Nationalism, Zionism and Ethnic Mobilization of the Jews in 1900 and Beyond

By Michael Berkowitz | Go to book overview

RADIO AND THE SHAPING OF MODERN ISRAEL,
1936–1973

Derek Jonathan Penslar
University of Toronto

In the early 1980's, studies of national identity-formation (e.g., Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities and Ernest Gellner's Nations and Nationalism) emphasized the importance of the printed, vernacular text as a source and manifestation of modern nationalism. A decade later, scholars such as Anne McClintock and Prasenjit Duara took issue with this stress on literacy and looked instead to symbolic rites and icons as the primary agents, throughout much of the world, of national self-consciousness.1 This article intends to explore a third force behind the modern nation, a force more immediate than the printed linguistic sign and yet more abstract than the ritualized image.

Radio broadcasting, which became widespread during the interwar period, played a powerful role in many national movements, including the Zionist project. Radio was especially central to Israeli nation-building because television broadcasting only began in 1968, some two decades after its onset in North America and Europe. Thus during the 1950's and 1960's, when inhabitants of the Western world increasingly interpreted world events through the medium of television, Israelis remained glued to the wireless, a World War IIera communications medium that fostered a mobilized and militaristic political culture.

This article offers a brief history of Israeli radio from its inception in 1936 through the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. The bulk of the article focuses on the relationship between communications technology and politics over the period 1948–65, between the creation of

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1
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London and New York: Verson, 1983); Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983); Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Conquest (New York and London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 352–89; Prasenjit Duara, Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

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