Cohen, Nir. “A Web of Repatriation: The Changing Politics of Israel’s Diaspora Strategy.” Population, Space and Place (early view; online first).
Diaspora strategies were explained against the backdrop of neoliberal reforms, within which context governments in sending countries sought to mobilise skilled migrants for homeland development projects. Despite sporadic evidence that non-governmental organisations take increasingly meaningful parts in diaspora strategy-formation processes, little attention has thus far been paid to their specific roles. This paper attends to the salient contribution of non-governmental organisations to Israel’s diaspora strategy. Focusing on two recent state-assisted return programs, it argues that a greater involvement of private and civic organisations should be seen as part of broader political-economic shifts, most notably economic neoliberalisation. Since the late 1980s, organisations have partnered with the state to create a tri-sectoral ‘web of repatriation’, which is effectively responsible for the creation and implementation of return programmes. Through a critical analysis of the discourse within, and practices deployed by, this new web, the paper illustrates the changing politics of return in Israel. Specifically, it shows how partners have advanced a greater professional segmentation of (potential) returnees, prioritised those best suited for the needs of a small number of ‘economic growth engines’, and institutionalised merit-based compensation schemes. Despite their different positions and situated knowledge, both state and non-state bodies have been using similar trajectories, calling for greater privatisation, harsher selectivity, and differential rewards in Israel’s diaspora strategy.