Shofar An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies

Purdue University

Vol. 29, No. 1 ♦ 2010  (Fall) 

Book Reviews ♦ 159 – 161

State Practices and Zionist Images: Shaping Economic Development in

Arab Towns in Israel , by David A. Wesley.

New York and Oxford :

Berghahn Books, 2008. 256 pp. $34.95.

This is a book of major importance by an Israeli anthropologist. It analyzes

the relations between Jewish and Arab towns in the Galilee during the period

1992–1997 when an industrial area close to Nazareth called Zipporit was

being developed. It also examines the role of central and local government

bureaucracies in the planning process. Israeli bureaucracy is formidable in its

ability to block development, but where the Arab minority is concerned there

are additional factors at work.

The purpose of the Ministry of Trade and Industry in developing the

industrial park was to further its strategic aim of industrializing the region. At

the same time, the government and the Jewish Agency had begun a program to

increase the Jewish population of the region by creating new settlements in the

hills. These new settlements would help prevent Arab towns from spreading

as their population grew.

Wesley shows how these policies were implemented in such a way that

the Jewish population benefited and the Arabs did not. He dwells on the reasons

for this difference: not only current needs but also ingrained biases, the

most important of which was the notion that Israel ’s Arabs had “traditional

values” that held back their economic and social development. The idea that

these traditional (i.e., primitive) values existed was due to the way in which

( Jewish) Israelis viewed the Arabs more than any objective reality.

Despite this, Wesley shows that Arab participation in the development

process has increased from near passivity to a willingness to make demands.

These have not all been rejected, and planners have become much more willing

to involve Arab local authorities in regional development. He explores the

mind-set of Jews and Arabs alike and shows the dangers in the way they think

about each other. Wesley notes that the Arabs of Israel feel under siege especially

with regard to land use and land ownership. It should also be noted that the

Jewish majority feels under siege as a result of regional hostility towards Israel .

The book begins with an analysis of the territorial dimensions of the issue

in the Galilee , providing details of the population by sub-region as well as the

location of settlements and how the region is administered. This is followed by

an examination of urbanization trends, local authority budgets, income levels

by settlement, and economic development patterns. A chapter is devoted to

the history of the Zipporit industrial area and its legal status.

The key issues of land, territory, and jurisdiction are then looked at,

the main one being the loss of Arab land. There is then a chapter on

the image of Arab traditionalism that is of a significance beyond this book.

Wesley suggests that the authorities subscribe to two contradictory ideas about

the Arabs: the first is that they are primitive and thus cannot develop economically

and the second is that they are a threat to the country’s Zionist identity.

They cannot be both, which suggests that both concepts are wrong.

He shows that when conditions permit, Arab landowners seek to develop

their land for industrial development and try to market it. They did not,

and perhaps still do not, operate on a level playing field, and that is why

they manifest what the authorities call traditionalism. There are two chapters

on developments beyond Zipporit, in the Galilee as a whole.

Wesley concludes that “[g]overnment programs and policies, distinguishing

between Jew and Arab even as they proclaim integration, have shaped the

manner in which the Arab locality is connected to industrial activity and local

economic development” (p. 195).

Emmanuel Marx, the leading Israeli anthropologist, who supervised the dissertation

on which this book is based, wrote in his forward to the book that the

author, appalled by the systematic discriminatory results of state practices, takes

a moral stand, but allows the reader to draw his own conclusions. He also suggests

that the possibility for change exists. This is exactly what the book does.

In view of the events of October 2001, when 13 Israeli Arabs were killed

during the most serious riots Israel has ever experienced, it would be of great

interest to see how the issues, policies and attitudes that Wesley analyzed for

the period 1992–97 have changed, if at all: a second edition would be most


This could also analyze recent government initiatives to improve

economic conditions in the Arab community, especially the employment of

women. David Wesley would be an excellent judge of whether progress has

been made.

Paul Rivlin

Tel Aviv University

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