Polarization on the Potomac and the Jordan:
American Political Cultures and Israel-Palestine Gridlock


Since its modern founding in 1948, Israel has received bipartisan endorsement for U.S. economic and military support through seasons of war, terrorism, and territorial expansion. That endorsement, however, has recently become contested, with the movement for Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) of Israel gaining traction, including at the ASA.

This session will evaluate the history of this transition, the role of American political cultures and lobbying groups in foreign policy and of the media in reflecting and shaping public opinion, the legacy of the Holocaust and the fear of terrorism in the American imagination, the wide spectrum of positions within American religious groups (ranging from depictions of Israel as part of divine plans to condemnation of its violations of human rights), the transnational character of the BDS movement, the shifting reputation of Palestinians, the relation of fear and security and of social justice and post-colonialism, and the role of Anti-Semitism and of Islamophobia in these trends.

The 2014 ASA Program included panels on the ASA Boycott Resolution itself and the cultural groups involved; this panel will evaluate the political and economic cultures of the controversies. These presentations bring together assessments of broad trends and particular case studies in the construction of American attitudes toward Israel:

  • Paul Croce sets support for Israel within the narratives of American cultural divides

  • Walter Hixson explains the role of appeasement in American Middle East policies

  • Masaya Sato explains the emergence of military support for Israel within the heart of anti-Vietnam War liberals such as Bella Abzug

Together, these papers shed light on the trends toward gridlock, both in Washington and in the Middle East, how it arose, and how it has been changing - with depiction of some paths away from tragic cycles of fear and retribution. While public discussion often remains polarized, this session seeks to provide a forum for hearing out the arguments and the passions of each side.


» Paul Croce
Shifting the Spotlight in the Middle East: Lifting the Liberal Veil on U.S. Support for Israel

» Walter Hixson
American Appeasement: The U.S. - Israeli "Special Relationship"

» Masaya Sato
Bella Abzug, Cold War Critics, and the Middle East Question in 1970s America