The New American Zionism

The New American Zionism

Theodore Sasson
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 229
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  • Book Info
    The New American Zionism
    Book Description:

    Is American Jewish support for Israel waning? As a mobilized diaspora, American Jews played a key role in the establishment and early survival of the modern state of Israel.They created a centralized framework to raise funds, and a powerful, consensus-oriented political lobby to promote strong U.S. diplomatic, military, and economic support. But now, as federation fundraising declines and sharp differences over the Israeli-Palestinian peace process divide the community, many fear that American Jews are distancing themselves from Israel. InThe New American Zionism, Theodore Sasson argues that at the core, we are fundamentally misunderstanding the new relationship between American Jews and Israel. Sasson shows that we are in the midst of a shift from a mobilization approach, which first emerged with the new state and focused on supporting Israel through big, centralized organizations, to an engagement approach marked by direct and personal relations with the Jewish state as growing numbers of American Jews travel to Israel, consume Israeli news and culture, and connect with their Israeli peers via cyberspace and through formal exchange programs. American Jews have not abandoned their support for Israel, Sasson contends, but they now focus their philanthropy and lobbying in line with their own political viewpoints for the region and they reach out directly to players in Israel, rather than going through centralized institutions. As a result, American Jews may find Israel more personally meaningful than ever before. Yet, at the same time, their ability to impact policy will diminish as they no longer speak with a unified voice. Theodore Sassonis Professor of International Studies at Middlebury College and Senior Research Scientist at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. He is also Visiting Research Professor of Sociology at Brandeis University and a consultant to the Mandel Foundation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6011-6
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    On November 19, 2012, the fifth day of Israel’s conflict with Hamas, the party that rules the Gaza Strip, two thousand Jews from across metropolitan Boston gathered in a large suburban synagogue in a show of solidarity. Thousands of rockets had fallen across southern Israel, with a few reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Military targets in densely populated Gaza had been pummeled, resulting in more than one hundred deaths, many of them noncombatants. The solidarity demonstration was cosponsored by a broad spectrum of organizations, including the politically centrist AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee, the left-leaning J Street, and the...

  5. 1 Mobilization
    (pp. 13-32)

    Writing in theJerusalem Postin mid-1985, Abba Eban, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, described the reticence of American Jewish leaders to criticize Israeli government policies. “Some Diaspora Jews renounce any analytical role and give blind endorsement to any doctrine or practice that comes out of Israel,” Eban observed. “They are thus for everything—and the opposite—according to the rise and fall of the electoral seesaw.”¹ The comment aptly captured the posture of American Jewish leaders toward Israel during the two decades that followed the 1967 Six-Day War, a period in which American Jewish organizations achieved a...

  6. 2 Advocacy and Activism
    (pp. 33-61)

    In 2006, Stephen M. Walt and John J. Mearsheimer galvanized widespread attention with an article in theLondon Review of Booksdescribing the Israel lobby as an enormously influential force in U.S. foreign policy.¹ The two political scientists, hailing from the University of Chicago and Harvard University, depicted the sprawling network of Israel advocacy organizations as a united front seeking to persuade the U.S. Congress and the White House to adopt policies deemed important by the Israeli government. Ironically, although there was merit to this depiction throughout the 1970s and 1980s, by the time Walt and Mearsheimer published their article,...

  7. 3 Fundraising and Philanthropy
    (pp. 62-88)

    During the run-up to the establishment of Israel, and then during the first four decades of the state’s existence, American Jews provided vital financial assistance. Called upon by their local federations and the United Jewish Appeal to support Israel, American Jews donated generously and without strings attached. Over the past quarter century, the federations’ annual campaigns have stagnated, the donor pool has shrunk, and the portion allocated to Israel has reached a historic nadir. The overall amount of money American Jews give to causes in Israel, however, has actuallyincreased. It has done so as American Jews have elected to...

  8. 4 Tourism and Immigration
    (pp. 89-113)

    During the period extending from the early 1950s until the late 1990s, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) served as the central address for both educational tourism and aliyah (Jewish immigration, literally “ascent”). As such, it was the linchpin organization responsible for bringing young people to Israel and for recruiting new immigrants. Today, the Jewish Agency remains active in these endeavors, and has launched a new entity, Masa, which coordinates and subsidizes long-term study, volunteer, and internship programs for Jewish young adults. In recent years, however, the fields of educational tourism and immigration have grown and diversified to include new,...

  9. 5 Attitudes and Attachment
    (pp. 114-143)

    During the 1970s and 1980s, social scientists stressed the symbolic significance of Israel for American Jews. According to these accounts, Israel represented the revival of the Jewish people following the Holocaust and Israel’s existence meant that Jews would never again find themselves defenseless and bereft of a sanctuary from anti-Semitism. As a young democracy with a strong welfare state, Israel represented the Jewish commitment to social justice and progressive values. As a regional military power, evidenced most dramatically in the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel represented the emergence of a new kind of Jew, tough and resourceful—the antithesis of diaspora...

  10. 6 Direct Engagement
    (pp. 144-164)

    The preceding chapters have argued that, contrary to conventional scholarly and political opinion, American Jewish engagement with Israel is not in any meaningful sense diminishing. On the contrary, across the diverse fields of the diaspora-homeland relationship, American Jewish engagement with Israel is at least as intensive as it was a quarter century ago, if not more so. To summarize very briefly the key evidence:

    In the field of advocacy, the number of organizations has increased and revenue to the top organizations has either surged (as in the case of AIPAC and J Street) or remained stable (as in the case...

  11. APPENDIX: List of Organizations
    (pp. 165-170)
    (pp. 171-172)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 173-194)
    (pp. 195-206)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 207-218)
    (pp. 219-219)