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The Challenge of Ethnic Democracy: The State and Minority Groups in Israel, Poland and Northern Ireland

In the midst of political discussions over Israel’s controversial Jewish Nation-state Law adopted in July, re-examining Israel’s alleged ethnic democracy becomes more pivotal. In the late 1980s, the Israeli sociologist Sammy Smooha conceptualized the concept of ethnic democracy, and considered Israel as an archetype. Yoav Peled, author of The Challenge of Ethnic Democracy, was one of the Israeli scholars to accept identifying Israel as an ethnic democracy, albeit with reservations regarding the stability of this political system.

 

 

In the midst of political discussions over Israel’s controversial Jewish Nation-state Law adopted in July, re-examining Israel’s alleged ethnic democracy becomes more pivotal. In the late 1980s, the Israeli sociologist Sammy Smooha conceptualized the concept of ethnic democracy, and considered Israel as an archetype. Yoav Peled, author of The Challenge of Ethnic Democracy, was one of the Israeli scholars to accept identifying Israel as an ethnic democracy, albeit with reservations regarding the stability of this political system. Peled argues that in states built upon ethno-nationalism, ethnic democracy could be a mediating formula between ethnocracy, that denies individual rights for minorities, and liberal democracy that guarantees equality for all citizens. In ethnic democracy, the state combines majoritarian electoral procedures and individual citizenship rights with the institutionalized dominance of a majority ethnic group over the society and the state. Although this model has received much criticism regarding the quality of the democratic sphere it offers, this book warns that Israel’s ethnic democracy is barely sustainable in the wake of several economic and political changes since 2000.

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