Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Citizenship and Public Affairs
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Other International and Area Studies | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures
This thesis will determine how and to what extent the definition of ‘pro-Israel’ in U.S. mainstream political activism has undergone a change. In light of recent publications and polls indicating that ‘support’ for or ‘connection’ to Israel was waning among college-aged Jewish students in the United States, I decided to examine the potential causes for this attitude shift, and determine how the shift is being reflected in the U.S. relationship with Israel, if at all. To adequately identify changes in the U.S.-Israeli relationship and the definition of ‘pro-Israel’ in the United States, one must first distinguish between, at least, two different definitions of the term. I have chosen to divide the history of American Zionism into three major periods of the modern State of Israel in order to temporally analyze the ‘evolution’ of the term: Pre-1948, 1948-1993, and Post-Oslo.
Following the 1993 Oslo Accords, the prospect of a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict entered the political mainstream. However, because the traditional ‘pro-Israel’ organizations—most notably, AIPAC and evangelical Christian Zionists—in the United States were openly skeptical of achieving peace with the newly formed Palestinian Authority, criticism of Israel’s settlement policy was often met with charges of ‘anti-Semitism.’ This trend persisted in the American political mainstream, for the most part, until 2008, when the “pro-Israel, pro-Peace” lobbying organization J Street was formed, aiming to steer the U.S. government in a new direction in its involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. President Barack Obama’s notably open criticism of Israel’s settlement policy and his insistence on Israel returning to its pre-June 1967 borders has animated discussion over whether or not he is a ‘pro-Israel’ president. Polls in 2010 show that college-aged Jewish students in the U.S. are less attached to Israel than their parents’ generation, indicating either that the definition of pro-Israel has undergone a significant shift or that being a ‘pro-Israel’ is no longer a prerequisite for earning majority support from the American Jewish community.
Taylor, Samuel, "American Zionism and the Evolution of ‘Pro-Israel’ in U.S. Politics" (2012). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 192.
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