Tax Law and Social Norms in Mandatory Palestine and Israel

Assaf Likhovski (Cambridge University Press, July 2017).  Available to order from Cambridge University Press and Amazon.

This book describes how a social-norms model of taxation rose and fell in British-ruled Palestine and the State of Israel in the mid-twentieth century. Such a model, in which non-legal means were used to foster compliance, appeared in the tax system created by the Jewish community in 1940s Palestine and was later adopted by the new Israeli state in the 1950s. It gradually disappeared in subsequent decades as law and its agents, lawyers and accountants, came to play a larger role in the process of taxation. By describing the historical interplay between formal and informal tools for creating compliance, Tax Law and Social Norms in Mandatory Palestine and Israel sheds new light on our understanding of the relationship between law and other methods of social control, and reveals the complex links between taxation and citizenship.


“Likhovski has written a fascinating account of the development of taxation in a region that has long struggled with shifting rulers and divided populations. This book is more than just the definitive history of taxation in Israel. It is a case study on the cultural and sociological underpinnings of tax law itself.”

–Steve Bank, University of California, Los Angeles

 “This brilliant book tells the story of how tax law in Mandatory Palestine was transformed from an intimate institution relying on the voluntary cooperation of taxpayers to a formal system enforced by lawyers. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the nature of law and in how to make a legal system that necessarily depends on voluntary cooperation achieve its goals.”
— Reuven Avi-Yonah, Irwin I. Cohn Professor of Law, University of Michigan

“Once more, Assaf Likhovski has demonstrated his keen understanding of law and its social function in Ottoman and mandatory Palestine as well as the state of Israel. This volume solidifies Assaf Likhovski’s position as one of the most formidable and important scholars of the legal history of Israel.”
— Michael Stanislawski, Columbia University, New York

“Assaf Likhovksi has written an absolutely fascinating book. His exploration of the rise and fall of what he aptly calls the ‘intimate fiscal state’ uses taxation to provide a prism on the history of late Ottoman and British-ruled Palestine, as well Israel. Everyone interested in the relationship between law and society, the history of taxation, the subject of tax avoidance, and the history of Israel will want to read this brilliant work.”
–Laura Kalman, University of California, Santa Barbara


Binyamin Blum, On Fiscal Citizenship: A Cultural History of Tax Law, JOTWELL (January 11, 2018) (reviewing Assaf Likhovski, Tax Law and Social Norms in Mandatory Palestine and Israel (2017)). 

Orit Rozin reviewed Likhovski’s book for the Journal of Interdisciplinary History v. 49 no. 1 (Summer 2018).

About the Author:

Assaf Likhovski is a professor of law and legal history at Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law. He is the author of Law and Identity in Mandate Palestine (University of North Carolina Press, 2006), and Tax, Law, and Social Norms in Mandatory Palestine and Israel (Cambridge University Press, 2017), as well as articles on Israeli, American and English legal history. He is co-editor of a number of collections of articles on legal history including “Histories of Legal Transplantations” Theoretical Inquiries in Law (with Ron Harris). He was visiting professor at Yeshiva University, the University of Toronto, UCLA, and Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Tel Aviv University and Harvard Law School, where he was a Fulbright and Rothschild fellow. He was later a Golieb fellow at the NYU School of Law, and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem. He was co-founder of the Israeli Legal History Association, and served as the director of the TAU Cegla Center for Interdisciplinary Research  of the Law, the director of the TAU David Berg Foundation Institute for Law and History, and the Associate Dean for Research at the TAU Faculty of Law.

Watch Professor Likhovski discuss his work as part of the SLH video series here.

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