University of Notre Dame

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Intersectionality, Bureaucratic Logic, and the Israeli Welfare State

posted on 2023-08-09, 00:00 authored by Ruth Cami

The goal of the welfare state is to universally provide social services to all its members thus ensuring an equal division of state resources. In contrast, the Israeli welfare state has linked its welfare policies to its Zionist goals, creating different levels of access to public resources for different social groups. Nevertheless, most research on the Israeli welfare state focuses on one social group, specific welfare benefits, or particular periods and neglects to examine the connection between the prolonged Israel-Palestinian conflict and the inequalities of the Israeli welfare state. This dissertation identifies and evaluates how the prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict interacts with other oppressive forces, such as sexism and racism, to create and perpetuate inequalities in the Israeli welfare state in the 2000s. Using an intersectional lens, I examine how the prolonged conflict, which relies upon and reinforces a binary of Jews versus Palestinians, affects Israeli civil lives in non-military but no less disruptive and violent ways.

The omnipresence binary of Jews versus Palestinians shapes what I refer to as the bureaucratic logic of the Israeli welfare state − the logic by which the welfare state exercises its power over those it is supposed to serve. The bureaucratic logic includes institutional procedures such as legislation and regulations and discursive processes such as court hearings and decisions. I interrogate this logic using an in-depth analysis of three Israeli Supreme Court cases representing the three most marginalized Israeli ethno-racial groups: Ethiopian Jewish women, Mizrahi Jewish women, and Palestinian women. Each case introduces the welfare state around a different subject related to motherhood, an entry ticket for women’s social acceptance in Israel’s pro-natal society: adoption, public housing, and hospitalization grants. I analyze each case using a multi-method qualitative approach, including legal archeology, discourse and content analysis, and in-depth interviews. This multi-method approach allows to identify patterns across ethno-racial lines, derive theoretical conclusions from a small number of cases, and uncover the connection between judicial decisions, discursive reasoning, and institutional procedures.

My findings show that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict centers Israeli social understandings around the binary of Jews versus Palestinians, denying the systematic racism of mothers of color. The bureaucratic logic of the Israeli welfare state erases the social location of mothers of color, denying the relevance of ethno-racial claims and their intersections to Israeli reality and mothers of color marginalization. It also obscures how the Israeli welfare state constructs mothers of color as “bad mothers,” ensuring their ongoing dependency on welfare aid, thus justifying state interventions in their lives. My findings further show that the bureaucratic logic turns the welfare state into a wrestling arena between the state and its residents in which mothers of color who need the state’s social assistance are forced to repeatedly prove they are entitled to be included within the boundaries of the welfare state and the Israeli collective. Consequently, the Israeli welfare state reproduces the ethno-racial and ethnonational boundaries and hierarchies of Israeli society, guaranteeing the preservation of the Israeli power structure.


Date Modified


Defense Date


CIP Code

  • 30.0501

Research Director(s)

Atalia Omer

Committee Members

Abigail Ocobock Calvin Zimmermann Neta Ziv


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

Alternate Identifier


OCLC Number


Additional Groups

  • Peace Studies
  • Sociology

Program Name

  • Peace Studies

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