Sunday, February 25, 2007

Zionism and the United States

The Cultural Connection: Zionism and the United States By LARRY PORTIS

Not long ago, I met Eyal Naveh, an Israeli historian, who explains that the United States has been the "model" for the Israeli state and society. He claims that the US was first a model for the Zionist pioneers, then for the founders of the state of Israel. Like the US, Israel was to be an entirely new country created in a savage, untamed land peopled only by savages. Like the US, Israel would be unique in its democratic institutions, its multicultural society and its modernity. Israel would also, like the US, apply the most advanced technology in the resolution of existential problems and towards the achievement of a high standard of living.

I agree with Naveh that the US influence over the Zionist enterprise is important. What is less understood is how Israel has become a model for the US. Recently the work of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt has raised the question of how Israel, through the Zionist lobby in the US, has perhaps come to exercise a virtually direct control over US policy in the Middle East. This is an important debate in which others, such as Noam Chomsky and Bill and Kathleen Christison have made important contributions. In this debate, in my opinion, the cultural connections between Zionism and the United States should not be minimized.

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