‘It’s a war on Israel’s liberal democracy’: the Israeli left as a moral panic community, 2015-19

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This article examines the discourse of the Israeli Left in the years preceding the succession of general elections in 2019–21, with a focus on claims of the purported threats to democracy presented by the right-wing government. Rhetorical analysis of opinion pieces and political commentary in the press on issues relating to education, science, and culture shows recurrent use of appeals to fear–such as comparisons with totalitarian regimes and invocation of other dystopian spectres resulting from nationalist indoctrination and processes of ‘religionization’. This article defines the appeal to fear and other forms of the Left’s identity claims making during this period as moral panic discourse, around which the Left sought to revive its relevance in the public debate at a time when it was viewed as a marginal political force in ideological decline. The article’s main argument is that while the labelling of the Right as a ‘danger to democracy’ has been entrenched in leftist discourse since the 1977 ‘Upheaval’, during the period in discussion it became the principal–almost sole–theme in leftist publicist discourse, serving as a flag issue around which the Left reorganised its identity as the ‘democratic camp’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)878-895
Number of pages18
JournalIsrael affairs
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2022


  • appeals to fear
  • democracy
  • Israel
  • Israeli elections 2019–21
  • left-wing
  • moral panic
  • political rhetoric
  • political schism
  • right-wing

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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