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  Issue 8, Fall 2023

Is Hamas Evil? Reflections In the Wake of the 10/7 Carnage

Uriel Abulof

The October 7th massacre and the ensuing war show how easily evil can pierce civilization's thin veneer of comity. How should we define, identify, and defeat evil? In this article, I argue that to be evil means consciously and constantly treating people like things to be (ab)used. Like pure righteousness, pure evil— the uppercase “Evil”—is a metaphysical construct. Actual human beings are not Evil, and thus, unlike mortal people, Evil can never be killed or defeated. But lowercase “evil” can be. Defeating evil is practically and morally daunting. We should be willing to give up on humans who have given up on the good in their own humanity, while not relinquishing our own. Hamas's ideology and practice of genocide through politicide is evil, and defeating it will require both a vision of the good and, like it or not, the lesser evil.   Read more...

  Issue 7, Spring/Summer 2023

An Activist Court? Reassessing the Decline In Trust In the Israeli Supreme Court

Avital Sicron

Public trust in the Israeli Supreme Court has been declining in recent decades. The most common explanation for this is that the court became more involved in political affairs, thus destroying its public image as an objective and apolitical institution. I posit that this reason alone cannot explain the decline in public support for the court. I explain this first by demonstrating how the “political involvement” theory does not account for the timing in which public trust in the court dropped considerably, and how public trust has not increased in response to the Supreme Court's recent hesitancy to contest the decisions of Israel's other branches of government. Second, I argue that other social actors—such as commercial television channels and ultra-orthodox leaders—have been involved in the process of actively changing the way that the Israeli public perceives the Supreme Court. I claim that the impact of these social actors must be examined to truly understand the reasons for the declining trust in the Supreme Court.   Read more...

  Issue 6, Fall 2022

Populism in Power: Is the Leader Bound by the People? “Illegal Infiltrators” and Netanyahu's Rule

Gayil Talshir

Populist leaders emphasize the bond between the leader and his people: but is the leader bound by the people? The paper deciphers the phenomenon of "populism in power" through the case study of Netanyahu's policy change regarding illegal immigrants from Africa to Israel. "Populism in power" pertains to leaders who took their once-upon-a-time moderate rightwing ruling parties to the nationalist-populist end: Trump, Netanyahu, Orbán and others. Netanyahu, often portrayed as "the magician," sought to maintain a distinction between virtual incitement against "others" (Arabs, immigrants, and refugees as well as "the elites") during election campaigns and responsible leadership when in power. What brought him to abolish his own policy outline—devised with the UN to transfer half of the illegal immigrants to other democratic countries in return for provisional work permits for the other half—leading to all of the immigrants remaining in Israel without a legal status? This case demonstrates that once a leader unleashes the populist genie, bottling it again is not an option. When in power, populism is not merely game of rhetoric—the public will not allow the leader back down from his populist policies. This paper critically examines who constitutes "the people," what Netanyahu's leadership style is, and how "direct representation" works for populist leaders in power.   Read more...

  Issue 5, Spring 2022

Between Egypt and Israel: Egyptian Jews, the Yishuv, and Israeli Society

Alon Tam

This article traces the history of Egyptian Jewish involvement with the Zionist Yishuv in pre-1948 Palestine, and the subsequent immigration of Egyptian Jews to Israel and integration into its society. It argues that the ties between the Jewish community in Egypt and the Yishuv were built upon the long history of ties between the former and the Jewish community in Palestine, both before and beyond the mere question of Zionism. The article also shows how the Egyptian Jewish experience settling in Israel complicates common understandings of the Mizrahi experience – which collapse different Jewish communities from the Middle East and North Africa into a single category – with a single historical experience. Finally, this article destabilizes the commonly accepted view of 1948 as a clear breaking point in the history of Israel in the Middle East, or in the history of the region's Jewish communities.   Read more...

  Issue 4, Fall 2021

Is the Relationship Between the Bedouin and Fellahin Dichotomous? An Anthropological Case Study

Tomer Mazarib

This article discusses interrelations between Bedouin and Fellahin (Arabic for “peasants”) living in the village of Yafa (also known as Yafa of Nazareth), in the western Galilee region in Israel. This article documents the daily lives of Bedouin and Fellahin living together from an anthropological perspective, focusing on how shared communal life both conserves and creates social and cultural differences between the two groups. Ostensibly, the distinctions between the two populations are blurred in almost every aspect of life; however, there is also conflict, feeding into the existence of a dichotomy between the two. The current research, which seeks to develop a scholarly understanding of the relationship between the two groups, is based on ethnographic fieldwork in the form of in-depth interviews, participatory observations, anthropological literature, and a review of archival information of Yafa local council.    Read more...

  Issue 3, Spring 2021

What Do Americans Think of Israel? Long-Term Trends and Socio-Demographic Shifts

Eytan Gilboa

This study focuses on American attitudes toward several key bilateral dimensions of U.S. relations with Israel. It presents and analyses long-term trends based on numerous national public opinion polls conducted in the United States (U.S.) from 2000 to 2020. The first part explores overall views of Israel, perceptions of Israel as a U.S. ally and levels of American support for Israel. The second part presents data analysis of general views of Israel among several groups including Republicans and Democrats, American Jews, Christian Evangelicals, Hispanics, and African Americans. The final section explores views registered in 2020 by gender, race, age, education, party, and ideology. Since 2000, between two-thirds and three-quarters of Americans have held highly stable favorable views of Israel. They have considered Israel a close U.S. ally and thought U.S. support for Israel has been “adequate” or even “too little.” Socio-demographics, however, expose gaps among parties and groups.   Read more...

  Issue 2, Summer 2020

The History, Politics and Social Construction of “Blackness” in Israel

Uri Dorchin

Israeli society is not racially divided between Blacks and whites in the way that American society has long been. Still, Blackness in Israel has shaped the relations between Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, Ethiopians and immigrant workers from Africa. Despite the salience of Blackness in Israel, scholars of Israel and the wider academic field of Israel Studies have largely ignored it so far. In this essay I argue that the reason for this scholarly neglect is that in Israel, Blackness does not neatly fit into the conventional configurations that exists in countries like the U.S. and the U.K. I further stipulate that in its uniqueness, the Israeli case shows that Blackness transgresses color lines in new and unexpected ways, offering fresh perspectives on Israeli society and challenging the arbitrary stipulations of Blackness as a concept.   Read more...

  Issue 1, Fall 2019

The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conundrum

Shlomo Ben-Ami

The decades-long process to formulate a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been a voyage of trial and error throughout. The failure to reach a settlement thus far has not always been the result of bad faith or inadequate negotiating skills. Rather, it stems mainly from the inherent incapacity of both parties to reconcile themselves to each other's fundamental requirements. The brief examines one of the substantial efforts in what might be the biggest folly in the history of diplomacy—the quest for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, which has continued to defy the logic of conflict resolution.   Read more...

About Currents: Briefs on Contemporary Israel

Aim and Scope

The UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies is dedicated to bridging the gap between academia and the general public. We aim to highlight scholarship about Israel on a wide range of topics and make it accessible to the public. To that end, the center’s publication, Currents: Briefs on Contemporary Israel, offers timely, research-based essays on contemporary issues, trends, and dynamics in Israel. Currents essays disseminate scholarly expertise, cutting-edge research, and innovative analyses of Israel's society, politics, economy, and culture to a wide audience. Each essay approaches an issue from a theoretical, comparative, or historical perspective to offer scholarly insights on current developments. Currents is a bi-annual publication that is freely available online and as a PDF download. 

For submissions, queries, and more information, contact Dr. Tamar Hofnung: Tamarhof@g.ucla.edu



Dov Waxman
University of California, Los Angeles


Managing Editor

Tamar Hofnung
University of California, Los Angeles 


Editorial Board

Norman Abrams
University of California, Los Angeles

Shira Efron
RAND Corporation

Stuart Gabriel
University of California, Los Angeles

Ayelet Harel-Shalev
Ben-Gurion University

Mark Kligman
University of California, Los Angeles

David Menashri
Tel Aviv University

Steven Spiegel
University of California, Los Angeles

Asher Susser
Tel Aviv University