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Israel's Jewish Identity Crisis: State and Politics in the Middle East

WEBINAR RECORDING

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On October 14, Yaacov Yadgar, the Stanley Lewis Professor of Israel Studies at the University of Oxford, discussed his new book, Israel's Jewish Identity Crisis: State and Politics in the Middle East. Professor Yadgar's book is a provocative, compelling and timely study that tackles head-on the main assumptions of the foundation of Israel as a Jewish state.

About the Talk

In this talk, author and Israel Studies scholar Yaacov Yadgar discussed his new book, Israel’s Jewish Identity Crisis: State and Politics in the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Followed by an audience question and answer session, moderated by Professor Dov Waxman, director of the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Originally recorded October 14, 2020.

Event organized by the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Co-sponsored by the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, the Center for the Study of Religion, and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.


About the Book

Israel’s Jewish Identity Crisis: State and Politics in the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2020) provides a novel analysis of the interplay between Israeli nationalism and Jewish tradition, arriving at a fresh understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through its focus on internal questions about Israeli identity.

In the book, author Yaacov Yadgar writes, "A central argument of this book is that Zionism's and Israel's failure (or lack of interest thereof) to formulate a viable national identity that is independent of what the self-proclaimed secularist Zionist ideology itself has viewed (largely negatively) as Jewish religion renders the state's definition of Jewish politics a matter of 'biological,' quasi-racial exclusionary logic." The author adds, "Compounded by Zionism's notion of an inherent antinomy between Jewishness and Arabness, this nationalist-racial logic marks Israel's minority of non-Jewish Palestinian-Arab citizens a threat to the very existence of the state in its current self-understanding, and (among other things) renders both Palestinian-Israeli and Jewish-Arab identities precarious anomalies."


About the Speaker

Yaacov Yadgar is the Stanley Lewis Professor of Israel Studies at the University of Oxford and a Fellow at St Anne’s College. He is the author of Israel’s Jewish Identity Crisis: State and Politics in the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2020). He has written extensively on Jewish identity, nationalism, secularism, modernity, and tradition in Israel. 

Professor Yadgar assumed the post at Oxford in 2017. Earlier, he taught at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and the University of California, Berkeley, and served as a visiting professor in the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University. Yadgar also was a visiting scholar in the Department of Sociology at Columbia University. Yadgar's previous books include Sovereign Jews: Israel, Zionism, and Judaism (SUNY Press, 2017) and Secularism and Religion in Jewish-Israeli Politics: Traditionists and Modernity (Routledge, 2011). He also has served as editor of the book series Israel: Society Culture and History, published by Academic Studies Press. Since 2010, he also has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies. A native of Israel, he earned his Ph.D. in Political Studies from Bar-Ilan University.