Exile from national identity: Memory exclusion as political

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Historiography and national memory are not social institutions that formed spontaneously, democratically or pluralistically, but rational projects featuring power relationships, shaped by actors promoting political interests through it and legitimizing their preferential social status and political dominance. The research follows the Israeli Labor Movement's attempts to present the statehood project and the war for independence as achievements owed solely to the Hagana (an underground organization affiliated to the labor movement on the eve of statehood). Insistent efforts distanced from national memory any mention of two other underground movements, affiliated with the rival Revisionist Movement, that after statehood became political Party. The article indicates the memory-screening strategies applied, illuminating the ruling party's conscious attempts to make the public memory and public historiography controllable resources and to exclude political rivals from the national pantheon. Also described is the establishment's meticulousness supervision of national historiography, including history textbooks and commemorative literature. The paper tracks failed attempts by marginalized groups to enter the public memory, and their subsequent launch of an 'alternative memory arena' competing with the establishment's memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-262
Number of pages22
JournalNational Identities
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work on the book was complicated. The project lacked a budgetary and organizational structure akin to state funding and the Ministry of Defence’s backing. Nor did it have itemized lists of the fallen and their addresses, partly due to the underground conditions in which Etzel and Lehi had operated. Through a concentrated effort, a full list of the dead was finally prepared, and information on each victim and pictures of the majority, were obtained. The material was delivered to the Jabotinsky Institute, and the sections concerning underground fighters who fell after 29 November 1947 were transferred to the MOD’s Commemoration Department. The department promised to include the material in the general Yizkor book of the fallen, which, it will be recalled, underscored those who fell in the struggle against Arab enemies.


  • Bereavement
  • Exclusion
  • Israel
  • Legitimacy
  • Memory


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