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The New American Zionism

Theodore Sasson

Publication Year: 2013

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 established 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 and consensus political lobbying have leveled off, many fear that American Jews no longer actively support Israel.
In The New American Zionism, Theodore Sasson argues that, for supporters of Israel, there is good news and bad news—and 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 travel to Israel, consume Israeli 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 Sasson is 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.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. 1-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book emerged from my work at Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. I owe a special debt to the center’s Director, Leonard Saxe, and Distinguished Scholar, Charles Kadushin. Len and Charles supported the project throughout its various stages, as co-investigators on studies of Jewish opinion, educational tourism, ...

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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. ...

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1. Mobilization

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pp. 13-32

Writing in the Jerusalem Post in 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. ...

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2. Advocacy and Activism

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pp. 33-61

In 2006, Stephen M. Walt and John J. Mearsheimer galvanized widespread attention with an article in the London Review of Books describing 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 ...

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3. Fundraising and Philanthropy

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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. ...

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4. Tourism and Immigration

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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. ...

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5. Attitudes and Attachment

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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. ...

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6. Direct Engagement

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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. ...

Appendix: List of Organizations

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pp. 165-170

Glossary of Hebrew Terms

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pp. 171-172


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pp. 173-194


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pp. 195-206


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pp. 207-218

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About the Author

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pp. 219-230

Theodore Sasson is Professor of International and Global 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.

E-ISBN-13: 9780814760116
E-ISBN-10: 0814760864
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814760864
Print-ISBN-10: 0814760864

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 861200142
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The New American Zionism

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Ethnic relations.
  • Zionism -- United States -- History.
  • Jews -- United States -- Politics and government.
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