Homelands: Shifting Borders and Territorial Disputes.

Why are some territorial partitions accepted as the appropriate borders of a nation's homeland, whereas in other places conflict continues despite or even because of division of territory? In Homelands, Nadav G. Shelef develops a theory of what homelands are that acknowledges both their importance in domestic and international politics and their change over time. These changes, he argues, driven by domestic political competition and help explain the variation in whether partitions resolve conflict. Homelands also provides systematic, comparable data about the homeland status of lost territory over time that allow it to bridge the persistent gap between constructivist theories of nationalism and positivist empirical analyses of international relations.

 Available from Cornell University Press.

Evolving Nationalism: Homeland, Identity, and Religion in Israel, 1925-2005.

Evolving Nationalism examines how the idea of Israel as a nation-state has developed within Zionist and Israeli discourse over the past eight decades. Nadav Shelef focuses on the changing ways in which the main nationalist movements answered three distinct questions in their private and public ideological articulations between 1925 and 2005: Where is the “Land of Israel”? Who ought to be Israeli? What should the Zionist national mission be? Framed within broader debates about how and why changes in foundational definitions of the nation occur, the analysis centers on the mechanisms of ideological change and then subjects them to empirical scrutiny. The argument thus moves beyond the common but problematic assumptions that such transformations must be either a rare, rational adaptation to traumatic shock or a relatively constant product of manipulation by power-hungry elites. I find that nationalist movements, including radical and religious fundamentalist ones, can and do change cardinal components of their ideological beliefs in both moderating and radicalizing directions. These changes have more to do with the unguided consequences of engagement in day-to-day politics than with strategic reaction to new realities, the use of force, or the changing incentives of leaders. Engaging with some of the most contentious debates about the nature of Israeli nationalism and the geographic, religious, and ethnic definition of the state of Israel, the book makes signal contributions to our understanding of Middle East politics and of the ideological underpinnings of nationalism itself.

 Available from Cornell University Press.


Articles and book chapters:

"How homelands change." 2019 (online first). Journal of Conflict Resolution. DOI:

“How homelands change? Lessons from the experience of two Israeli nationalist movements” in People and Places: New Perspectives on Sons of the Soil Conflict, edited by Isabelle Cote and Matthew Mitchell. Routledge Press (2019).

“Methodological Challenges in the Study of Stateless Nationalist Territorial Claims” (with Harris Mylonas). 2017. Territory, Politics, Governance 5(2). DOI:

“Unequal Ground: Homelands and Conflict.” December 2016. International Organization 70(1):33-63. DOI:

“Recognition Matters! International Recognition and Attitudes Towards Territorial Compromise,” (with Yael Zeira) 2017 (available online 2015). Journal of Conflict Resolution 61(3): 537-563. DOI: 10.1177/0022002715595865

“Which Land is Our Land? Explaining Change in the Desired State Borders by Stateless Nationalist Movements” (with Harris Mylonas) 2014. Security Studies 23(4):754-786. DOI:

“Democratic Inclusion and Religious Nationalists in Israel” (with Orie Shelef). Summer 2013. Political Science Quarterly 128(2):289-316. DOI: 10.1002/polq.12038

Politicized Secularism in Israel: Secularists as a party to communal conflict,” Summer 2010. Contemporary Jewry, 30(1): 87-104. DOI: 10.1007/s12397-010-9025-8

“Testing the logic of unilateral withdrawal: Lessons from the History of the Labor Zionist Movement,” Summer 2007. Middle East Journal, 61(3): 460-475. Stable URL:

“From “Both Banks of the Jordan” to the “Whole Land of Israel:” Ideological Change in Revisionist Zionism,” Spring 2004. Israel Studies, 9(1): 125-148. Available here.

Working papers:

  • “International recognition and attitudes towards the use of violence” (with Yael Zeira)
  • “Secularist Communal Parties in Comparative Perspective”
  • "Nationalization and De-nationalization in Israel and beyond"

Other pieces:

  • Review of “Beyond the Nation-State: The Zionist Political Imagination from Pinsker to Ben-Gurion,” by Dimitry Shumsky, Israel Studies Review. Forthcoming.
  • H-Nationalism Flash Interview on nationalism, evolution, and homelands.
  • "The Foreign Policy implications of Israel's 2015 Elections," E-International Relations.
  • "Why Netanyahu’s win isn’t that dramatic," March 2015. The Monkey Cage. The Washington Post.
  • "Which borders will states fight for?" March 2015. The Monkey Cage. The Washington Post.
  • “Comments on David Brooks and Julie Trottier, ‘Confronting Water in an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement’” in David Brooks and Julie Trottier, A Modern Agreement to Share Water between Israelis and Palestinians: the FoEME Proposal. November 2010. Tel Aviv: Friends of the Earth Middle East, 45-48.
  • Review of “Lords of the Land: The War over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967–2007,” by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, Summer 2009. Shofar, 27(4): 138-140.
  • Review of “Arab-Jewish Relations: From Conflict to Resolution? Essays in Honour of Professor Moshe Ma’oz,” edited by Elie Podeh and Asher Kaufman. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2006. Winter 2008. Middle East Studies Association Bulletin 42(1-2).
  • Review of “Outlawed Pigs: Law, Religion, and Culture in Israel,” by Daphne Barak Erez, 2008. Journal of Israeli History, 27(2): 282-286.
  • Review of “The New Israel: Peacemaking and Liberalization” edited by Gershon Shafir and Yoav Peled, Fall 2002. Israel Studies Forum, 18(1): 127-130.
  • “If I Forget Thee Jerusalem: The Changing Historical Conceptions of Jerusalem,” Fall 1996. Israel Studies Bulletin: 9-16.