Israel, Diaspora, and the Routes of National Belonging


319 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8510-5
DDC 305.892'4073




Reviewed by Jay Newman

Jay Newman is a professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph. His
most recently published works are Biblical Religion and Family Values,
Inauthentic Culture and Its Philosophical Critics, and Religion and


Based on her doctoral dissertation at McMaster University, Jasmin
Habib’s earnest study is a highly personal one, as she and the reader
are almost constantly aware of her distinctive personal situation.
Currently an anthropologist at Wilfrid Laurier University, Habib was
born in Israel to a Jewish mother and a Palestinian father, immigrated
to Canada in 1970, has been a peace activist longer than she has been a
social scientist, and has found herself to be “both an outsider and an
insider” when pursuing her research. Drawing on themes and methods of
both “cultural studies” and traditional forms of social science,
Habib examines a range of conceptions and practices that diaspora Jews
have developed with respect to their relation to the state of Israel. In
the course of her inquiry she addresses theoretical issues concerning
identity, community, nationalism, and belonging, but at the heart of her
study are notions ostensibly derived from her fieldwork as a
participant-observer interviewing North American Jews on organized tours
to Israel. Habib often draws attention to disparities between the
narratives of those she interviewed and the accounts given to such
people by those whom they regard as in some way authoritative. She sees
her insights as shedding some light on certain conditions that could
contribute to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but her project
is more fundamentally a scholarly one. On a deeper level, however, this
book is even more a work of personal reflection and testimony.

Habib understands that “[i]n any participant-observation fieldwork,
the researcher is clearly part of the research situation,” but she may
not fully appreciate the extent to which her interaction with those she
interviewed and her editing and interpretation of their narratives may
have been shaped by her own sentiments and ideals. She sees her research
as validating some degree of suspicion toward the reliability of certain
forms of mainstream Jewish studies, but she was perhaps imprudent to
adopt this broad skepticism prematurely, as her work might have been
more useful if it had made more generous use of this scholarship and was
more accessible to those engaged in it.


Habib, Jasmin., “Israel, Diaspora, and the Routes of National Belonging,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,