The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Rothberg International School

Division of Undergraduate Studies

Spring 2017


48326:  Media and Nationalism from an Israeli Perspective


Dr. Eric Saranovitz


Office Hours: By Appointment



Course Description


The relationship between nations and the mass media has a deep and long history.  This course will give us an opportunity to thoroughly explore the ways in which media and nation overlap, intersect and inform one another, using Israel as a case study.  Looking at the contemporary state of affairs in the world, and Israel specifically, we will explore the intensity and pervasiveness that nationalist sentiment plays in politics and culture.  Where does this intensity come from? How has it been maintained? Who has it privileged? This course will focus on how nationhood, and specifically the Israeli nation, has been created, maintained, and shaped through media narratives and rituals. In doing so, we will explore the instrumental role of films, television programs, news, and other media in the construction of national narratives.


The course will be divided into three units. After a brief introduction, we will address questions of the relationship between the media and the nation from an historical/theoretical perspective. This will lead to the second unit, where we will investigate the social and historical context surrounding the creation, development and maintenance of the Israeli state.  We will be look at the role various media, e.g., radio, newspapers, cinema, television, and digital media have played in building and maintaining nationalism through today.  We will also look at ways in which media have provided alternatives to ideas about the nation-state. The third unit will focus on student driven interests in nation and media.  Class presentations of ongoing independent research will provide a platform for enriching our understanding of the complexity and variety of ways in which media and nation are related.



Learning Objectives:


By the end of the course, you should be able to:



Class Format


Emphasis in this class is placed on discussion, reflection, argument and interaction.  Our discussions are meant to serve as informal, yet focused treatment of the theories and ideas within the texts we will be reading from week to week.    The instructor is in class to facilitate classroom discussion, not conduct it. In other words, this class will be what you make of it. For each class, selected pairs of students will be asked to present the readings in a comprehensive and insightful way in order to ensure that discussions are meaningful and pertinent and fruitful. There will also be screenings of various films and documentaries throughout the semester.


Requirements and grading


Midterm exam                                                             30%

Research Paper                                                            40%
Research presentation                                                 15%

Class Participation*                                                    15%


*Class participation grade reflects both the ongoing participation in classroom dialogue, based on insight and understanding, not simply on the amount of discussion, and the pair presentation of weekly readings.


Attendance Policy:  Expectations of class contribution are high, more than 3 unexcused absences will take your grade down by a third for each absence.  5 or more unexcused absences will lead to an automatic F for the course. 


Schedule of Classes and Assignments
(Reminder:  this is a flexible course outline; readings might be added or subtracted, dates on readings and/or assignments are subject to change)

Class 1





Class 2



The Medium is the Nation
            McLuhan:  Chs. 1 +18


Class 3



Definitions of Nation and Nationalism

            Gellner:  Definitions
            Schlesinger:  On National Identity


Class 4



A Historical link:  The rise of nationalism and mass media   
            Anderson: Imagined Communities (chs. 1+2)
            Kiely, Richard; Mccrone, David; Bechhofer, Frank: reading between the

Class 5



Banal Nationalism

            Billig: Banal Nationalism ch. 5


Class 6



National(ist) Cinemas

            Schlesinger:  National Cinema, introduction


Class 7



 Sport and Nation
            Appadurai (Modernity at large, Ch. 5): Playing with Modernity:  The
            Decolonization of Indian Cricket

            Jarvie, grant:  Internationalism and Sport in the Making of Nations


Class 8



Transnational nations:  Global Flows
            Appadurai, Modernity at large, Ch. 2


Class 9



Alternative Nations
      The Islamic nation
            Zubaida, Sami:  Islam and nationalism: continuities and contradictions             Casanova, Jose:  religion, the New millennium and Globalization (optional)


Class 10



Alternative Nations

The queer nation
            Fink and Press:  Walid, Queer in Israel
            Joseph Massad: Re-Orienting Desire: the Gay international and the Arab                            world  

Class 11



Mid term exam


Class 12



Israel and Early Media:  Print and Radio

       Derek Penslar: Transmitting Jewish Culture; Narratives of Nation Building



Class 13



Television as a national medium

      Oren:  Demon in the Box


Class 14



Television as a national medium

     Oren:  Demon in the Box


Class 15



The Break up of Monopolies – the Fracturing of the Nation

          Soffer, Ch. 3, Television in Israel


Class 16



Israeli Film and a changing Nation

            Rachel Harris:  Through the Lens of Israeli Cinema

            Ella Shohat: East/West (introduction and Postscript)

            Raz Yosef:  In the flesh (optional)

Class 17



Israeli Music and a changing Nation

             Seroussi and Regev:  Popular music and National culture,  introduction, ch. 1, conclusion

            Webster-Kogen:  Song style as Strategy (Idan Raichel)


Class 18



Israel and the Internet

Sofer: Ch. 4, The Internet's debut in Israel


Class 19



Sofer:  The internet and national solidarity


Class 20



Presentations and Discussion


Class 21



Presentations and Discussion


Class 22



Discussions and Concluding Remarks


Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined communities (2nd ed.). London: Verso. Overseas Library 320.54 A545

Appadurai, A. (1997). Modernity at large:  Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Chapters 1 and 5. Main Library HM 101 A644; ERESERVE 002030248 (ch. 1); 002031584 (ch. 5)

Billig, M. (1995). Banal nationalism. London: Sage. Main Library JC 311 B45


Caspi, D., & Limor, Y. (1999). The in/outsiders: The media in Israel. Hampton Press (NJ). Overseas Library E301.161 C342


Casanova, J. (2001). Religion, the new millennium, and globalization. Sociology of religion, 62(4), 415-441. E-Journal


Oren, T. (2004). Demon in the Box: Jews, Arabs, politics, and culture in the making of Israeli Televis`ion. New Brusnswick: Rutgers University Press. Main Library PN 1992.3 I75 O74 2004; E-book 001776275


Fink, A. and Press, J. (2000) Walid, "Queer in Israel" in Patton, C. and Sanchez-Eppler, B. Queer diasporas, Durham: Duke University Press. pp. 263-279. Overseas Library E306.7 P322; ERESERVE 002031582

Gellner, E. (1983). "Definitions" in Nations and nationalism. Oxford: Blackwell Overseas Library 320.54 G319; ERESERVE 002031583


Harris, R. (2015). "Through the Lens of Israeli Cinema: A Review". Jewish Film & New Media: An International Journal, 3(2), 220-231. E-Journal


Jarvie, G. (2003). "Internationalism and Sport in the Making of Nations". Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 10(4), 537-551. E-Journal


Kiely, R., McCrone, D., & Bechhofer, F. (2006). "Reading between the lines: national identity and attitudes to the media in Scotland". Nations and Nationalism, 12(3), 473-492. E-Journal


Massad, J. A. (2002). "Re-orienting desire: The gay international and the Arab world". Public culture, 14(2), 361-385. E-Journal


Mcluhan, M. (1997). Understanding media:  the extensions of man. Cambridge: MIT Press. Introduction and chapter 18.  Overseas Library 301.161 M166; ERESERVE 002030461 & 002030250.


Peleg, Y. (2016). Directed by God: Jewishness in contemporary Israeli film and television. National Library


Penslar, D.J. (1978). "Narratives of nation building: Major themes in Zionist historiography" inn D. N. Myers & D. B. Rudermand (Eds.), The Jewish past revisited: Reflections on modern Jewish historians. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, pp. 104-127. Main Library DS 134.21 J48 1998; E-book 001872586

Penslar, D.J. (2003). "Transmitting Jewish culture: Radio in Israel". Jewish Social Studies, 10(1), 1-29. E-Journal

Regev, M., & Seroussi, E. (2004). Popular music and national culture in Israel. Univ of California Press. (Introduction, chapter 1 and Conclusion). E-book 001830569, Overseas Library E780 R333

Schlesinger, P. (2000). "The Sociological Scope of ‘National Cinema’" in Cinema and Nation. New York: Routledge, p. 19-31. Main Library PN 1995.9 N33 C56 2000; ERESERVE 002030251

Shohat, E. (2010). Israeli cinema: East/West and the politics of representation. IB Tauris. east/west. pp. 249-325. Overseas Library E791.43 S559; E-book 001812822

Schlesinger, P. (1987). "On national identity:  Some conceptions and misconceptions criticized". Social Science Information, 26(2), 219-264. E-journal (via Google Scholar):

Soffer, O. (2013). "The internet and national solidarity: A theoretical analysis". Communication Theory, 23(1), 48-66. E-Journal

Soffer, O. (2014) Mass communication in Israel: nationalism, globalization, and segmentation. New York, NY: Berghan Books, pp. 168-193. E-book 002001397

Yosef, R. (2004). Beyond flesh: Queer masculinities and nationalism in Israeli cinema. Rutgers University Press. Main Library PN 1993.5 I86 Y67 2004; E-book 001774707

Webster-Kogen, I. (2014). "Song Style as Strategy: Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism and Citizenship in The Idan Raichel Project's Ethiopian-influenced Songs". In Ethnomusicology Forum 23 (1), pp. 27-48. E-Journal

Zubaida, S. (2004). Islam and nationalism: continuities and contradictions. Nations and Nationalism, 10(4), 407-420. E-Journal