Ali & Bustami, 2014).

In the context of this article, social theory, which is the root of constructivism, offers a theoretical background of life and social change. Related to people, the word "Hebrew" is associated with the early Israeli Kingdom. However, whether by birth or through conversion, Jews are regarded as belonging to an ethno-religious group (Moore, 2008). In international political theory, the state is regarded under constructivism as the main units of analysis. In contrast with theory of realism, constructivism does not concentrate merely on the material feature but rather considers the associations of many actors together with the institutions present in a particular state (Wendt, 1994).

The focus of constructivism is on the social interpretation of reality (Alder, 1997). Campbell (1922) indicated that the construction of a threat is caused by the discrimination of a community from an intimidating "other", thereby creating a boundary amongst the communities. Palestinian identity surfaced largely because Jewish immigrants were threatened. Indeed the concept of boundaries and cross-boundary conflict are in and of themselves social constructions based on national and ethnic norms and identity; hence, to a large extend the Israel-Palestninian conflict is a cross-ethnic phenomena anchored on identity. This identity played an important role in the Palestinian dispute (Campbell, 1922). The British government authorized Palestine, whereas the League of Nations authenticated the legal charge for the administration of Palestine and released the Balfour Declaration in 1917. …

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