BGU Gal Ariely Promotes Analogies of Israel with Apartheid and Holocaust Reductionism


Editorial Note

Much of the delegitimization of Israel comes from the same old Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University, which is notorious for espousing anti-Israel radicalism. Recently, Dr. Gal Ariely, a senior lecturer there, has published a book titled Israel’s Regime Untangled: Between Democracy and Apartheidwhich the Department launched in Zoom last month.

The book discusses various descriptions of the Israeli political sphere. It begins with a tale on how a tourist who visits Israel will be shocked by the status of the population living in Area C in the West Bank, the Oslo II accord administrative division of the West Bank outside Areas A and B. He wrote, “our visitor will likely find it very difficult to decide whether Israel is a democracy or not.” If the visitor is a political scientist, he will wonder “whether democracy is a relevant concept for analyzing the Israeli regime.” This political scientist might even question where exactly Israel is, or “is the Israeli regime limited only to the territory over which it holds formal sovereignty or does it include the entire territory under its various forms of control and influence?… in light of these contradictory elements and how to decide on the borders of the Israel regime.” 

In an interview with Dr. Dov Waxman, the director of the Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA, Ariely said, “the claim that Israel is apartheid is a very, very strong argument in the case of the political implications of the situation in Israel.”  

Ariely should note that Israel is not an apartheid. Clearly, apartheid refers to racial segregation which is not the case here. Second, the Palestinian Territories in the West Bank and Gaza are at war with Israel since its founding. Third, the Palestinian Territories are not democratic while some of their population lives in areas that are intertwined with Israeli population. The parties signed the Oslo Accord II agreement in response to this unique case.

Ariely is also a part of the growing group of scholars who promotes Holocaust reductionism, minimizing the scale of the catastrophe of the Holocaust by equating it to other political crimes. Ariely is using it to discuss the plight of African asylum seekers in Israel.    

His article “Historical analogies under dispute: Reactions of Israeli Jews to analogies between the Holocaust and the plight of African asylum seekers in Israel” is a case in point. Ariely discusses some “historical analogies,” where he analyzes responses by Israeli Jews to comparisons between the “situation of African asylum seekers” in Israel and Holocaust Jewish victims. For this, Ariely quotes a letter written in 2018 by some Holocaust survivors against the proposed forced deportation of asylum seekers.

Ariely conducted a “population-based survey” during the Holocaust Remembrance Days to evaluate whether attitudes toward the expulsion of asylum seekers were affected by the analogy.” He found that “Respondents who identity [sic] with the right wing and hold nationalist views who believe in Israel’s superiority over other nations were less likely to accept an historical comparison with the Holocaust. They rejected the idea that the Jewish experience of the Holocaust requires Israel to include asylum seekers. In fact, their responses to the historical analogy implied that it created a backlash among them, as it challenged their belief in the uniqueness of the Holocaust.”

He then moves on to describe the “African asylum seekers and the mobilization of Holocaust analogies.”  He suggests that “The fundamental logic behind Israel’s immigration and asylum policy is to include Jews and exclude non-Jews from the possibility of settling in Israel.” In the 2000s, Israel faced an influx of asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan through the Egyptian border.  According to Ariely, the “Israeli policy regarding asylum is to prevent the entry of individuals who threaten the Jewish identity and Jewish character of the state. Israel is, therefore, committed to preventing the recognition of those people who crossed into the country from Egypt as refugees… Most of the asylum seekers have not been treated as individuals in need of protection but defined as ‘infiltrators,’ dangerous citizens of an ‘enemy state’ who should be arrested, detained, and deported.”   

Ariely proceeds to promote the so-called “counter-discourse,” which “endeavors to draw a parallel between the suffering of the refugees and that of the Jews during the Holocaust and to deconstruct the economic threat of this migration. Asylum seekers as well as NGOs have used the Holocaust narrative to create a welcoming environment for African refugees living in Israel, employing a discourse based on the ‘kinship of genocide.’” They use slogans such as “We are all refugees” and “The never again is here again,” comparing the plight of the Eritreans and Sudanese to Jews escaping from the Holocaust.   The Israeli government’s proposed forced deportation of African asylum seekers in 2018 intensified the ways in which Holocaust analogies were used in public discourse to challenge the policy, even to the point of breaking the law and hiding asylum seekers from the authorities.” 

Ariely is also a member of the group “Democratic Erosion,” claiming that “Recent years have witnessed a deluge of commentary warning of imminent threats to democracy in the US, the West and the world. In the US, this rhetoric has become especially heated with the rise of Donald Trump. Is American democracy really under threat? What about democracy in the West, or the world more generally? If democracy is under threat, what can we do about it? And if it’s not under threat, why are so many of us so worried that it is? The Democratic Erosion consortium aims to help answer these questions through a combination of teaching, research, and civic and policy engagement.”

Ariely joined the Politics and Government Department in 2012, exactly when the Department promised to hire bona fide political scientists, unlike the “activists” that populated the Department and brought it to the brink of academic bankruptcy.  Judging by his writings, he has faithfully continued the radical activist tradition of the Department. 

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Gal Ariely <>
Date: Wed, Mar 31, 2021 at 12:11 PM
‪Subject: [Politics] הזמנה לאירוע השקת הספר “המשטר הישראלי בין דמוקרטיה ואפרטהייד” , אפריל 11‬
To: <>

 ספרו של גל אריאלי “המשטר הישראלי בין דמוקרטיה ואפרטהייד” יושק באירוע מקוון  ביום ראשון 11/4/21 1400-1600. האירוע בהנחיית פרופ’ אילת הראל-שליו ובהשתתפות אורית קדר, פרופ’ דוד לוי-פאור ופרופ’ תמר הרמן. פרטים נוספים ופלייר לרכישת הנחה בצרופות.

לרישום לאירוע
Cambridge University Press
978-1-108-84525-0 — Israel’s Regime Untangled
Gal Ariely
More Information
© in this web service Cambridge University Press
A tourist arriving in 2018 to Jerusalem – the declared but internationally
unrecognized capital of Israel – might visit the Knesset, the Israeli
parliament. Here, the tourist might encounter Member of Knesset
(MK), Hanin Zouabi, an Arab-Palestinian citizen of Israel who has
represented the Arab party Balad for almost a decade. As a member of
this party – many of whose members openly declare their sympathy
with those Israeli Jews perceive to be Israel’s most intransigent
enemies – Zouabi participated in the 2010 Marmara Flotilla that
sought to defy the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza
Strip. Accused by Jewish MKs of being a traitor, numerous attempts
were made to oust her from the Knesset and prevent her and the Balad
party from reelection. These efforts were blocked by the Supreme
Court and Zouabi was reelected in both 2013 and 2015. Her political
activities are not, however, limited to the conflict, and her feminist
agenda challenges the exclusive authority over personal status held by
the religious (Jewish and Islamist) courts that undermines gender
equality. Despite her strong political commitment, Zouabi did not
run in the April 2019 elections, but her Balad party continued to take
part in the elections.
Continuing eastward from the Knesset, our visitor enters East
Jerusalem, a territory Israel occupied from Jordan in 1967 and subsequently
annexed – an area that is also designated as the future capital
of the Palestinian state. At present, the majority of East Jerusalem
Palestinians – around 37 percent of the city’s population – are not
Israeli citizens. Just over one-third of the residents of the self proclaimed
“united capital” of Israel are thus excluded from citizenship,
lacking the right to vote for the Israeli parliament which is located
in their city. Wandering around East Jerusalem, the tourist will pass by
areas with a strong visible presence of the Israeli state and neighborhoods
beyond fences and walls with scant manifestation of the state.
Proceeding on the tour, our visitor then reaches territory that
challenges the definition of Israel as a democracy even more significantly:
the West Bank. Occupied in 1967, about 40 percent of this
region has been under the (partial and limited) control of the
Palestinian Authority since the 1990s, while the remaining 60 percent
continues to be directly governed by Israel, albeit not formally annexed
like East Jerusalem. In the West Bank, there is a dual legal system: one
for Jewish settlers as Israeli citizens and another for Palestinians as
subjects, challenging the classification of Israel as a democracy yet
more. However, while strolling around the West Bank and passing
through Israeli checkpoints and meeting the Palestinian Authority
police, the visitor might find it hard to understand where Israel begins
and where it exactly ends.
What is our tourist to make of these circumstances? On the one
hand, the reactions to Zouabi’s views and actions demonstrate just
how far short Israel falls with respect to one of the fundamental
requirements of established liberal democracies, namely, political tolerance.
On the other hand, despite efforts to disqualify her, Zouabi
was twice reelected and her party is still part of the Knesset. Although
framed as a traitor and constantly struggling for her seat in the
Knesset, she remains within the Israeli parliamentary system. Her
citizenship enables her to be elected to the Knesset, while the
Palestinians in Jerusalem are denied this right and the Palestinians in
the West Bank are denied both civil and political rights. Having
traveled the country, our visitor will likely find it very difficult to
decide whether Israel is a democracy or not, given that the regions
visited, the people met, and the institutions and practices encountered
provide evidence of diverse types of regimes with inherent
If a political scientist, our visitor might wonder what can explain
such a close intertwining of democratic and undemocratic, liberal and
illiberal elements, and possibly even ponder whether democracy is a
relevant concept for analyzing the Israeli regime at all. This political
scientist might even question where exactly Israel is, noticing that the
state lies beyond the regular constitutional or juridical order in which
there is a political entity with clear borders. Is the Israeli regime limited
only to the territory over which it holds formal sovereignty or does it
include the entire territory under its various forms of control and
influence? The visitor’s first challenge in the attempt to make sense of
what is seen in this tour has two components: how to classify the Israeli

regime in light of these contradictory elements and how to decide on
the borders of the Israel regime. If the visitor stays in Israel for a longer
period, questions might also emerge concerning what factors shape the
regime and how, despite the inherent tensions and contradictions, the
regime remains fairly stable.
This book is an attempt to address such wonderings by focusing on
three questions:
1. How can the Israeli regime be classified?
2. What are the borders of the Israeli regime?
3. What are the key factors that shape the regime and support its
relative stability?
The question of how the Israeli regime can be classified is not new.
There are various conflicting classifications of Israel. While it is frequently
regarded and analyzed as a democracy (Lijphart 1984;
Sprinzak and Diamond 1993), it is also classified as undemocratic
(Jeenah 2018), an “ethnocracy” (Yiftachel 2006), a “herrenvolk democracy”
(Benvenisti 1988), or an “apartheid regime” (Greenstein
2012). Between these extremes, it is variously labeled as a limited type
of democracy, an “ethnic” (Smooha 1990) or “illiberal” democracy
(Peleg 2007). This book is not looking to suggest the correct classification
of the Israeli regime; instead, I argue that the Israel case illustrates
the analytical weakness of the concept of democracy in the context of
disputed regimes. There is an inherent challenge in the classification of
a regime as a whole in cases that deviate from the model of established
liberal democracies or rigid authoritarianism, which undermines the
efficacy of the concept of democracy as an analytical tool for studying
Using the Israeli case to illustrate this, I follow the approach that
calls for disaggregating democracy into specific dimensions (Coppedge
et al. 2011). The term “democraticness” is the pivot for this approach;
neither a typology nor a classification of a specific form of regime,
democraticness describes a continuum along which are situated more
and less democratic systems of government. By looking at diverse
aspects of the Israeli regime, it seeks to determine the level of
democraticness exhibited rather than classifying the regime as a whole.
This shift of focus from a “closed” definition of democracy to the
disaggregated examination of levels of democraticness across different
dimensions provides better analytical leverage, allowing an
exploration of both the thin minimalist components and the more
extensive thick elements of democracy. These are analyzed across three
dimensions: (1) political contestation – the procedural and institutionalized
arrangements for political competition for power; (2) protection
– the defense of citizens against arbitrary state activity; and (3)
coverage – the extent to which the entire population can participate in
political processes and enjoy protection from the state without segmentation
or sectorization. The levels of democraticness of these dimensions
are used to sketch the Israel regime, offering a disaggregated view
of the regime that also illustrates a novel perspective on the third
question, namely, the key factors shaping the regime and supporting
its stability.
The question regarding the borders of the Israeli regime is also not
new. The bulk of the existing scholarly literature has addressed what is
termed Israel proper – a unit that does not include the Occupied
Territories (Sasley and Waller 2017). This approach is also in line with
the classifications of Israel in cross-national regime indexes. Though
less common, the Israel/Palestine definition is offered as a critical
alternative to the focus on Israel proper (Azoulay and Ophir 2012;
Ghanem et al. 1998). The location of Israel’s borders defines the unit of
analysis, and that definition determines how the regime is classified; in
other words, determining the unit of analysis as Israel proper or as
Israel/Palestine establishes the nature of the regime as a democracy/
diminished democracy or a type of non-democracy, respectively.
I argue that the justifications advanced for the choice of borders are
rather limited. This flawed approach can be rectified by a conceptual
discussion on the notions of state and regime – a discussion that will
lead to an alternative classification of the unit of analysis. A conceptual
elaboration shows that the units of Israel proper or Israel/Palestine
cannot be used to define the borders of the regime. I propose instead a
spatial analysis that divides the Israeli regime into different zones of
control at different time periods.
The first two questions focus on the question of the classification of
the Israeli regime, namely, what is the appropriate notion for describing
the regime. Much less attention has been given in the existing
literature to the third question. Most studies that focus explicitly on
the Israeli regime have overlooked this question of the key factors
shaping the regime and supporting its stability, while comparative
studies of regimes rarely include the case of Israel. I suggest moving

away from just debating regime classification, i.e., naming the dependent
variable, toward examining independent variables that shape the
regime and explain its stability.
There are dozens of potential explanations of the Israeli regime. The
major distinction between such explanations in the literature is
between actors and macro factors (see Linz and Stepan 1996). Actors
in the case of Israel could be institutions like the military and the
Supreme Court or politicians like David Ben-Gurion or Benjamin
Netanyahu. Macro factors could be economic development, political
culture, geostrategic environment, and others. This book does not
offer a complete account of all the factors that shape the Israeli regime;
a comprehensive inspection would require several books. Instead,
I focus on just two key contextual factors: the conflict and state
capacity. I illustrate how the Arab–Israeli conflict shapes the regime
in order to demonstrate how the disaggregated view offers new
insights for the link between the conflict and the regime – insights
overlooked by previous accounts that analyzed the regime as a
whole. I suggest that the relative stability of the regime as well as
some changes in the levels of democraticness and zones of control
can be explained by state capacity and offer an outline of how the
ability of the state to “get things done” via coercive and administrative
capabilities sustains the regime’s stability despite the various
This book thus provides a comprehensive account of the Israeli
regime according to a comparative politics framework on regimes. It
contributes to the field by providing a better understanding of the
Israeli case, its inherent contradictions notwithstanding. Beyond the
specific Israeli case, it also illustrates the pros and cons of this framework
for analyzing disputed regimes.
A Note on the Method
In order to answer the aforementioned three questions, this book
adopts a comprehensive outlook which is based primarily on previous
studies on regime and on Israel. The book does not explore new
archival sources, interview key actors, or generate any novel data.
The answers to the three questions are instead grounded on the theoretical
framework, and the conceptual discussion is based on reviews of
previous accounts of the regime.
A Note on the Method 5
Cambridge University Press
978-1-108-84525-0 — Israel’s Regime Untangled
Gal Ariely
More Information
© in this web service Cambridge University Press
The answer to the question concerning the classification of the Israeli
regime follows an overview of what can be termed the local debate on
the topic. It shows that very few studies have provided explicit descriptions
of the assumptions and premises on which their arguments rely.
In addition, the majority of studies have made rather limited use of the
literature on regime conceptualization and classification, and their
primary goal appears to have been determining whether or not Israel
is a democracy. Beyond the local debate, I show how cross-national
regime indexes, the benchmark for studying regimes, cannot be used to
circumvent the challenges of Israel’s classification. Once challenges to
the definition of democracy are taken into account, the debate of the
general classification of the Israeli regime can never be conclusively
resolved. Instead, conflicting interpretations of the Israeli regime can be
bypassed by following the current trend in studies of regimes: disaggregated
analyses of different levels of democraticness across different
dimensions. The conceptual discussion is therefore used here to offer
an alternative outlook on the Israeli regime.
In a similar way, the question of the unit of analysis, namely,
borders, is based on a discussion about the concept of state and regime.
This conceptual elaboration shows that the units of Israel proper or
Israel/Palestine cannot be used to define the borders of the regime;
instead, a spatial analysis is required, which divides the Israeli regime
into different zones of control at different time periods. The description
of the regime, the discussion of the impact of the conflict, and the
elaboration of state capacity as key explanations for the regime’s
relative stability are all based on ideas gathered from previous studies
conducted by prominent scholars of Israel. My added value here is the
integration of these perspectives into a general discussion of the regime
through theoretical lenses.
The discussion of the key factors which shape the regime also
follows the theoretical framework from the existing literature on
regimes and democratization. Its inherent limitations should therefore
be clear from the outset. Explanations for democraticness are limited.
Despite the fact that political regimes have been studied for decades, it
is clear that the knowledge in this field is “partial, probabilistic, conditional
and forever, and always provisional” (Coppedge 2012: 326).
The only thing that is clear by now is that there is no general theory for
regimes and that even the most common explanations, like economic
development, are subject to debate (Morlino 2012). Furthermore, part
6 of the debate on the explanations of democratization is caused by the
challenges to defining and measuring democracy that are emphasized
when discussing the Israeli case. Therefore, it should be understood
that any attempts to offer definitive explanations of the Israeli regime’s
levels of democraticness are limited.
A Note on the Israeli Case
One glance at the academic literature on the Israeli regime and our
wandering tourist might be even more confused. Not only can the
regime be classified along an extensive spectrum that is anchored by
liberal democracy on one end and proceeds through different types of
partial or diminished democracy before reaching the opposite end of
the spectrum that is occupied by non-democracy, but there are different
frameworks for understanding Israel from the very start.
According to one approach, Israel should be analyzed as a so-called
normal state that doesn’t differ much from countries elsewhere. Put
differently, there is no need for a special framework to analyze Israel,
and issues like the place of the Palestinian citizens of Israel in the state
can be analyzed from the perspective of general majority–minority
relations that can be found across many countries. This approach is
common among many Israeli scholars and can be found in journals
like Israel Studies as well as key publications by political scientists
(see, for example, Lijphart 1984; Sprinzak and Diamond 1993). Not
surprisingly, this approach tends to view Israel as a democracy.
A completely different approach proposes that the colonial/postcolonial
framework is a more suitable way of studying Israel and
Palestine. Israel should be understood as a settler colonial society
(Busbridge 2018), and therefore the Palestinian citizens of Israel
should not be analyzed from the perspective of majority–minority
relations but as part of an ongoing colonial situation. This approach
can be found mainly among Palestinian and Arab scholars (see, e.g.,
Rouhana and Huneidi 2017) and in journals such as Settler Colonial
Studies and Journal of Palestine Studies. According to this approach,
only wide-scale decolonization can transform the Israeli nondemocratic
apartheid regime into a democracy. These two perspectives
differ fundamentally and are subject to methodological and
epistemological polemics across various disciplines (see, e.g.,
Ghanim 2018; Peled 2017; Sternberg 2016; Zureik 2016). Beyond
such debates, however, they don’t usually engage with one another as
they exist in isolated academic circles.
These opposing perspectives are not just manifestations of a theoretical
debate; after all, the classification of the regime has broad political
implications. A country’s definition as a democracy or non-democracy
can have far-reaching effects on its internal and external legitimization.
Regime classification has thus evolved into a highly politicized discussion
(Munck 2009), and for countries that are neither clearly democratic
nor authoritarian, this issue is fiercely contested. Israel’s
categorization as a democracy could therefore be viewed as promoting
the legitimization of its regime; defining it as a non-democracy, on the
other hand, may call its legitimacy into question while indicating the
need for a radical regime change. Categorization as a democracy is
beneficial to many states but for Israel it is especially crucial given its
alliance with the United States and its use of “the only democracy in
the Middle East” slogan for international legitimization.
This book has chosen to follow insights from previous studies
regardless of whether their framework is based on the assumption that
Israel is a normal state or a settler colonial society. I have used a tight
conceptual discussion following studies from both approaches to provide
a comprehensive account of the Israeli case. I do not advance any
claims about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the Israeli regime, preferring
to use theoretical lenses for a better understanding of the three
overarching questions. Nor do I have any claims about the social
groups mentioned in the analysis. For example, Palestinian citizens of
Israel, Palestinian subjects, and the Jewish settler movement are all
framed as potential challenges to the stability of the Israeli regime in
the discussion on state capacity. Combining these three groups is not
based on any normative argument about their actions and motivations
nor is there any implicit assumption that they should be viewed on a
parallel level; they are simply used to emphasize the functions of
state capacity.
Outline of the Book
The attempt to answer the question about the classification of the
Israeli regime starts with a comprehensive review of previous
classifications. Chapter 1 reviews these classifications while focusing
on two fundamental questions: the definition of democracy and the

parameters of the unit of analysis. It provides a detailed description of
the local dispute among students of Israel and examines the way in
which Israel is categorized in cross-national regime indexes. It thus
exposes the limits of attempts to classify the Israel regime, arguing that
this debate can never be conclusively resolved.
An attempt to bypass the inherent limitations in the debate about
classification takes place in Chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 2 maintains that
the way in which the concept of democracy is usually employed limits its
potential analytical leverage and argues for the need to shift the focus
from classification to a multidimensional understanding of democraticness
with three proposed dimensions. It demonstrates that the use of
disaggregated regime dimensions to classify different types of democracies
overcomes the inherent limits of the whole-regime classifications that
have been used in former analyses of Israel and other disputed cases.
A comparative analysis demonstrates that only regimes whose levels of
democracy are not contested can be classified in toto. Chapter 3 moves to
the question of the unit borders, arguing for the need for a spatial analysis
of the Israeli regime across diverse zones of control. It reviews the
answers given to the question of the Israeli regime’s borders to date and
points to their flaws in analyzing the Israeli regime. The changes that have
occurred since the 1990s also challenge clear divisions, especially when
distinguishing between control and influence. Rather than examining
Israel proper or Israel/Palestine, Chapter 3 proposes three spatial zones:
the 1949 borders (1949–2019), Israel and the Occupied Territories from
the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea (1967–1994), and Israel and
parts of the Occupied Territories (1994–2019). Chapter 4 provides a
comprehensive description of the regime across the three regime dimensions
and zones of control via a short historical overview combined with
several indexes that reflect different components of the regime. It shows
that in Israel proper the highest levels of democraticness are in political
contestation followed by protection,while the levels of coverage are much
more limited. The regime in Israel proper is, overall, fairly stable despite
some increase in democraticness after state consolidation and some more
recent signs of possible decline in protection and coverage. In the
Occupied Territories, on the other hand, the levels of democraticness
are minimal in the dimension of political contestation and coverage and
highly limited in the area of protection. The regime in the Occupied
Territories is not as stable as the regime in Israel proper due to changes
in the zones of control.
Outline of the Book 9
Cambridge University Press
978-1-108-84525-0 — Israel’s Regime Untangled
Gal Ariely
More Information
© in this web service Cambridge University Press
Chapters 1 to 4 are thus the attempts to offer an alternative perspective
on the classification and borders of the Israeli regime. This perspective
is subsequently used to discuss the key factors which shape the
regime in Chapters 5 and 6. Chapter 5 explains the function of the
conflict in shaping the regime’s democraticness across different dimensions
and the ways it influences the regime’s zones of control via a
review of the main theoretical frameworks for understanding conflicts
and regimes. As this specific conflict has external and internal dimensions,
I inspect both, before outlining the main elements of the conflict,
explaining how these dimensions are interlinked and offering an
explanation of how the conflict has shaped the regime. Despite the
conflict and the potential for instability, the regime is, by and large,
quite stable. Changes in the levels of democraticness have been fairly
modest, and the gaps between the different dimensions of democracy
are also quite stable; the major change in the regime has been in its
zones of control. Chapter 6 outlines state capacity as a possible explanation
for this general stability and emphasizes the importance of the
state in explaining the regime. After clarifying the concept of state
capacity and its relationship with regime stability and reviewing the
historical origins of the Israeli state capacity, it discusses the ways that
state capacity sustains the regime despite the various challenges. Three
such challenges are discussed: the internal aspect of the conflict, the
challenge to state authority from political tensions among Jews, and
the ways that the zones of control shifted under the limited ability of
state capacity to ensure direct control of the entire Occupied
Territories. In the conclusion, I highlight the book’s contribution to
understanding Israel as well as other disputed cases, including a discussion
on the implications of the key arguments.
10 Introduction


Transcript of Israel In Depth podcast

Host: Dov Waxman

Guest: Gal Ariely

Dov Waxman: Welcome to Israel in Depth, where scholars, policymakers, and leading experts come to discuss topics about Israel in depth. You’re listening to a podcast by the Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA. I’m Dov Waxman, the director of the Nazarian Center and the host of this podcast. Joining me for this episode of Israel in Depth is Gal Ariely. He’s a senior lecturer in the Department of Politics and Government at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. And his new book, Israel’s Regime Untangled: Between Democracy and Apartheid, has just been published by Cambridge University Press. Welcome to Israel in Depth. So let me begin by asking you, why did you write this book? What was your motivation for writing this book?

Gal Ariely: I like this question. I think that — when you look at the case of Israel as someone who is engaged in Israel, or as a scholar or who is interested in the Israeli case, or someone like me who lives in Israel and who is deeply influenced by her politics in many spheres of life. It’s sort of a puzzle. It’s sort of a puzzle because when you look at Israel, there are many questions that you don’t — at least I don’t have very clear answers to them. And I wanted to use my knowledge as a political scientist who works in the field of comparative politics and studies of regime and to see to what extent, or in what way, I can use this knowledge in order to better understand the Israeli case. Not only the classification of the regime, but also to what extent the knowledge that we have in political science about the nature of regimes. Their stabilities, their changes in regimes can better help us to clarify the Israeli case. This was my original motivation in trying to write this book. And I have to admit that although I just published it a two weeks ago, it’s still a positive case. I’m not sure that I revealed most of the of the puzzle, but at least I tried to shed light on some aspects on the Israeli regime.

Waxman: So in your book, I think what it seems that you’re trying to do is to is to reframe the the current debate that’s been going on both in Israel and overseas, including within academia, the debate over whether Israel is in fact, a democracy. I mean, there’s this ongoing debate over Israel’s democratic status, a debate that has flared up in the news recently, following the recent report by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which I’m sure, you know, which came out and said that Israel is essentially an apartheid regime. Now, how does your book try to reframe this debate? Or what in your view is wrong with the way the debate over whether Israel’s a democracy is currently held?

Ariely: Well, as you clarify, the debate or the way to classify the Israeli regime is not new. It’s going on in the literature for more than I know — like 30 years. There are very different classifications. Go all the way from a democracy, illiberal democracy, or some diminished type of democracy, and all the way up to different versions of non-democracy regimes like an apartheid regime. And I think that when you look on all these classifications, and you go just through the literature, and different ways scholars have tried to address the Israeli case, you can find that in most cases — not all cases, of course, but in most cases — it seems that the way the regime is classified is a little bit detached from political science literature’s about how we classify regime from the first place. And when you try to connect the debate for the current understanding of the regime classification in comparative politics literature, you find that in many ways, the attempt to offer an overall definition of a regime is problematic by itself. It’s problematic by itself because, in many ways, the concept of democracy by itself. Again, it’s the most important concept in political science, probably was one of the most important concepts in political science. But it also it has some inherent weaknesses, at least analytical weaknesses, because in the political science literature, regardless of the Israeli case, there is a very long debate about how we should classify democracy from the first place. And I’ve tried in the book to show that any attempt to offer a definite definition of the regime overlooks the ways, the current standing of regimes, the current standing of democracy in political science. So in a sense, I’m not trying to offer a correct definition of the regime, because I don’t think that there is a possibility for a methodological point of view. Instead, I offer to look at it in different ways or in different framing of the debate from the beginning – from the outset.

Waxman: Right. So if I’m understanding the question that’s often asked, you know, is Israel a democracy or not? This can be framed in either-or terms…is the wrong kind of question. Instead of trying to make a decision, yes, Israel is a democracy. No, it isn’t. We should really be asking, in what respects is Israel a democracy? Or how democratic is Israel, rather than whether or not. And so your book is focusing on on the degrees of Israel’s democracy, or its dimensions of democracy rather than a kind of either or proposition. It is or isn’t that democratic. Is that is that correct?

Ariely: Yeah, because, again, from a political point of view — and when you look on from a normative point of view, from a political point of view — it’s very reasonable to ask if a country is a democracy or not, because it has a lot of political normative implications. But if you want to analyze the regime, not just to give it a name, not just to use the name, in order to justify or condemn the regime. If you want to understand the regime, the either note — perceptions or the attempt to offer a unique name to the Israeli case — have limits. I don’t think it’s wrong. I don’t think it’s wrong to offer classification of the regime. Again, the literature on the different classification have, of the Israeli regime, have a lot of merits. But in a way, the ability to use it in order to explain an aspect of the regime, is a bit limited. So what I propose is, instead of a clear definition of the regime, I propose to look on the level of ‘democraticness’ of the regime. The level of extent it is a democracy across different dimensions of democracy. Across different spheres of democracy. Across different aspects of democracy. And also across different zones of control. Because one of the debate, which is very clear in the Israeli case, is a question what exactly is the border of the regime? There are different answers to the question. And, of course, different answers lead to different classification of the regime from the outset. So I propose just to disentangle, disaggregate the perceptions of the old regime to different spheres, different level of ‘democraticness’ lists, and different zones of control.

Waxman: So I’m just picking up this different zones of control. And I think you’re alluding to the distinction, if you like between the regime within Israel proper or within the green line, and the regime in the occupied territories, in the West Bank, and East Jerusalem and maybe Gaza Strip as well. So do you then distinguish between these as two distinct regimes? The regime within the green line…the one Israel…and the regime, an Israeli regime, but a distinct regime from in the occupied territories?

Ariely: Well, I think that the key to understanding where exactly is the Israeli regime is to offer a very, very delicate distinction from the outset, form control, and influence. If you look on all the entire territory, what the so-called between the Jordan and the sea — Israel/Palestine — you can see that it’s a zone where there is direct control of Israel in what is called Israel proper, in East Jerusalem, and also in most of the part of the “C” zone in the West Bank where Israel has actual direct control. But when it comes to Gaza, and to some extent, also the Palestinian enclaves under the control of the Palestinian Authority, there is a very, very strong Israeli influence. But it’s not direct control. It’s something else. So the level of ‘democraticness’ of the regime is different in Israel proper. It’s different in East Jerusalem and “C” zone. And I think that Gaza is out of the definition of the regime. Again, a lot of influence of the regime, but not direct control. And when it comes to the Palestinian enclave, again, it’s an indirect control. So I’m not sure it’s part of the regime….

Waxman: So in that sense, you would reject the kind of, you know, claim that’s often made today that there’s a one-state reality between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. That effectively, there was only one state. Well, your analysis is kind of looking at this as a range of influence — from direct control to indirect influence.

Ariely: I’m not totally rejecting the idea of one-state reality because it really depends on how you understand the state. Right? It will depend on how you define a state from the outset. If you understand a state is a mechanism of bureaucratic control. So in a sense, Israel has influence also in the some aspects of the Palestinians enclaves, and also, to some extent, also some aspects of the Gaza…in the Gaza Strip, and it’s so much stronger democratic control on East Jerusalem and on “C” zone. But it’s not clear cut because I think that’s describing all the territory Gaza,  Nablus, Bethlehem, East Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and West Jerusalem, as one state. Again, it’s maybe has some important political implications. But from an analytical point of view, it really overlooks differences, which I think, are very relevant to understanding the regime between these spheres of influence and control. So I don’t think there is a clear-cut border that you can say this is Israel proper; this is a regime which is outer. And also there is not a very clear-cut border between a one-state reality in all the territory, including Gaza and the Palestinians enclave as it was before the….

Waxman: So I wonder, I mean, extending this, this analysis to think about, you know, degrees of control and the extent of bureaucratic control. Could you not go even further and say the same holds true even within Israel proper? I mean, you can take certain areas where the ultra-orthodox reside. And we’ve seen over the last number of months in Israel, where the resistance to members of the ultra-orthodox community to some of the regulations and restrictions imposed by the ..battling the COVID pandemic, that even within Israel itself, there are limits to the Israeli state’s bureaucratic control over certain parts.

Ariely: Well, I think that most states control or the ability of states to now commonly described as state capacity. The idea of states to implement policy, not only in Israel, but in many other countries, especially not countries which are in dispute… change between the center and the periphery and between different groups in society. It’s not something which is unique to Israel. But there should be a distinction between the capacity to implement public policy and the level of ‘democraticness’. The level of democraticness’ is the same, by in large, for the ultra-orthodox and for the non-orthodox inside Israel proper and also outside Israel proper in the settlements — the orthodox settlements in the occupied territories. When it comes to ‘democraticness’ in the spheres of political competition instead of limited illiberal rights, some of them exist in Israel. And it’s different from the ability of the state to implement their policy.

Waxman: I see – that’s an important distinction. So in terms of this ‘democraticness,’ in what areas, in what domains do you see, do you think Israel’s democratic is strongest, is most democratic? And in what areas or domains is it weakest?

Ariely: Well, as previous analyses have already shown, and I am not saying anything new here. The stronger aspect of the Israeli democracy it’s in the level of the political competition, in the inclusiveness of the election. Again, I’m talking only on the aspect of the regime, which is allowing people to petition. I’m not including East Jerusalem or zone “C” which are part of the regime. I’m talking only on this first, well, from the outset, there is a possibility of political competition. And this is the strongest aspect of the Israeli democracy. And when you go and look on, for example, on the liberal aspect of the Israeli democracy on the….you explore the defense of citizens against the state. The liberal aspect of democracy. It’s much more weaker. We have for many of course, many aspects. The liberal aspects or the liberal elements of the Israeli democracy are much more limited. And when you look at the extent to which there is coverage ….to what extent the entire population can participate in the political process and enjoy protection from the state without segmentation and securitization. This is the lowest aspect of Israel democracy when it comes to questions of the relation between Jews and Arabs in Israel proper. These are the most lowest levels of democracy. And again, of course, they’re quite stable. There are some changes, but they are quite stable. And again, we have an election next week in Israel, so we can see that there is also some ongoing decline in the liberal aspect of democracy in the last 10 years, 5 years. Depends how you exactly define it. But by and large, these three dimensions there’s a gap between them, but they’re rather stable across the years.

Waxman: So that was – you anticipated my next question. I was…I mean….myself and others have written about a kind of process of democratic backsliding occurring in Israel. A term that political scientists have used to describe developments in places like Hungary and Turkey and Poland, India, even the United States. Do you agree with this? Or are you saying that, actually, you know, Israel, Israeli democracy has always been illiberal in terms of the rights or freedoms of the individual? But really, it’s actually been, it’s actually fairly stable. And these concerns are exaggerated about democratic backsliding.

Ariely: I think it’s a very, very good question. And I’ve a seminar with my students under the title, “Is Israel’s Democracy Backsliding?” And we are debating this question for two years by now. And I think that it’s really depends how you understand backsliding or democratic backsliding from the beginning. As you know, it’s not a solid concept in the literature. And even different definitions or different understanding of what democratic backsliding would lead to different results. So I’m not sure that we can say, yes, there is democratic backsliding in Israel, to the extent that there was in Turkey for sure, or even to the extent that we can locate in Hungary or even in Poland. I’m not sure this is the case. I think it’s much, much more debatable. But from the outset, the concept of democratic backsliding, in a way, assumes liberal democratic forms from the first place. There was some advancements like in the 90s of the last century. And one might wonder if what we see now in Israel in the last few years is a democratic backsliding or just a backlash against the liberal forces that try to reshape the country. So I’m not sure it’s a democratic backsliding, or just a debate between very … some aspects of the Israeli regime.

Waxman: So you mentioned that the upcoming election and one of the claims that that have been made by competitors to (Benjamin) Netanyahu is that, you know, Netanyahu is a threat to Israeli democracy. And that this is you know, not just a competition, a political competition between, you know, different political parties, but between kind of democrats and…in Netanyahu’s case it would be autocrat. Do you think that there…that’s misplaced? That in fact, you know, the 10 years that Netanyahu has been in power haven’t really…he hasn’t really threatened Israeli democracy in the way that his critics suggest he has?

Ariely: I think that there are different ways to understand this question. One way would argue that maybe Netanyahu is a threat to Israel’s democracy, but he’s no different than previous prime ministers, which were by and large — the popular ones (those who hold power for a long time) weren’t, I would say, motivated by democratic reasoning. If you compare some incidents of Netanyahu to (Ariel) Sharon. Even to previous prime ministers, you wouldn’t find that they were motivated by the need to strengthen democracy. You know, it’s a bit funny because these days, there’s a lot of nostalgia to Menachem Begin, who is now portrayed as a big democrat. But when Menachem Begin came to power, the Israeli elites viewed him as a direct threat to democracy. And the perception was that if Begin will rule, Israel democracy, or at least the democratic aspect of Israel (because I’m not trying to say that Israel is a democracy). But the democratic aspects that are in Israel will be ruined by Begin because he’s a populist, and he’s etc, etc. And we know that, at least in these aspects of Israel’s democracy, there was an improvement after Begin’s period. So this is one way to understand that. It’s in a way, a nostalgic view of those who worry that Netanyahu…some believe that they were more democratic than he. Another way to understand it that perhaps Netanyahu is just unmasking the illiberal, undemocratic aspect of the Israeli regime in a much bolder way than previous prime minister or previous political elites. So it’s not Netanyahu itself. It is this regime, which again when someone has a grip on power for a long time, he can advance these aspects which are at the heart of this regime. Like the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, which again, it wasn’t a project of Netanyahu. It was a project that started with Tzipi Livni in Kadima — or Tzipi Livni was one of the advocates for that. So it’s not necessary Netanyahu itself. Another way to think about it, it’s perhaps Netanyahu because of a unique situation and because the allegation he’s facing to, might be the trigger, might be the actor that will enable the forces that don’t like the liberal aspect of Israeli democracy, or the advances that there were in the position in the status of the high court to change these aspects of a regime and to create backsliding — not in the entire regime, but at least in this aspect, and especially when it comes to the status of the court. So I don’t think there is a simple answer to this question.

Waxman: But I think you’re absolutely right that that we shouldn’t really focus exclusively on Netanyahu or see him as somehow a unique threat to Israeli democracy or the great risk to it. That there are deeper forces that play, and there are other groups that certainly, when it comes to the power of the Supreme Court, have long wanted to reduce the Supreme Court’s power. And in some sense, Netanyahu’s legal trouble has provided them an opportunity to try and challenge the court. I want to turn in the time that we have left to maybe a very tricky topic. Also, in your book, the question of apartheid. And as I mentioned in my introduction, this is not a new question that’s been…not a new allegation that’s been leveled against Israel. It’s been leveled for many years by Palestinians and some of their supporters. But in recent months, B’Tselem — an Israeli human rights organization, a prominent organization — has itself made this allegation. Has itself come out and called Israel essentially an apartheid regime, not just the Israeli military rule in the West Bank, but Israel itself. How do you see this claim of apartheid? I mean, what’s your response to this?

Ariely: I think that my attempt to view if the Israeli regime, as I mentioned at the beginning, is to use perspective that I, as a political scientist, adopt to understand reality. And when we classify regime, when we discuss regime, we don’t just use analog. We don’t just say this regime is like that — Israeli is like an apartheid, Israel is like India, Israel is like the U.S., Israel is like the French. Because such comparisons are not the way we try to analyze the reality when we are doing a political science. So in a sense, I’m not engaged with the debate because B’Tselem, it’s one NGO who claim Israeli is apartheid, and someone else who said, okay, but B’Tselem claimed Israel is apartheid, but Freedom House, which is an NGO who classifies regime for a living, don’t claim that Israel is an apartheid. Classify Israel as an illiberal democracy, or something close to illiberal democracy. So why we can take B’Tselem NGO argument as superior on another NGO argument. And so such debate, it’s not, not my interest. And I think that I would say that even more, the claim that Israel is apartheid is a very, very strong argument in the case of the political implications of the situation in Israel, that’s in many ways, it’s very hard to justify what’s going on in the occupied territories…So I’m not saying…I’m not arguing anywhere, that’s the way such claims are wrong. I’m not in any debate with B’Tselem. My motivation is to expand reality, and if I’m claiming, or if someone is claiming that Israel is apartheid, so the way we can use it to explain issues is very limited. For example, again, we have elections next week, and there is a very strong competition for the Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship – electors. There is a very, very strong competition of them. If I’m claiming that Israel is an apartheid regime, so my ability to explain how could it be that there is such a strong competition, a vote of the Palestinian citizens will be very limited. Because if it is an apartheid regime, so maybe they don’t have free will, they cooperate with the regime who marginalize them. So but why do they do that? Why don’t they use other means in order to challenge the Israeli regime? And if my motivation is not to name Israel, but to understand why in front of all the Israeli policies, in front of all the ongoing inequality, why the very strong political participation among Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, So the concept of apartheid will be very limited in his ability to help me explain it. So this is why I will not use the concept of apartheid. And I also don’t use the concept of democracy because claiming that, yeah, because it is democracy is also very limited, because it ignores the zones that Israel controls and the Palestinian people who don’t have a citizenship who don’t take part in the political process. And I have to understand this as well because this is part of the regime.

Waxman: Absolutely. I think that’s very important that these these labels, these terms, may be useful in political and public debate. But when it comes to serving as an analytical tool, or to actually explain what’s happening, they can often obscure more than they illuminate. And that we really need to have a much more fine-tuned in nuanced approach. And I think, you know, in your book — and in this interview —  you really express very clearly what that would look like and how to take a much more nuanced approach to these very contentious topics. I want to thank you for that and for sharing your knowledge and expertise with our audience. And I encourage everyone to find the book — it’s just come out. So congratulations. The title again is Israel’s Regime Untangled: Between Democracy and Apartheid. You’ve been listening to an episode of Israel in Depth, produced by the UCLA Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Thank you for listening.


a cross-university collaboration



Gal Ariely

Gal Ariely is senior lecturer at the Department of Politics & Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. Employing cross-national analysis and experimental survey research, he examines political attitudes and national identity. In addition, his research addresses methodological questions of measurements across different contexts. He’s currently working on a book project Israeli Democracy: Reality or Myth. The book seeks to untangle the conflicting interpretations of the Israeli regime by focusing on the structural factors shaping the regime rather than seeking to classify it. It’s focus is the question: Which factors undermine and which factors support Israel’s levels of “democraticness” across different dimensions and zones of control.


Recent years have witnessed a deluge of commentary warning of imminent threats to democracy in the US, the West and the world. In the US, this rhetoric has become especially heated with the rise of Donald Trump.

Is American democracy really under threat? What about democracy in the West, or the world more generally? If democracy is under threat, what can we do about it? And if it’s not under threat, why are so many of us so worried that it is? The Democratic Erosion consortium aims to help answer these questions through a combination of teaching, research, and civic and policy engagement.

Democratic Erosion is a cross-university collaboration that helps students and faculty evaluate threats to democracy both here and abroad through the lens of theory, history and social science.

Since fall 2017, faculty at over 40 universities have taught from the same shared syllabus on democratic erosion. We have also constructed a unique event dataset capturing the symptoms and precursors of democratic erosion across countries and over time, which we have used to conduct research and prepare reports for our partners in the policy community. Our students collaborate on assignments and are expected to engage not only with their peers, but with the public as well.

Importantly, the consortium is not intended as a partisan critique of Donald Trump, or of any other politician or political party. Our goal is to treat the threat of democratic erosion as an empirical question, rather than merely a political one.  


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Ethnic and Racial Studies
ISSN: 0141-9870 (Print) 1466-4356 (Online) Journal homepage:
Remembrance Day influence on national sentiments and hostility towards out-groups: evidence from a panel study in Israel
Gal Ariely
To cite this article: Gal Ariely (2016): Remembrance Day influence on national sentiments and
hostility towards out-groups: evidence from a panel study in Israel, Ethnic and Racial Studies,
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2016.1234629
To link to this article:
Published online: 10 Oct 2016.
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Remembrance Day influence on national sentiments
and hostility towards out-groups: evidence from a
panel study in Israel
Gal Ariely
The Department of Politics & Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva,
While scholars have long emphasized the significant impact of national days on
the masses, the actual impact of national days on people’s national sentiments
have been ignored. This study set out to examine the ways in which exposure to
Remembrance Day impacts national sentiments and hostility towards outgroups.
Unlike previous cross-sectional-design studies, it adopted longitudinal
design in order to explore the actual impact of exposure to Remembrance
Day amongst Israeli Jews. While exposure to Remembrance Day increased the
respondents’ sense of nationalism, neither their level of national identification
and hostility towards out-groups nor the magnitude of the positive link
between nationalism and hostility towards out-groups changed significantly.
While national identification was unrelated to hostility prior to Remembrance
Day, it became negatively related to it on Remembrance Day itself. The
findings shed new light on the prevalent assumption regarding the impact
national days have on public sentiment.
ARTICLE HISTORY Received 20 October 2015; Accepted 31 August 2016
KEYWORDS National identity; nationalism; collective memory; xenophobia; national days; panel design;
More than a century after Memorial Day was officially established, the US Congress
passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act that instituted “a
symbolic act of unity” marking a “National Moment of Remembrance to
honor the men and women of the United States who died in the pursuit of
freedom and peace.”1 The rationale adduced for this move was that
“greater strides must be made to demonstrate appreciation for those loyal
people of the United States whose values, represented by their sacrifices,
are critical to the future of the United States”.
Such acts are common practice in the life of nations, elites making specific
moments part of the national calendar. Remembrance Day is one of a wider
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Gal Ariely
repertoire of “nationhood performances” that includes national holidays and
the use of national symbols (Woods and Tsang 2014). Congress’s claim that
remembering the fallen is imperative to the nation’s future echoes Anthony
Smith’s assertion that “ceremonial and symbolism help to assure the continuity
of an abstract community of history and destiny” (1991, 78). It is thus no
wonder that scholars have long drawn attention to the significant affect
national days have upon national identity and the construction of a sense
of nationhood (McCrone and McPherson 2009; Elgenius 2011). To date,
however, the majority of studies have focused on the top-down production
of national days by elites (Roy 2006; Hemple 2012; Zuev and Virchow 2014).
This approach is based on the assumption that national days wield a profound
impact on the national identity of the masses, increasing citizen identification
with the nation. This premise rarely being subject to critical investigation,
however, the actual ways in which national days impact people have been
relatively ignored (Fox 2006; Fox and Miller-Idriss 2008). As Jon Fox observes:
“While the scholarship on nationalism has convincingly demonstrated how
national holidays can generate national attachments, they have not shown
how they do generate such attachments” (2014, 38 [original italics]).
Using large-scale surveys, recent studies have focused on national days
themselves and the way in which they are linked to public attitudes and behaviours.
2 While these suggest that national days are related to some aspects of
people’s national identity and out-group attitudes (Meuleman and Lubbers
2013; Fozdar, Spittles, and Hartley 2015; Coopmans, Lubbers, and Meuleman
2015), their cross-sectional design has precluded them from directly examining
the influence exerted by exposure to national days.
Taking Israel as a test case, this study focused on the impact of exposure to
Remembrance Day upon national sentiment, hostility towards asylumseekers,
and attitudes towards the Israeli-Arab conflict. It employed a longitudinal
design to examine the actual impact of Israeli Jews’ exposure to Remembrance
Day. A three-wave panel survey measured national sentiment (national
identification and nationalism), hostility towards asylum seekers, and attitudes
towards the Israeli-Arab conflict several weeks prior to Remembrance Day, on
Remembrance Day itself, and eight weeks later.
The results demonstrate that nearly all Israeli Jews participated in Remembrance
day-related behaviours. Despite the extent of Israeli Jewish exposure
to Remembrance Day, the influence appears to be more limited than
expected. National identification, hostility towards out-groups and attitudes
towards the conflict did not change significantly across time, the magnitude
of the positive link between nationalism and hostility towards out-groups also
remaining the same. Remembrance Day did, however, increase a sense of
nationalism. While national identification was unrelated to hostility towards
out-groups prior to Remembrance Day, it became negatively related to
these feelings on Remembrance Day itself.
This study contributes not only to an understanding of the influence
exerted by national days in general and Remembrance Day in particular but
also to the study of nationhood. One of the central debates in the nationhood
literature relates to the primordial vs. modernist view of the nation. The latter
adopts a top-down approach that highlights the role elites play in nation
building via such nationhood performances as Remembrance Day. The
former emphasizes the role of the masses in bottom-up processes (Woods
and Tsang 2014). Much of this debate has taken the influence exerted by
national days for granted, failing to adduce any empirical support. The few
recent studies that have looked empirically at the impact of national identity
have been cross-sectional. They were thus unable to estimate the actual effect
of exposure to national holidays. This study explores the impact of Remembrance
Day – a “meeting point” between national subjects and the imagined
collective coordinated by the state via a longitudinal design. The same
respondents from heterogeneous sample of Israeli Jews answered a survey
some weeks prior to Remembrance Day, on Remembrance Day itself, and
eight weeks later. This allowed me to assess the actual influence on Remembrance
Day on their sense of national identification, nationalism, hostility
towards asylum seekers and attitudes towards the Israeli-Arab conflict.
National days, remembrance day, and national identity
National days are specific moments in time a nation holds in celebration or
commemoration of formative events in its history. Rather than constituting
part of the “banal” repertoire of a nation’s everyday reflections (Billig 1995),
they frequently take the form of a nationwide day off from work whose significance
is explicated and reinforced by extensive media commentary, thus
synchronizing – at least temporarily – with citizens’ memories (McCrone
and McPherson 2009; Elgenius 2011; Woods and Tsang 2014). National days
constitute part of the rituals and symbols performed at a specific moment
in the national calendar.
Remembrance Day forms an important part of the repertoire of national
days modern nation-states have evolved. State expansion has led to the institution
of national days of remembrance for those who have died on behalf of
the country as part of its symbolic framework. Specifically, the state’s role in
war commemoration has been heightened by an increase in mass-mobilization
and citizen conscription, the two world wars and enormous sacrifice
they entailed leading directly to the institution of memorial days in many
countries (Mosse 1991). The member-states of the Commonwealth, for
example, observe Remembrance Day every November on the anniversary of
the end of the First World War with official ceremonies and a minute of
silence in honour of the fallen. In the USA, the origins of Memorial Day – a
federal holiday – lie in the civil war.
Remembrance Day commemorates the ultimate sacrifice the nation
demands from its citizens – the laying down of their lives in the service of
their country. This patriotic act attributes not only significance but even a
degree of sanctity to Remembrance Day (Young 1993). The collective commemoration
of those who died on behalf of their nation engages citizens
with the national past, highlighting the deeds of those who gave their lives
in its defence. This differentiates Remembrance Day from other types of
national days or daily symbols and national representations – such as the
flag – which fall into the category of “banal nationalism” (Billig 1995). Remembrance
Days are designed by state elites to promote national identity amongst
their citizens, providing the cognitive and emotional knowledge upon which
the legitimacy of the nation rests and thereby enabling citizens to identify
with fellow co-nationals in a shared experience. They thus serve an important
role in strengthening a sense of national identity (Smith 1981).
Like Remembrance Day, national rituals afford opportunities for the visual
and audible realization of symbolic attachment to the nation, prompting citizens
to remember, re-enact, and re-redefine the national past and enhancing
their emotional attachment to the nation-state. Through the choreographed
exhibition and collective performance of national symbols, those in attendance
are united in a transitory awareness of heightened national cohesion
and solidarity (Smith 1981; Fox and Miller-Idriss 2008). National days are commonly
assumed to wield a profound impact on the national identity of the
masses, increasing citizen identification with the nation and sometimes
strengthening the distinction between members of the nation and outgroups
(Woods and Tsang 2014).
Few studies have examined how national days are related to public sentiment.
One cross-sectional-survey study in Perth, Australia, looked at flagwaving
behaviours on Australia Day, national sentiment, and out-group attitudes
(Fozdar, Spittles, and Hartley 2015). Flag wavers ranked higher on
both the patriotism and nationalism scales, also holding more negative
views towards Muslims and asylum seekers. While the findings from Australia
display significant differences in all aspect of national identity and out-group
attitudes, in the Netherlands one study (Meuleman and Lubbers 2013) found
less clear constructs. This large cross-sectional-survey study investigated the
way in which nationalist attitudes and perceived ethnic threats are related
to national behaviours such as listening to domestic music, voting for farright
parties, and participation in national celebrations and commemorations.
While those who participated in national celebrations and commemorations
were more likely to be proud of their nation, they did not differ with
respect to their feelings of national superiority or perception of cultural/
ethnic threats. Another study in the Netherlands found that participation in
various types of national days – Remembrance Day, Liberation Day, and
Queen’s Day – correlated diversely with feelings of national belonging
(Coopmans, Lubbers, and Meuleman 2015). Participation in Queen’s Day was
related more strongly to national belonging than Remembrance Day and
Liberation Day – a finding explained by the higher visibility of Queen’s Day.
Overall, these three studies imply that exposure to national days appears to
be related to some aspects of national identity. Their cross-sectional design
precluded them from directly examining the influence exerted by exposure
to national days, however. As Coopmans and her colleagues observe:
…as the current results are based on cross-sectional data, we must be careful
with drawing conclusions that suggest causality. Experimental or longitudinal
data are therefore needed to be able to make more firm conclusions regarding
the direction of the relationship between national day participation and feelings
of national belonging. (2015, 12)
In light of this observation, the current study employed a longitudinal design.
While the impact of national days has been largely neglected to date,
several studies have adopted social-psychology experimental approaches in
order to analyse the casual effects of exposure to national symbols – principally
the flag (Butz 2009). One American study, in which the participants completed
a survey questionnaire in the presence or absence of the American flag,
indicated that the flag increased nationalism but not patriotism (Kemmelmeier
and Winter 2008). Exposure to the Austrian flag increased national pride
and, to a limited extent, nationalism (Gangl, Torgler, and Kirchler 2015). In
India, exposure to the flag increased national identification and a sense of solidarity
(Charnysh, Lucas, and Singh 2015). In contrast, a study in Germany
found that exposure to the German flag did not impact nationalism but did
increase out-group prejudice amongst highly nationalistic respondents
(Becker et al. 2015). Other studies also found that exposure to the flag in
Israel or the USA affected out-group attitudes (Butz, Plant, and Doerr 2007;
Hassin et al. 2007). While these studies evince that exposure to the national
flag indeed impacts some aspects of national identity, they ignored national
The studies of flag exposure and national holidays conducted to date have
generally overlooked the fundamental distinction between national identification
(sometimes labelled as patriotism) and nationalism (often labelled as
chauvinism). National identification pertains to the level of attachment one
feels with regard to one’s national community. Nationalism is defined as
the feeling that one’s nation is superior to others (Kosterman and Feshbach
1989; Blank and Schmidt 2003; Roccas, Klar, and Liviatan 2006). While
related, the findings indicate that these two dimensions shape attitudes
towards out-groups and other issues in divergent ways. Nationalism is inherently
related to out-group devaluation. While national identification is positively
related to one’s own national group, however, it does not necessarily
involve out-group devaluation (De Figueiredo and Elkins 2003; Raijman
et al. 2008). A longitudinal study in Germany (Wagner et al. 2012) that enabled
the establishment of causality demonstrates that nationalism may increase
out-group devaluation but that out-group devaluation does not increase
nationalism. National-identity negative effect on out-group devaluation was
only evident when nationalism was controlled. In light of these findings,
one may wonder what sort of effect Remembrance Day – a unique type of
national symbol – may exert on national identification and nationalism and
the correlation of these sentiments with attitudes towards out-groups and
towards the conflict in Israel.
National identity and Israeli remembrance day
As in other countries, national identity and collective memory has a profound
impact on attitudes towards out-groups and on the Israeli-Arab conflict in
Israel. Studies evince that nationalism is positively related to hostility
towards various types of out-groups (Canetti-Nisim and Pedahzur 2003;
Raijman et al. 2008; Raijman & Hochman, 2011). Remembering the Holocaust
was found to be associated with increased support for inter-group violence,
being mediated by higher levels of national identification and reducing
support for compromises designed to bring about peace (Canetti et al.
under review).
It is therefore no wonder that the Remembrance Day plays a key role in
moulding Israel national identity. Since its establishment, Israel’s day of commemoration
for those who have died on its behalf has formed a central
element of Israeli civic religion (Liebman and Don-Yih ya 1983). Known as
“Israel’s Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror Attacks”,
it takes place according to law between Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance
Day and Independence Day, in close proximity to the Passover feast
that establishes the fundamental, mythical pattern of Jewish history as a
recurring cycle of persecution and redemption. The Holocaust and Heroism
Remembrance Day observed a week earlier commemorates the worst catastrophe
ever to befall the Jewish people. Remembrance Day and Independence
Day mark the fact that a Jewish state willing to go to war to defend
itself is the only viable answer to the persecution of the Jewish people (Handelman
During Remembrance Day, places of entertainment and restaurants are
closed by law. On its eve, a one-minute siren sounds, a two-minute silence
during another siren being observed at 11:00 on the day itself, people stopping
whatever they are doing and standing in honour of the fallen. Memorial
ceremonies are held across the country at cemeteries, schools, and universities,
radio and TV broadcasting programmes all being dedicated to the
topic throughout the day (Ben-Amos 2003). As the results of the survey indicate,
exposure to Remembrance day-related rituals is widespread.
Remembrance Day is particularly poignant because of the on-going conflict
in which the country is embroiled, which sees new names added to the
list of casualties each year. Several months before this study was conducted,
for example, Israel was involved in intense conflictual violence in Gaza. Many
studies evincing that increased threat stimulates identification with the nation
and hostility towards out-groups (Huddy et al. 2003; Riek, Mania, and Gaertner
2006), it is reasonable to expect that as occasions on which national conflicts
are remembered Remembrance Days are likely to magnify awareness of
threats to the nation, thereby further heightening their effect. The country’s
involvement in protracted conflict shaping it in the socio-political sphere
(Bar-Tal 2013), exposure to Remembrance Day may be expected to exert a
profound influence upon respondents.
Over all, the expectations are that:
H1: Exposure to Remembrance Day will increase national identification and
H2: Exposure to Remembrance Day will heighten hostility towards out-groups
and attitudes towards the conflict.
H3: Exposure to Remembrance Day will magnify the link between nationalism,
hostility towards out-groups and attitudes towards the conflict.
RQ1: In light of the dissimilarity between the effects of nationalism and national
identification on out-group hostility (Wagner et al. 2012), I will also inspect how
exposure to Remembrance Day affects the link between national identification,
hostility towards out-groups, and attitudes toward the conflict.
A three-wave panel design in which the same participants answered identical
questions at three time points via an online questionnaire was employed. T1
was March 2015, five weeks prior to Remembrance Day. Eight hundred and
sixty-seven respondents completed the questionnaire, sixty-seven of whom
were excluded due to an instructional manipulation checks (IMC) failure
(Oppenheimer, Meyvis, and Davidenko 2009) indicating lack of sufficient
attention to the survey questions. T2 was Remembrance Day (22 April
2015). The 800 respondents from T1 were emailed at 11:10, immediately following
the siren. Day beginning at nightfall in Israel, Independence Day formally
begins at 20:00. Data were thus collected up until 19:00 in order to
ensure that T2 data related exclusively to Remembrance Day. T2 consisted
of 535 participants, ten of whom were excluded due to IMC failure.
While T2 was during the Remembrance Day itself the design also allowed
for the possibility of longer impact. The third wave was thus implemented
eight weeks later. Although this interval is rather short, it adopted in order to
isolate the impact of Remembrance Day exposure from other possible events
– for example, conflict-related events common in the Israeli setting – that
might influence the respondents’ national sentiments, attitudes towards
asylum seekers, and opinion of the conflict. During the eight-week interval
(22 April 2015 to 23–25 June 2015) no noteworthy conflict event occurred
that might have impacted the respondents.
T3 consisted of 525 respondents who were invited to participate in the
survey again. Ten respondents dropped out. Ninety-two respondents who
failed the IMC test were not included in the analysis. Five respondents who
indicated no exposure to Remembrance Day practices were also excluded.
The total sample of the three waves I analysed thus consisted of 418 respondents.
The overall panel attrition from T1 to T3 was 52 per cent. The dropout
was unrelated to gender, education, or religiosity.4
Data collection and participants
Studies of national-symbols effects have adopted social-psychology experimental
approaches (Butz 2009) that involve sampling students in labs. The
current study seeking to examine non-lab conditions and a more diverse
sample, the participants were recruited via an online panel, completing an
online questionnaire in exchange for a sum approximating $2. Online
panels conduct web-based surveys amongst respondents who form the
pooled sample. While the sample was heterogeneous (47.5 per cent
women; mean age 43; 15 per cent born outside Israel; 59 per cent secular;
30 per cent high-school education or less; 44 per cent under-average family
income; 21 per cent political left-wing identification), it is not a probability
sample; nor should it be regarded as a representative sample of Jews in Israel.
These limitations notwithstanding, online panels possess two advantages.
Firstly, the evidence indicates that despite demographic differences online
panel and population-based survey experiments yield similar findings (Weinberg,
Freese, and McElhattan 2014; Revilla et al. 2015).5 Likewise, attention
levels and socially desirable response differ only minimally in lab and online
settings (Clifford and Jerit 2014). Secondly, and more importantly, the
online survey allowed collection of data on Remembrance Day itself across
a broad set of participants, respondents being able to use their mobile
phones to answer the questionnaire.6
Exposure to remembrance day
To examine exposure to Remembrance Day, several questions were posed at
T2, pertaining exclusively to behavioural acts related to Remembrance Day in
order to capture participation in its practices. Overall, 79 per cent reported
watching Remembrance Day-related TV programmes, 81 per cent exposure to
such content on the internet, and 88 per cent discussion of Remembrance Day
with family or friends. More than half of the respondents (51 per cent) participated
in Remembrance Day ceremonies, nearly all (97 per cent) affirming that
they stood during the sirens. These results clearly demonstrate the extraordinary
level of exposure to Remembrance Day practices amongst Israeli Jews.
While they might be biased by socially desirable responding, their accuracy
is suggested by the fact that more than a million and half people – one out
of every five Israeli Jews – visited an army cemetery before or on Remembrance
National identification was measured by four items (adopted from Roccas, Klar,
and Liviatan 2006): “I identify with Israel”; “Israel is an important part of my
identity”; “Israeli identity is more important to me than other types of identity”;
and “It is not important for me to see myself as Israeli” (reserved item).8
Nationalism was also measured by four items (adopted from Roccas, Klar,
and Liviatan 2006; Davidov 2009): “The world would be a better place if
people from other countries were more like Israelis”; “Generally speaking,
Israel is a better country than most other countries”; “In comparison with
other nations, Israel is very moral nation”; and “Other countries can learn a
lot from Israel.”
In line with previous studies, national identification and nationalism were
strongly positively correlated (T1 r = .46; T2 r = .49; T3 r = .52). The scales
were found to be distinct in an EFA analysis, however, and possessed of sufficient
internal reliability (T1 α = .80; T2 α = .85; T3 α = .82. Nationalism: T1 α
= .86; T2 α = .88; T3 α = .89). To further validate the measures, the divergent
validity between nationalism and national identification was examined by
comparing models in which the eight items were loaded on one or two
factors. Model comparison at T1 ΔAIC was 400. At T2, ΔAIC was 446. At T3,
the ΔAIC was 356. At the three time points, the one-factor model was far
from any acceptable-model fit (CFI < .8; RMSEA > .2). CFA across the three
time points (Little 2013) was also used to examine for measurement invariance
over time. Model fits (ΔCFI < .003; ΔRMSEA < .005) are in line with
Chen’s (2007) criteria for mean comparisons.9
Hostility towards out-groups was measured by the endorsement of the exclusion
of asylum seekers scale via four items: “Israel should deport asylum
seekers”; “Asylum seekers must be held in camps while their requests are
being processed”; “Israel should not consider asylum seekers’ requests for
asylum”; and “Israel should be generous towards asylum seekers” (reserved
item). This scale measures public sentiment towards the asylum seekers
who have arrived in Israel in recent years, commonly defined in the official
discourse as “infiltrators” seeking jobs in Israel – a representation that promotes
exclusionist attitudes (Duman 2015; Hochman 2015). The scale’s
internal reliability was sufficient (T1 α = .86; T2 α = .88; T3 α = .87).
Basic attitudes towards the conflict (labelled conflictual attitudes) were
measured via four items partially adopted from Halperin et al. (2011): “I
support territorial compromises with the Palestinians based on the 1967
borders” (reserved item); “I support the partition of Jerusalem for peace”
(reserved item); “Israel has no choice but to attack Iranian nuclear sites”;
and “There will never be peace with the Arabs.” The scale’s internal reliability
was sufficient (T1 α = .82; T2 α = .81; T3 α = .83). A strong positive correlation
existed between conflictual attitudes and endorsement of the exclusion of
asylum seekers (T1 r = .52; T2 r = .54; T3 r = .50).10
Controls for education, gender, and religiosity were included in the
regression models. Remembrance Day being a personal as well as collective
experience, the regression models also controlled for potential personal
effect, respondents being asked if they had relatives or friends amongst the
To test the first hypothesis – that Remembrance Day exposure increases
national sentiments – I examined the means across the three time points
(see Table 1). While national-identification levels rose slightly (Δ = .041)
between T1 and T2, the change in national-identification was insignificant
(F[1.92, 802] = .824, p = .43). Nationalism levels, in contrast, altered significantly
(F[2, 834] = 15.37, p < 000), rising (Δ = .117) on Remembrance Day
itself and between T2 and T3 (Δ = .099). Overall, between T1 and T3 they
increased by approximately 3 per cent. These results provide partial
support for H1. While exposure to Remembrance Day heightened a sense
of nationalism – the same effect also existing later – national identification
remained unchanged, despite its strong positive correlation with
Table 1. National sentiments and hostile attitudes towards out-groups means across
T1 T2 T3
National sentiments
National identification 5.87 (1.18) 5.91 (1.16) 5.86 (1.13)
Nationalism 5.02 (1.28) 5.14 (1.24) 5.24 (1.27)
Hostile attitudes towards out-groups
Endorsing asylum seekers exclusion 4.14 (1.68) 4.07 (1.75) 4.11 (1.67)
Conflictual attitudes 4.57 (1.69) 4.59 (1.65) 4.63 (1.67)
Notes: N = 418. Unstandardized coefficients and SE (in parentheses). T1 five weeks before the Remembrance
Day, T2 the Remembrance Day itself, T3 eight weeks after the Remembrance Day.
The second hypothesis – that Remembrance Day would affect hostile attitudes
towards out-groups – was tested in a similar fashion. No significant
differences obtained across the three time points for exclusionary attitudes
towards asylum seekers (F[1.20, 504] = 1.78, p = .18). Similarly, no significant
differences across time obtained for conflictual attitudes (F[1.93, 807] = 1.35,
p = .25). Overall, H2 was thus refuted, exposure to Remembrance Day not
changing hostility towards out-groups.
The second part of the analysis examined the third hypothesis – that
exposure to Remembrance Day would magnify the link between nationalism,
hostility towards out-groups and attitudes towards the conflict. In addition, it
examines the impact on national identification magnitude in line with RQ1.
Here, I conducted ordinary least squares (OLS) regressions models for the
three time points to discover whether national identification and nationalism
predicted hostility towards asylum seekers and conflictual attitudes. Table 2
presents the results of the models for the exclusion of asylum seekers. Nationalism
is strongly related to exclusionary attitudes towards asylum seekers
across the three time points. No meaningful change occurred in the magnitude
of these relations across time. With respect to national identification,
however, a clear shift occurred in the magnitude of the relations. While the
relation between national identification and exclusionary attitudes towards
asylum seekers was not significant at T1 or T3, a negative relation obtained
at T2. In other words, on Remembrance Day itself, higher levels of national
identification were negatively related to exclusionary attitudes. This negative
relation dissipated after eight weeks, however.
Table 3 presents the similar results for conflictual attitudes towards the
conflict. While no meaningful change in the close relation between nationalism
and these attitudes across the three time points occurred, an insignificant
relation did obtain between national identification and conflictual attitudes at
T1. These relations became negative in T2. In contrast to attitudes towards
asylum seekers, however, this remained negative at a similar magnitude at
T3. Another analysis controlling for personal exposure to Remembrance Day
Table 2. Predicting endorsing asylum seekers exclusion across time.
T1 T2 T3
Gender (female) −0.20 (0.15) −0.31 (0.15)* −0.33 (0.15)*
Education −0.07 (0.03)* −0.06 (0.03) −0.07 (0.03)*
Religiosity 0.49 (0.16)** 0.62 (0.17)** 0.50 (0.16)**
National identification −0.04 (0.07) −0.15 (0.08)* −0.08 (0.08)
Nationalism 0.43 (0.07)*** 0.47 (0.08)*** 0.41 (0.07)***
R2 .16 .17 .15
Notes: N = 418. Unstandardized coefficients and SE (in parentheses). T1 five weeks before the Remembrance
Day, T2 the Remembrance Day itself, T3 eight weeks after the Remembrance Day.
*p < .05.
**p < .01.
***p < .001.
did not alter the results. Overall, H3 was thus refuted, the relation between
nationalism, hostility towards out-groups and conflictual attitudes not increasing.
Under the impact of Remembrance Day, national identification in fact
became negatively related to hostility towards out-groups.
In his classic 1882 essay “What is a Nation,” Ernest Renan identified two
elements that constitute the nation as “a soul, a spiritual principle. One lies
in the past, one in the present. One is the possession in common of a rich
legacy of memories; the other is present-day consent, the desire to live
together…” (Renan [1882] 1990, 19). Remembrance Day, which forms part
of the “nationhood’s performance” repertoire of national days, constitutes a
unique meeting point between past and present, between the nation as symbolic
entity and the individual. Its uniqueness and importance has led scholars
to emphasize its impact upon national sentiment amongst individuals and
thus upon the construction of the nation as a shared subjective meaning
amongst its citizens. As, Gabriella Elgenius argues in her comprehensive
account of national days, however, “It is difficult to appropriately assess individual
sentiments associated with national days…in the absence of adequate
or comparative qualitative or quantitative data” (2011, 25).
The impact of national days on national sentiments having rarely been subjected
to empirical examination, this study sought to examine the affect of
Remembrance Day in Israel on Jewish national sentiments and hostility
towards out-groups. The expectations were that exposure to Remembrance
Day would increase national sentiment and hostility towards out-groups
and strengthen the link between nationalism and such hostility. Via a threewave
panel survey of Israeli Jews, I analysed the respondents’ levels of
national sentiment and hostility towards out-groups five weeks prior to
Remembrance Day, on Remembrance Day itself, and eight weeks later. The
proximity between Remembrance and Independence Day makes it difficult
Table 3. Predicting conflictual attitudes towards the Israeli Arab conflict across time.
T1 T2 T3
Gender (female) 0.34 (0.13)* 0.20 (0.13) 0.09 (0.13)
Education −0.08 (0.03)** −0.05 (0.03) −0.09 (0.03)**
Religiosity 1.05 (0.15)*** 0.97 (0.15)*** 0.97 (0.15)***
National identification −0.09 (0.07) −0.19 (0.07)** −0.19 (0.07)**
Nationalism 0.48 (0.06)*** 0.52 (0.07)*** 0.53 (0.07)***
R2 .31 .29 .30
Notes: N = 418. Unstandardized coefficients and SE (in parentheses). T1 five weeks before the Remembrance
Day, T2 the Remembrance Day itself, T3 eight weeks after the Remembrance Day.
*p < .05.
**p < .01.
***p < .001.
to isolate the effect of Remembrance Day from that of the broader “national
period”. While this study focused on Remembrance Day, collecting data solely
on this day, no clear distinction between its effect and the overall effect of
Holocaust and Independence Days, which create a unique period within the
national calendar, could thus be adduced. The study findings can therefore
only point to the impact of Remembrance Day as part of the overall influence
of this “national time”.
Before discussing the results vis-à-vis the expectations, the levels of
exposure to Remembrance Day must be noted. The results demonstrate
that nearly all Israeli Jews participated in Remembrance Day-related behaviours.
In fact, only five people from the sample claimed that they did not
perform any behavioural act such as standing in silence during the siren.
The majority of the respondents participated in more than one Remembrance
Day-related ritual. These findings indicate a far greater magnitude of personal
involvement in the national construction of Remembrance Day than that
found in Australia (Fozdar, Spittles, and Hartley 2015) or the Netherlands
(Coopmans, Lubbers, and Meuleman 2015). While these findings are not surprising
in light of the role Remembrance Day plays in Israeli civil religion
(Liebman and Don-Yih ya 1983), they highlight the need for a comparative
examination of the impact of national days in order to account for crossnational
Despite the extensive Israeli Jewish exposure to Remembrance Day, the
influence of the latter appears to be more limited than expected. Exposure
to Remembrance Day increased a sense of nationalism, an effect also found
eight weeks later. Despite its strong positive correlation with nationalism,
however, national identification remained unchanged during this period. Hostility
towards out-groups – in the form of supporting the exclusion of asylum
seekers and conflictual attitudes towards the conflict – also remained
unchanged. The magnitude of the positive link between nationalism and hostility
towards out-groups also did not change across time. While national
identification was unrelated to hostility towards out-groups prior to Remembrance
Day, it became negatively related to these attitudes on Remembrance
Day itself, however. This negative relation continued after Remembrance Day
with respect to conflictual attitudes towards the conflict but not in relation to
exclusionary attitudes towards asylum seekers. In other words, exposure to
Remembrance Day changed the function of national-identification relevance
in shaping hostility towards out-groups. No difference existed between
respondents with a personal connection to Remembrance Day (in the form
of family/acquaintance casualties) and other responders. The impact of
Remembrance Day therefore appears to be more collective than personal.
These results shed new light on the prevalent assumption regarding the
impact of national days, opening up new avenues for fruitful research questions.
Firstly, they provide clear evidence that exposure to “national time”
alters national sentiments with respect to nationalism, the average levels of
the latter increasing significantly and holding for eight weeks. In light of the
longstanding scholarly debate over whether nations are constructed by
elites or represent embedded public sentiments (Woods and Tsang 2014),
the findings also indicate that a top-down process of dedicating specific
moments in time to national rituals impacts the masses. Such “meeting
points” between national subjects and the imagined collective nation coordinated
by the state thus appear to be significant. This result being based on
exposure to Remembrance Day and a short period afterwards, the question
of long-term effects remains open. Future studies into long-term impact
must therefore be conducted.
Remembrance Day in Israel forming part of a “national time” that includes
Holocaust Remembrance Day and Independence Day, other studies in other
national settings must also be conducted in order to isolate the effect of
Remembrance Day from “national time”. As Coopmans, Lubbers, and Meuleman
(2015) pointed out in their Netherlands study, the impact of other
national days must be examined. The fact that exposure to “national time”
in Israel impacts nationalism but not national identification may reflect the
“hot” nature of Israeli national identity – represented by the high levels of
national identification and nationalism. Although this further highlights the
need for comparative studies, the stability of nationalism in shaping prejudice
was also found in Germany (Wagner et al. 2012). Although the longitudinal
design of this study was based on the assumption that self-reported behaviours
indicate exposure to Remembrance Day practices, I did not examine
the meaning people attribute to Remembrance Day. Future studies employing
tools such as in-depth interviews are required to explore such perceptions
beyond the limitations imposed by survey research.
Secondly, the results suggest that the impact of exposure to the Remembrance
Day is complex. I expected that exposure to Remembrance Day
would increase national identification, hostility towards out-groups and conflictual
attitudes rather than nationalism alone, especially in the light of Israel’s
“hot” form of nationalism. In line with Fox’s (2006) observations regarding the
varied meanings attributed to national holidays in Eastern Europe, additional
studies examining this factor are required.
Another explanation may lie in the divergence between nationalism and
national identification. Previous studies have found that national identification
and nationalism are related diversely to attitudes towards out-groups
(De Figueiredo and Elkins 2003; Roccas, Klar, and Liviatan 2006; Kemmelmeier
and Winter 2008; Wagner et al. 2012). While nationalism is associated with
negative attitudes towards out-groups, national identification is not always
related to this perspective, in some contexts being related negatively to xenophobic
attitudes. In the context of Remembrance Day, some reaction to the
symbolic meaning of this period that impacts national identification relations
with out-group hostility may thus exist. Recollection of all the sacrifices made
for the country in conflicts may trigger a longing for a nation and national
identity that stands for peace rather than increasing hostility. The psychological
concept of inclusive and exclusive victim consciousness (Vollhardt and
Bilali 2015) may be helpful in developing such explanation. Remembrance
Day being an event that makes group victimhood salient, it is plausible to
impact inclusive and exclusive victim consciousness. This possibility must
be tested empirically by future studies.
The findings also indicate that the pattern changes according to the issue
discussed. The link between national identification and support for the exclusion
of asylum seekers became insignificant after “national time”, the negative
link with conflictual attitudes towards the conflict remaining. While exposure
to Remembrance Day clearly impacted national identification, the precise
nature of this impact requires further research employing various methods
to examine the ways in which citizens understand Remembrance Day. The
uniqueness of the Israeli setting similarly requires the adoption of a comparative
design to explore the variations in the influence Remembrance Day
exerts. Future studies might also follow insights from recent studies demonstrating
that national rituals do not simply function as mechanisms reproducing
the nation-state structure but also challenge the hegemonic
representation of the state and national memory (Lomsky-Feder 2011; Zembylas
In conclusion, the findings evince support for the premise behind the
American National Moment of Remembrance Act (2000) and other state
mechanisms designed to shape national sentiment. The impact of the specific
moment at which the individual and nation are supposed to meet is more
complicated than previously assumed, however. In light of the seminal role
national sentiment plays in shaping attitudes and behaviours, future studies
must examine such meeting points in depth.
1. 106th Congress Public Law 579, 28 December 2000.
2. Other types of studies have focused primarily on national rituals themselves
(e.g., Lomsky-Feder 2011; Zembylas 2013).
3. A recent study in the US looking at 9/11 commemoration found that standard
commemorations promote hawkish attitudes towards Iran (Adams and Hakim
4. Of the 800 respondents at T1, the missing values were lower than 0.005 per cent.
At T2, after excluding respondents due to an IMC failure, the missing data
were 0.002 per cent. At T3, there was no missing data after excluding respondents
due to an IMC failure. This proportion of missing data falls far below the
recommended full information maximum likelihood threshold (Schafer and
Graham 2002) and Multiple Imputation (Enders 2010). Missing value treatment
was therefore not used.
5. Such validation studies have not been conducted in Israel, concern for the data
quality remaining an open question.
6. The participants were recruited by the Midgam Project, a leading online survey
research firm with a pool of over 30,000 potential respondents. They were
informed that participation was anonymous, given contact details in case of
queries, and filled out a consent form.
7. Y. Offer, Remembrance Day 2015. NRG news website:
8. All items were measured on a 7-point Likert-type scale (7 = strongly agree, 1 =
strongly disagree). The item order for all the scales was randomized.
9. The factor loadings were rather similar, justifying use of plain means for the
10. The four measures were found to be extremely stable, the correlations between
the three time points being higher than .7. Measurement invariance across time
was also acceptable for mean comparisons using maximum likelihood
11. Twenty-six per cent of the respondents reported that an extended-family
member had been a war/terror casualty, 52 per cent an acquaintance.
I would like to thank the participants of the 4th Annual Conference on Migration and
Diversity, WZB, Berlin for their comments.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.
This research was supported by the German–Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research
and Development [grant number I-2312-1036.4/2012].
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