The Jewish Diaspora and Israel: a case of long-distance Nationalism

A. Dieckhoff (CERI – Paris VII)

The involvement of diasporas in the advent of modern nationalism is not a new phenomenon, especially for “stateless diasporas” which already in the 19th century wanted to “normalize” their national existence by building a State of their own. However, with the growing globalization trend in the 1990’s, some (mainly Benedict Anderson) have argued that the relation between diasporas and the national project has qualitatively changed leading to long-distance nationalism (LDN). Two main features of LDN are its unaccountability which allows for intense political radicalism and its instrumental function for strengthening ethnic identity in the diaspora. I will test those hypotheses in the case of contemporary Jewish diaspora.
I will show that, while the symbolic centrality of the State of Israel for modern Jewry has deepened over the last 60 years, it did not lead to a uniform political stand: LDN can be used to express a broad gamut of political agendas. On the other hand, LDN plays a decisive role in the upholding of Jewish ethnicity in the diaspora, especially for non-religious Jews.