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Immigration and Justice: The Allocation of Goods to Newcomers from the (Former) Soviet Union in Israel1

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This paper looks at ways in which notions of membership and of just allocation were articulated in the everyday practices of a voluntary organization set up in the early 1990s to distribute clothing and household goods to newcomers from the (former) Soviet Union in Israel. Based on an ethnographic account of the distribution centre, this paper describes its underpinning ideology and demonstrates the implications of this ideology for the rules governing the allocation of goods. The paper analyzes three inter-related axes around which notions of rules of just allocation were equivocally interpreted and implemented. The first of these axes related to the discourse of justice deemed most appropriate to the newcomers; the second to the status of the newcomers; and the third to the creation of social categories—primarily defined in ethnic terms—and the hierarchical relationships between them.
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Keywords: Distributive Justice; Ethnicity; Immigration; Israel; Volunteering

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2005

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