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A critical examination of Zionism and its internal resistance by Israeli Jews, this book employs a unique perspective on Israel/Palestine by eschewing presenting identities as concrete and, rather, examining their creation through discourse.





Frequently we see debates about Zionism, the Jewish state and the Palestinian question. A brief look at such debates draws our attention to the dilemma at the heart of this work. In each of the two tales below, the interesting figure emerges of the Israeli Jew, self-identified as Zionist, concerned with the plight of his Palestinian Other.

Katie Attwell



1. Ressentiment and the State

Since the dissidents’ political context needs careful elucidation, this is the first of three chapters developing the problematic situation depicted in the Introduction. In this chapter, my focus is theoretical, and I begin by identifying my approach to nationalism, which Calhoun (1997) suggests can be understood as discourse, project and evaluation or ‘ethical imperative’. I primarily engage with nationalism as discourse:

the production of a cultural understanding and rhetoric which leads people throughout the world to think and frame their aspirations in terms of the idea of nation and national identity, and the production of particular versions of national thought and language in particular settings and traditions. (p. 6)

Katie Attwell

2. Ressentiment Zionism

In this chapter, I explain Zionism, the nationalism underpinning the state of Israel, as a ressentiment ethnic nationalist discourse. After a brief overview of Zionism and my strategy to evade its hegemonic portrayal of history, I explore the development of the Zionist discourse, outlining how it formed a ressentiment pair with ‘Palestinian’ nationalism up to the creation of Israel in 1948. This chapter does not substantiate Israel’s status as an ethnocratiser state, which is the task of the next chapter. This chapter instead demonstrates how Zionism’s inception and early development fits with the previous chapter’s account of ressentiment ethnic nationalism. It also considers the how ‘virtue’ built into the Zionist ‘national character’ informs the dissidents’ place within a problematic tradition of internal dissent.

Katie Attwell

3. The Dissidents’ Context

This chapter concludes my explication of the ‘problematic situation’ facing the dissidents, outlining the development of the ressentiment Zionist discourse from the establishment of Israel in 1948 to the present day. My core argument is that the dominant nationalist discourse inculcates Israeli Jews into a ressentiment schema wherein they belong to a virtuous Us under threat from an Evil Other. This schema simultaneously explains the structures of the ethnocratiser state, which make the threat from the Other real, since discriminatory practices exacerbate ressentiment. Accordingly, Israeli Jews generally view the state as their protector to defend at all costs, and not as a contributing factor to ongoing conflict.

Katie Attwell



4. Meet the Dissidents

Israeli laws and policies privilege Jews and render their hegemony as natural; accordingly, the dominant nationalist discourse interprets Others’ resistance as irrational. Israeli Jews seeking to interpret their Other differently must therefore negotiate the dominant discourse to reconceptualise this relationship; we are about to meet 11 individuals who attempt to do this. All are Israeli Jews, either by birth or by immigration, though not all of them still live in Israel or identify as Israeli. All take the view that Israel is somehow oppressive or unjust to ‘Palestinians’ or ‘Arabs’. The variations in their responses to their dilemma demonstrate that there is no single path for dissent. Instead, individuals have a range of options available to them and the remainder of this book examines what these options look like and what their implications are. By looking deeply at a small number of individuals, I am able to interrogate, in some detail, the inconsistencies within their narratives, which are emblematic of their contradictory context.

Katie Attwell

5. Themes of Dissident Dissonance: Historicisation and Identification

The next two chapters examine discontinuity within the dissidents’ narratives, explaining how we might perceive the dissidents as constrained by the state, ressentiment Zionism and the hostile relations these have generated with the Other. As the dissidents are well-intentioned individuals in a difficult situation, I emphasise that dissonance is a manifestation of their dilemma rather than a personal failing. We can observe dissonance across multiple narratives, so I organise the dissidents’ responses into themed sections, which run through both chapters. Each section begins with a brief elaboration, then employs illustrative examples, and not every dissident is included in each section. This chapter specifically focuses on the dissidents’ identification and engagement with historical narratives.

Katie Attwell

6. Themes of Dissident Dissonance: Zionism and the Self

This chapter engages more closely with the individual subjectivity of the dissidents. It begins by considering how the collective fear generated through ressentiment might inform self-preservation and self-interest. It then explores moments in which dissidents have acted against the values they now hold. The final section analyses the most radical dissidents, asking what their experiences can tell us about the price to pay for ‘extreme’ dissent, and the consequences of its marginality.

Katie Attwell

7. Dissident Discourses

This chapter explores the dissidents’ strategies for reconciling their personal identification with concern for the Other. Varying degrees of embeddedness into their society and its hegemonic identification lead the dissidents to either retreat from concern for the Other or shift into different ways of talking. This gives rise to contradictions, omissions and side steps, which I conceptualise as discontinuities. I suggest that the dissidents make use of six available national identification discourses: hegemonic ressentiment Zionism and five alternatives, which attempt to subvert it. However, the alternative discourses have developed in the context of the ethnocratiser state and the hegemonic ressentiment discourse. Due to this, and because of some contingencies of the Israeli case, the alternative discourses are unable to simultaneously satisfy identification, overcome ressentiment , and work towards inclusion and equality. This places dissidents in a potentially unresolvable bind.

Katie Attwell

8. Conclusion

This book has explained and analysed a dilemma faced by Israeli Jews concerned with their Palestinian Other. I have theorised the context enmeshing these individuals as an ethnocratiser state with a hegemonic ressentiment discourse. Ethnocratisation and ressentiment are more than concepts with which we can make sense of the dissidents’ dilemma; they actually constitute the material reality that the dissidents seek to transform.

Katie Attwell


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