Lions and roses: An interpretive history of Israeli-Iranian relations

Marsha B Cohen, Florida International University


This multi-disciplinary research project explores the religious and cultural foundations within the "master commemorative narratives" that frame Israeli and Iranian political discourse. In articulating their grievances against one another, Israeli and Iranian leaders express the tensions between religion, nationalism, and modernity in their own societies. The theoretical and methodological approach of this dissertation is constructivist-interpretivist. The concept of "master commemorative narratives" is adapted from Yael Zerubavel's study of ritualized remembrance in Israeli political culture, and applied to both Israeli and Iranian foreign policy. Israel’s master commemorative narrative draws heavily upon the language of the Hebrew Bible, situating foreign policy discourse within a paradigm of covenantal patrimony, exile, and return, despite the unrelenting hostility of eternal enemies and "the nations." Iran’s master commemorative narrative expresses Iranian suspicion of foreign encroachment and interference, and of the internal corruption that they engender, sacralizing resistance to the forces of evil in the figurative language and myths of pre-Islamic tradition and of Shi'a Islam. Using a constructivist-interpretive methodological approach, this research offers a unique interpretive analysis of the parallels between these narratives, where they intersect, and where they come into conflict. It highlights both the broad appeal and the diverse challenges to the components of these "master" narratives within Israeli and Iranian politics and society. The conclusion of this study explains the ways in which the recognition of religious and cultural conflicts through the optic of master commemorative narratives can complement the perspectives of other theoretical approaches and challenge the conventions of Security Studies. It also suggests some of the potential practical applications of this research in devising more effective international diplomacy.

Subject Area

Middle Eastern history

Recommended Citation

Cohen, Marsha B, "Lions and roses: An interpretive history of Israeli-Iranian relations" (2007). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3301654.