The Establishment of Israeli Identity through Racist Discourse

By Nurit Elhanan-Peled.

Published by The Diversity Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Israel is an ‘ethnic Democracy’ where one ethnic group dominates other ethnic
groups while denying or ignoring their social and cultural identities and rights. The Jewish Israeli identity is an artificial one. Since features such as common territory, common language and common culture were not available to the modern Jewish nation which is composed of many cultures and languages, they had to be manufactured through education, for the purpose of building a collective homogenous identity for all its members. This identity has been founded on the idea that Israelis are both the successors of biblical Hebrews and have a Western culture. Israeli school discourse ignores and denies any other culture, both Jewish and Arab. This tendency results in the ignorance of teachers regarding the culture and ‘lifeworld’ of both their students and their neighbours. The paper shows the ways in which ‘others’ (such as Palestinians, Ethiopian Jews or ex-Soviet Union Jews), are represented both in schoolbooks and in teachers’ talk. The paper will argue that Israeli education promotes ‘Elite Racism’ both towards the Palestinian citizens and subjects and
towards Jewish new-comers.

Keywords: Racism, Classroom Discourse, Semiotics, Multimodal Analysis, Schoolbooks

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp.111-126. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.083MB).

Prof. Nurit Elhanan-Peled

Lecturer, Education, Hebrew Language, Tel Aviv University and David Yellin Teachers College, Jerusalem, Israel

I was born in Israel. For my BA I studied at UCLA and at the Sorbonne. I Completed my Master’s degree in Comparative Literature and my PHD at the Hebrew University. My thesis is: The Development of Children’s oral and Written Text Production, ages 8-14. I teach Language Education and my special interests are Multiliteracies, Social Semiotics,and multicultural school discourse. My current study focuses on the semiotics of ideologies in Israeli schoolbooks of History and Geography, and was partly sponsored by the Leverhulme Foundation at The Institute of Education in London. So far I have studied the racist visual and verbal discourse used in these schoolbooks for the presentation of Palestinians. As an Israeli I feel I must specify my political position: I am a member of the Palestinian-Israeli forum of bereaved parents for peace and was a co-laureate of the 2001 Sakharov Prize for Human Rights and the Freedom of Thought, awarded by the European Parliament.


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