Zaha Kheir

Ms Zaha Kheir

Research topic:
‘THE CHOSEN PEOPLE’ AND ‘THE HOUSE OF MANY MANSIONS’: How Nationalism Stabilized Israel’s Democracy and Destabilized That of Lebanon
Degree course:

Research Themes:
Community Democratic theory Democracy and Democratisation Elections Identity Nationalism Social movements Violence security and conflict Democracy and Democratic Theory Comparative Politics and Government  Groups, Identities and Social Movements 

Academic Profile

My thesis seeks to answer the following question: Why is Israel a stable democracy and Lebanon an unstable democracy, given these countries’ structural similarities? Conventional democratization theory has proven insufficient to explain the relative weakness of democracy in the Middle East, suggesting that further research is required to explain the phenomenon. I hypothesize that Israel has retained democratic stability because it possesses a well-defined national project to which parochial interests of individual ethno-religious groupings yield. As a result, a centripetal force emerges which upholds the system; the national vision is invoked to navigate potential political crises, thus re-establishing stability. The absence of such a national project in Lebanon – and by extension in places like Iraq, Syria or Yemen – has bred democratic instability, with centrifugal tendencies shaking the system periodically. By selecting a handful of historic events in both countries, I will be able to isolate nationalist discourse and determine whether it coincides with relative democratic stabilization, applying process tracing techniques. The results of my research will not only contribute to the current scholarly debate about democracy in the Middle East, but also to the knowledge that policy-makers, engaged in nation building and democratization, draw on.

Teaching specialism, interests and experience

Israel-Palestine; Arab nationalism; International Law