Anti-Intellectualism and Israeli Politics

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Anti-intellectualism is a discrete social phenomenon which eschews spatial or temporal boundaries. While it defies a restrictive definition, it is commonly understood as a populist disdain of individuals who speak of certain universal values and engage in the pursuit of knowledge from reason; conversely, an anti-intellectual is a person who is not a ‘dealer in ideas’ and is not committed to the ‘life of the mind’. This article focuses on anti-intellectualism as a defining characteristic of the Israeli ethos which predates the establishment of the Jewish state. The article begins with a terminological discussion and a brief historical survey of the prevalence of anti-intellectualism in contemporary societies. It then traces the roots of Israeli anti-intellectualism and examines their manifestations in the case of Abba Eban, Israel’s most quintessential diplomat, an orientalist scholar, a Cambridge don, a polyglot and a public intellectual. The article concludes by pointing to the uneasy fit between the political and intellectual spheres in Israeli politics and the challenges posed by the former to the latter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-643
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Issue number4
Early online date9 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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