Knowledge, power and the peace process : Israeli academics and the struggle over identity
This thesis explores the evolution of the academic discourse of Israeli historians and social scientists in the context of the peace process, which began in 1993 and ended with the eruption of the second Intifada in September 2000. It outlines the dialectical relationship between the conditions of war/peace and the discursive evolution of Israel's historical past. Beyond the emergence of historical revisionism, as exemplified by the 'New Historians' in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it follows the evolution of the discursive struggle over Israeli collective identity by outlining the development and ascendancy of other paradigms contending to shape Israel's past and present. One such paradigm is termed 'post-Zionist' discourse, which emerged alongside new historiography but went beyond the initially moderate revisionism of the New Historians, by basing itself on critical-theoretical foundations that place structures of power at the centre of academic output. In parallel, a new paradigm emerged from the right of the Israeli political spectrum that re-asserted and re-appropriated Zionism in light of the new political climate of peace making. In the context of the prolonged stalemate and eventual failure of the peace process, this thesis argues that it is this paradigm of collective identity, described as 'neo-Zionism,' that has for a number of reasons, for the time being, gained greater momentum within Israeli society. This work argues that there are parallels between the peace process and the hopes pinned on the emergence of new history: the symbolic powers of both processes were conflated beyond their actual substance, which in both cases failed to institute the structural changes required to exact a real reconfiguration of Israeli society. This analysis suggests that as the peace process failed to build a sustainable peace, new history and post-Zionism failed to adjust Israeli identity in line with the apparently changing political climate.