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Detachment and Engagement: Israelis' Everyday Verbal Representations of ‘the Israeli Person' and the Contest for the Right to Condemn a Collective Identity

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This article examines strategies of detachment and engagement in the ongoing struggles over defining a collective sense of ‘Israeli identity' that take place in contemporary Israeli everyday discourse, and which is intended for insiders alone. The analysis compares material from two different samples of voluntary formulations of ‘how Israelis behave' offered by anonymous Israelis in domestic public forums: one is a collection of about 300 folkloric aphorisms in a popular newspaper column, and the other includes over 1700 on-line talk-backs to 14 Internet reports about the bad reputation of Israelis abroad. These miscellaneous materials reveal a heated contest for the right to condemn a generalized collective image of ‘an Israeli person'. Mobilizing alternatively two value-paradigms, that of ‘European codes of civilized behaviour' (an outside perspective) and that of ‘local patriotism' (an inside perspective), a negative collective image of ‘misbehaved person' is established, towards which conflicting group-attitudes are formed. Four main strategies are observed in disputing or confirming this negative image: a total personal alienation; patronizing engagement; a variety of denial tactics; and a provocative identification with ‘uncivilizedness' as an ‘authentic Israeli mindset'.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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