A groundbreaking work that overturns the conventional understanding of the Israeli-American relationship and, in doing so, explores how fundamental debates about American identity drive our country's foreign policy.
In this bold examination of the Israeli-American relationship, Walter Russell Mead demolishes the myths that both pro-Zionists and anti-Zionists have fostered over the years. He makes clear that Zionism has always been a divisive subject in the American Jewish community, and that American Christians have often been the most fervent supporters of a Jewish state, citing examples from the time of J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller to the present day.
He spotlights the almost forgotten story of left-wing support for Zionism, arguing that Eleanor Roosevelt and liberal New Dealers had more influence on President Truman's Israel policy than the American Jewish community--and that Stalin's influence was more decisive than Truman's in Israel's struggle for independence. Mead shows how Israel's rise in the Middle East helped kindle both the modern evangelical movement and the Sunbelt coalition that carried Reagan into the White House. Highlighting the real sources of Israel's support across the American political spectrum, he debunks the legend of the so-called "Israel lobby." And, he describes the aspects of American culture that make it hostile to anti-Semitism and warns about the danger to that tradition of tolerance as our current culture wars heat up.
With original analysis and in lively prose, Mead illuminates the American-Israeli relationship, how it affects contemporary politics, and how it will influence the future of both that relationship and American life.
Mead (God and Gold), a professor of foreign affairs at Bard College, delivers a sweeping study of the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Stretching from the colonial era to the present day, Mead's comprehensive history analyzes the impacts of Christianity's changing attitudes toward Judaism and Jews; broad political trends that enabled the acceptance of Jewish people "as active members of the American commonwealth," exemplified by George Washington's 1790 letter to the congregation of Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I.; and economic developments such as the rise of labor unions. Revealing inconvenient facts for both Palestinians and Israelis ("Most of the land that Zionists settled before 1947 was freely sold to them by Arabs"), Mead forcefully critiques Yasser Arafat for rejecting a peace agreement proposed by the Clinton administration and contends that U.S. foreign policy toward Israel is governed by self-interest. Though he declines to offer detailed prescriptions for how American leaders should handle Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Iranian funding of Hamas, and other contentious matters, Mead provides more than enough context to understand them. The result is a valuable resource for policymakers and voters alike.