Contemporary Jewry

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 125–170 | Cite as

The Holocaust in Israeli Political Culture: Four Constructions and Their Consequences

Editor’s Note: This Article is Followed by Four Comments and a Response by Ian Lustick
  • Ian S. Lustick


The collective memory of the Holocaust among Israeli Jews has featured competition among four related but distinct constructions: Zionist Proof-text; Wasting Asset; Object Lesson for safeguarding human rights; and Template for Jewish life. This paper will analyze this competition and the implications of the apparent victory of the Template. While there is a sequence to the changing prominence of these different versions of the Holocaust, each version has enjoyed periods of relative success since World War II. In recent decades, however, the Holocaust as a Template for Jewish Life has emerged as ascendant. Throughout, competition among the four constructions was driven by parochial and temporary political interests and by the unintended consequences of dissatisfactions associated with any one of them. My analysis will trace this competition and those consequences, using them to explain the extreme and highly particular features of current Israeli Jewish collective memory of the Holocaust. The paper concludes with an assessment of the implications of the hegemonic status of this version of the Holocaust for appreciating Israel’s contemporary political predicament.


Israel Holocaust Political culture Collective memory Hegemony Constructivism 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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