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Popular Nationalism and Attitudes toward Immigrants (PNATI): A Multistage Investigation of Popular Nationalism and its Effects on Attitudes toward Labor Immigrants and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Final Report Summary - PNATI (Popular Nationalism and Attitudes toward Immigrants (PNATI): A Multistage Investigation of Popular Nationalism and its Effects on Attitudes toward Labor Immigrants and Asylum Seekers in Israel)

The general framework of this research challenges the traditional approaches to popular attitudes toward labor immigrants and asylum seekers. Previous scholarship has highlighted either economic competition between immigrants and the host society or perceptions of symbolic threats posed by immigrants. The proposed research, in contrast, is the first to investigate how attitudes toward foreigners are linked to the way several dimensions of nationalism configure the national self-understanding of individuals. An initial list of dimensions includes the ways individuals define the criteria for membership in their nation, their beliefs about the core values of the nation, their identification with specific national institutions, and the role they believe their nation-state should play in relationship to other nation-states. However, an important task of this project is to add elements of national self-understanding that so far have not been included in quantitative studies of this topic.

This research project had three main objectives: (1) to develop an empirically robust typology of national self-understanding of resident citizens of Israel, (2) to examine the relationship of national self-understanding with core demographic characteristics of individuals, and (3) to investigate how national self-understanding affects individuals' attitudes toward labor immigrants and asylum seekers. In addition to theoretical innovation, this research has a novel multistage research design that opens with in-depth interviews, continues with survey data collection, and ends with follow-up interviews with survey takers. Using this multistage design, this research is the first of its kind to develop a purely inductive typology of popular nationalism in a European country, and to test how the national self-understanding of individuals affects their attitudes toward immigrants and preferences regarding the state’s immigration policy.

Description of the work performed since the beginning of the project
The main objectives of the first stage of the project (years 1 and 2) were to conduct in-depth with 100 Jewish and Arab citizen residents of Israel, analyze the transcripts, and then use the findings to develop a new questionnaire that measures the latent dimensions of national self-understandings in Israel. For the interview work, I hired and trained three graduate students who also used the interviews to develop master’s theses and or dissertation proposals. The interview activity was a great success: not only did we exceed the planned number of interviews by 33 percent (we compiled a data set of 133 interviews that include representatives of the main ethnic and religious categories as well as categories of age, education, and regions), but more importantly, through the interviews we detected several dimensions of national self-understanding that pervious quantitative research usually ignores (for example, national shame as separate from national pride, a sense of collective victimhood, and more). These findings contributed tremendously to the survey questionnaire that is currently in advance stage of development.

In the development of the questionnaire, I have also benefited from the assistance of a doctoral student who came from Poland for an internship under my supervision: she reviewed and indexed nearly everything that has been written by Academics in English on Jewish, Arab, and Palestinian nationalism. The development of the survey questionnaire was thus informed both by what has been written about the topic and by the results of the in-depth interviews. Parts of the new questionnaire were develop in tandem with a similar questionnaire for the United States, which I created in collaboration with Professor Bart Bonikowski (Sociology, Harvard) with funding we received from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation. I believe that the novel questionnaire is the most comprehensive and makes a significant to previous survey research on national identities.

In the second term of this project (years 3-4), the new questionnaire was administered to representative samples of the Jewish majority and the Arab minority among Israeli citizens. The collected data was then statistically analyzed and the findings take center stage in my current writing.

My research activity in the reported period included three additional aspect that was not part of the planned project. First, in the summer of 2014, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) launched a massive military campaign against Hamas in Gaza (known in Israel as operation “Protective Edge”). The rally-round-the-flag effect of that war allowed me to take a close look at the contextual aspect of national identification, which I had originally hoped to explore after completing the present research project. I collected panel data through the internet from a representative sample of the Jewish majority of Israel’s population in three periods, and used these data also to pilot-test some of my expectations regarding latent dimensions of national self-understanding in this group. Two article manuscript based on this data collection are already published in Social Science Research and Ethnicity journals, and another manuscript is currently under review.

Second, shortly after completed the main survey in the funded project, I conducted an additional round of data collection during an unexpected crisis situation in Israel: a wave of wildfire that took place mostly in the northern part of the country in mid-November 2016. During this period, senior members of the government used ultra-nationalist rhetoric that blamed the Arab minority in Israel for setting up the fire, and they even labeled the events the “Ignitions Intifada.” Because survey data collection from the Jewish majority in Israel was completed only a short period earlier, the crisis situation created a natural experiment for testing the contextual aspects of nationalism. Therefore, I conducted a follow-up survey, in which participants were recruited from among the participants in my main survey discussed above. The analysis of these panel data are still in-progress.

Third, I successfully applied to an additional funding from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), which allows me to conduct (together with Bart Bonikowski, my co-investigator from Harvard University) large part of this research also in the United States. This adds to my research an important comparative dimension that I had originally planned to add only after completing the research in Israel.
Due to a delay in the development of the survey questionnaire, the last part of the project (follow-up in-depth interviews with survey respondents) could not be completed during the funded period, but I intend to conducted soon with the help of my dedicated research team.

So far, this project has resulted in two published articles and four article manuscripts that are still under review. In addition, the project has become a framework for research work by several graduate students: one graduate student wrote a master’s thesis about boundary work among Christian Arabs in Israel and currently works on a doctoral dissertation about this topic. A second student wrote a master’s thesis that explores the relationship between national self-understanding and emotion management among Arab Israelis who work in ethnically-mixed workplaces (this thesis became the basis for an article manuscript that we co-authored and has been revised and resubmitted to a prestigious sociological journal). This student is now conducting her doctoral research (under my co-supervision) on settlements in labor disputes in Israel. A third student wrote a master’s thesis about the relationship between national self-understanding and aspects of happiness in Israel, and she is now a PhD student (under my co-supervision) and works on the same topic as in her MA studies. I recently added a fourth graduate student to the research team, whose master’s thesis focuses on identity perceptions among Arab/Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.