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One of us? Reaction formation and inclusion as a strategy in the ethnic state

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Many states question how to manage burgeoning migration. This is particularly problematic for ethnic states whose foundation myths imagine the state as the home for the nation. In this paper, we argue that ethnic states engage a type of defense mechanism, ‘reaction formation’, as part of migration policy to distract attention from threats to the claimed ethnic homogeneity that undergirds the reason for the state's existence. Using Israel as a case of a planned ethnic state, we show how a state develops a spectrum of membership models to incorporate ‘others’ into the nation-state. We suggest that Israel could conceivably devise some arrangement to incorporate the several hundred thousand labor migrants currently resident there. We argue that the state is reluctant to recognize these migrants as ‘Israeli’ because to do so would reveal a hidden truth: Israel may be becoming more Israeli than Jewish and, thus, the recognition of labor migrants and their children provokes questions about Israel's very reason for existence, that is, being a Jewish state.
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Keywords: Israel; ethnic states; inclusion/exclusion; migration policy; reaction formation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Behavioral Science Department, York College, City University of New York, Jamaica, NY, 11451, USA 2: Department of Political Science, The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, P.O. Yezreel Valley, Afula, 19300, Israel

Publication date: March 4, 2015

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