Escalating minority claims: The Arab “vision documents” of 2006-2007 in Israel

Ilana Kaufman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The complex relationship between majority and minority in a democracy is well known. In the democratic age with its emphasis on popular rule, more often than not, majorities are not particularly inclined to accommodate demands from minorities. Indeed, as mass democracy was being constituted in the late nine- teenth century in Europe, J. S. Mill observed that the majority “may desire to oppress a part of their number” and hence “precautions are as much needed against this as against any other abuse of power” (Mill 1947 [1859]: 4) Undeni- ably, where such precautions were not installed or were removed, at times under the auspices of nationalism and democratization, mass violence took place, as analyzed in Michael Mann’s work, The Dark Side of Democracy. But even in lesser situations of ethnic conflict and national tensions, equitable and acceptable solutions to claims by subnational groups are not easily attained. The well- known list of constitutional and institutional mechanisms for managing those tensions attest to that difficulty (Schneckner 2002; Berg and Ben Porat 2008). The logic of the territorial nation- state as a social organization almost dic- tates opposition to any challenge to the state’s sovereignty and control over its borders and within them. Although this logic forms the necessary basis of state capacity to enforce its rules, and is therefore an essential condition for a func- tioning democracy (Tilly 2007: 15-24) its origins are undemocratic and it is at loggerheads with subnational claims for self- determination (Anderson 2008). Yet despite this logic of state, in a number of democratic states (Canada, Spain, United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland), minority claims for a measure of self-rule were negotiated and partially satisfied in a peaceful way, or following only a mild level of violence. These states could undergo a process of decentrali- zation and to some extent become “denationalized”, precisely because their public political culture either subscribed to a pluralistic or multidimensional ver- sion of the “national idea” in the first place (e.g. Canada, UK, Switzerland) or, because they had have undergone a radical process of democratization (e.g. Spain), (Miller 1997: 94-95; Peleg 2007: 105-137). But other states that have also undergone a process of democratization, (particularly following the breakup of the communist systems in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe) follow more closely the logic of the modern state. They put a premium on the idea of culturally defined nationality and enlist the state’s apparatus in the service of the nationality project. Brubaker conceptualized these as “nationalizing” states, noting that the elites of such states have in common a certain strategy of state- building: making them “a state of and for a particular ethnocultural ‘core nation’, whose language, culture, demographic position, eco- nomic welfare, and political hegemony must be protected and promoted by the state” (Brubaker 1996: 103). This strategy is based on two ideological bases: 1 the sense of “ownership” of the state by a particular ethnonational group that is conceived as distinct from the citizenry as a whole; 2 the attitude toward state- building as a “remedial compensatory” project for past injustices.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNationalism and Democracy
Subtitle of host publicationDichotomies, Complementarities, Oppositions
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781135168162
ISBN (Print)9780415559157
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2010

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2010 Selection and editorial matter, André Lecours and Luis Moreno; individual chapters, the contributors.


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