Journal of International Migration and Integration

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 1231–1254 | Cite as

Infiltrators Go Home! Explaining Xenophobic Mobilization Against Asylum Seekers in Israel

  • Yoav H. DumanEmail author


This article explores recent outbreaks of protest and violence against asylum-seekers in Israel. I posit that while existing approaches to anti-immigrant mobilization that primarily emphasize material and cultural forms of inter-group competition offer important explanatory foundations, they are insufficient to account fully for these outcomes. Instead, I argue that Israel’s explicit interests vis-à-vis recent influxes of asylum-seekers, namely, forestalling long-term settlement and avoiding the liberalization of its asylum regime, generated two mechanisms that ultimately sparked xenophobic mobilization. First, center-right politicians disseminated and progressively intensified exclusionary discourses and legal practices as a means of mobilizing popular support for exclusion and delegitimizing asylum claims. These practices problematized asylum-seekers’ presence through their construction as security, demographic, and economic threats, and generated increasing societal concerns. Second, a concurrent ‘hands off’ approach excluded asylum-seekers from access to state services, denying them material and social support while limiting their access to the labor market. This approach occasioned multiple adverse consequences for both asylum-seekers and host communities, and prompted perceptions of state incapacity to implement its own exclusionary policies. The analysis suggests that the interaction between these two mechanisms, coupled with concurrent legal constraints on long-term incarceration and repatriation, furnished the motive, opportunity, and legitimacy for anti-asylum-seeker mobilization.


Asylum seekers Undocumented migration Xenophobic mobilization Migrants in Israel Asylum policy Immigrant exclusion 



I would like to thank Gad Barzilai, Paul Burstein, Javier Crespan, Hadar Duman, Marion Duman Eilam, Joshua Eastin, Stephan Hamberg, Trevor Johnston, Joel Migdal, Julie Mostov and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on earlier drafts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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