America: Israel's Best Friend?

Monday, July 28, 2014

US Secretary of State John Kerry steps off his plane upon his arrival in Paris, France on July 26, 2014. Kerry will continue meetings regarding a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AFP/Getty)

Secretary of State John Kerry has fallen short on his diplomatic efforts to end the fighting in Gaza. Now, he's looking to salvage talks for a temporary cease fire, and is keeping the door open to future negotiations for a longer term solution.

The United Nations has called for an immediate halt in the fighting, but after what was a relatively calm weekend, fighting resumed again today, just as Muslims in Gaza are celebrating the end of Ramadan.

Nick Schifrin is the Jerusalem correspondent for Al Jazeera America, and currently covering the conflict in Gaza. He weighs in on the fighting, and how Sec. Kerry's proposal is being received.

Some Israelis have expressed deep skepticism about America and its ability to act as an honest peace broker. But surely America is Israel's best friend? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a particularly divisive issue for the American public, and the way most Americans understand the United States's relationship with Israel has changed a great deal since the country's founding in 1948.

As John B. Judis, author of "Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict," explains, while few American Jews supported the Zionist cause through the 1930s, that changed with the discovery of Hitler's Final Solution in 1944. By the time the United Nations voted to support an independent Israel four years later, Israel found a bastion of support in the American Jewish community.   

While the community's enthusiasm faded in the assimilationist ethos of the 1950s, by the late 1960s, Judis says, Israel's protection became a central cause of American Jewish life. The Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973 cemented American Jewish support for Israel through the 1990s. 

Today, Judis sees a shift in the attitudes of American Jews toward Israel, particularly among the young. He discusses that shift and the complicated relationship between American Jews and Israel. 


John B. Judis and Nick Schifrin

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger


T.J. Raphael

Comments [9]

ProblemSolver from USA

@Stephanie from Miami. You are lumping all Arab-Americans as one when they do not identify themselves this way at all. In fact, no other Arab nation is willing to help Palestine in this current massacre by Israel.

For every one Israeli who has been killed approximately 200 Palestinians have been either injured or killed, making this massacre hardly a fair fight.

This massacre is not about religion at all. It is about military capability.

If Palestine was as militarily and technologically capable of killing Israelis on the same scale as they are being killed and wounded, this war wouldn't be happening. As it is now these rockets of Hamas' are of the most primitive technology.

This massacre should be a wakeup call for the world. Look what happens when a country cannot defend itself. This massacre is only making a case for increase in weaponry and military defense weapons. Is that what the world wants? Is that how we solve problems? Is the only way to prevent war is to have a billion dollar budget for defense?

If the world is willing to sit and watch while a country without defense is brutally massacred once, they will surely do it again. A lot of European countries do not have a huge military defense weaponry vault or supply at hand. This causes them to not be aggressors which is good, but also puts them in a weaker position at times.

I'd also like to point out that Palestine is surrounded by a wall that goes all around their borders. Palestinian people HAVE NO OPTION except to stay in the country and become injured or killed. They have to rely on the support of the international community for help and the international community is failing them.

Israel could have every single tunnel gone by now if they had asked the international community for help with it from the start. That is before they launched any bombs. Israel has not once asked for help from any country or the international community. Instead of asking for help or support from other countries Israel has clearly taken matters into their own hands with mercilessly bombing Palestine without any regard whether they hit HAMAS, United Nations volunteers, schools, playgrounds, women, children and men. 99% of Israelis bombs have hit civilians not members of Hamas.

Whole scale bombing isn't solving Israel's supposed gripe, the tunnels. The tunnels are nowhere near being found or cut off and probably never will.

The tunnels are not the real issue Israel is after. What Israel is after is bloodshed, a high dead body count and senseless violence and injury.

Most media is government backed and sponsored. This is why they are supporting Israel in this massacre and not promoting facts or decent reporting.

I must have read the holocaust wrong. I thought it was about making sure that there was never a whole scale massacre of an ethnic group again.

Aug. 03 2014 04:55 PM
Stephanie from Miami

I was offended by the comment in today's broadcast that American Jews don't want to be tattooed by their association of Israel. Perhaps you should then ask Arab- Americans if the they feel "tattooed" by their ethnic and religious association with an entity that has been exposed as using women and children as human shields, that spends millions of dollars building tunnels but doesn't allow their citizens to take shelter in them, that rejects every ceasefire offer while their leaders live in comfort abroad, that does not recognize the rights of women and gays, and on an on.

As an American Jew, I do not feel "tattooed" by my support of Israel (I wonder if the use of the word of tattoo brought to any other listeners' minds images of tattooed arms in Auschwitz). I am proud to be associated with a country that has given repeated warnings to the civilian population of its enemies of its attacks, that maintains a hospital for their enemy's civilian population (why don't you do a report on that?), and has even put its own soldiers in danger in efforts to not target civilians.

I have found that in recent weeks when Israel is constantly misrepresented by the press, American Jews have unified in a way I have never seen before. So while the present situation is something we all hope ends soon, we don't feel "tattooed,"

One day "the truth will out."

Jul. 28 2014 11:10 PM
Stancheck from North Plainfield, NJ

There is not too much in this piece but it's worth reading.
How Israel Backed Hamas

Jul. 28 2014 08:57 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

I could never understand why so many condemn Israel for fighting but turn a blind eye whenever Hamas launches rockets at random places. Keep in mind that Hamas launched attacks even when Israel was ready to agree to a cease-fire, which shows who is really against peace. Let's not forget that Hamas has a history of placing their own kind into harm's way by using them as human shields as well as placing weapons and military bases in densely populated areas, which are all violations of international laws. Also, placing their own kind into harm's way is the only reason to why their deaths are a lot higher. The only reason why the deaths on the Israeli side are lower is because there are actual bomb shelters and even a new invention known as the Iron Dome to intercept numerous rockets coming to them. If Hamas had just spent the money they are given along with the resources to help their people rather than build more weapons or tunnels, there would have been a Palestinian state by now. One other thing is that whenever Hamas does agree to a cease-fire, they only use it as a chance to reload rather than talk peace. For the record, I do support freeing Palestine, but from Hamas who are their real oppressors. BTW, much of the US actually does stand by Israel, not the other way around.

Jul. 28 2014 04:41 PM
Paula from Upper West Side, Manhattan

As an American voter, I'd like for USA to move to a neutral position towards Israel and prioritize alliances with countries that have a track record of respect for human rights and diplomacy (not bellicosity). If Israel doesn't like USA's cease fire request, USA should stop supporting it with $3 billion in weapons per year.

Given the siege and disproportionate bombing of Gaza, the continued occupation of Palestinian territories the whole world declares illegal.... I have no choice but to vote against any politician that works for AIPAC instead of working for USA from now on.

The pro-Israelis can relocate to Israel and do the fight themselves. There's no need to involve every American in the crimes they are supporting.

Jul. 28 2014 04:36 PM

It is so sad to see NPR grasp at straws for news. Israel's support in the American Jewish community is alive and well and will continue to be. Unfortunately, you do not air rallies of world wide support for Israel. Congress has indeed proven to be an unwavering ally to Israel; however, the present administration leaves a lot to be desired in their foreign policy which has led to the catastrophe that we see in the entire Middle East. However, the truly tragic point to be made is that much like Obama and Kerry, NPR treats a terrorist organization that forcefully took command of Gaza in 2007 and has never since held elections, that oppresses its people and kills descenters, that is ethnically cleansing its Christian population, that kills gays, supports honor killing and FGM, that uses children as human shields, that has sworn to kill every Jew on earth no matter where he is, that embezzles its own people's funds, that uses resources it gets from Israel to building countless tunnels to terrorize Israelis instead of building homes and shelters for its people, that force women and children to remain in homes that will be bombed, that hide out in hospitals and in Qatar while its people are dying and that launch missiles from kindergartens as a legitimate government. You have lost site of right and wrong. Do not make a moral equivalence between terrorists and a democratic sovereign nation.

Jul. 28 2014 03:52 PM
Jenna from UES

Poll the average American about aid to is Israel. I can guarantee there is VERY is little support for sending any money there or being involved in any capacity for that matter.

I don't understand why WNYC spends so much time on the subject and why we are always "Israel's best friend". Americans don't want to be involved. Poll them please and share the data.

Jul. 28 2014 03:36 PM
Jonathan from Brooklyn

The comment above is depressingly not shocking in its thinly veiled racism and its complete lack of accountability for Israel.

We have to take responsibility for starting this round of violence. We went about investigating a triple-homicide by arresting 500 uninvolved people, cutting off funds to tens of thousands of others, carrying out targeted assassinations, destroying homes and shooting into crowds of demonstrators, killing eight kids. NONE of that is justifiable because they don't like us and celebrate when we are killed. Rockets may be flying now, but that does not make this whole megillah an exercise in self-defense.

Hamas is a violent expression of hate and absolute desperation. They wouldn't exist today if Israel's original exit from Gaza had been cooperative, instead of a sudden unilateral pullout. We isolated Gaza and let it have just enough funds, water and power to ensure it barely survives and stays a hellhole.

I am long since exhausted of our community spouting the same garbage, blanketly refusing to take any responsibility for our actions, and screaming that any criticism must be confronted and shut down as antisemitism. If you don't blindly hold to the idea that Israel is the most moral and righteous nation on earth, then our actions in this war are patently monstrous. Hamas is not bombing civilian populations in Gaza, we are. Hamas are the incompetents shooting rockets that are causing less death and destruction than you find on an average drunken 4th of July in an American city.

For a long time I didn't question a thing, defended Israel at every turn, and called "fake" on every image of a dead child or destroyed house. My greatest wish is that every other Jew could have a moment of awakening as I did and for once realize that Palestinians are human beings with the same right to life, freedom and security that we have chosen to keep for ourselves. Unfortunately, now that I have, they tune me out.

Jul. 28 2014 03:27 PM
Even BBC wouldn't write this report…

So Hamas sends thousands of (Iranian government-supplied) rockets into Israel over many months, then kidnaps Israeli kids -- before Israel responds by targeting the launch pads of the rockets, along with the tunnels through which those rockets were smuggled into the (democratically-elected) Hamas controlled area. Hamas launches rockets from pedestrian areas so Israel literally calls residents warning them to evacuate before taking out the rockets. Hamas then forsakes not one but two ceasefire offers from Israel, brokered by Egypt and the very Arab League. Hundreds die in the ensuing carnage. Hamas complains that it is not fair because they were not given formal military bases so they must shoot from hospitals and schools! (Simultaneously encouraging the Arab population in the Palestinian and Israeli areas to reproduce as rapidly as possible in order to win their objective through the sheer force of overpopulation.)

Armchair pundits in England and worldwide would agree with the above facts. Yet Israel seems vilified based on the above facts plus the horrible footage that is Hamas's most powerful weapon -- propaganda. This is their stockpile. Hamas' only challenge is growing the stockpile and the hatred. Hamas' mission is to deflect all responsibility for any Arab deaths, making the mere suggestion a very politically incorrect notion, forbidden to be uttered even by westerners.

Add to the mix, Hamas propaganda preys on the ignorant among us by stating that this is a conflict that lasts "thousands of years" -- ignoring the peace and prosperity enjoyed for many hundreds of years before England split the tribes into nation-states after WW1 and WW2.

How silly and sad for NPR promote propaganda that is crafted by terrorists, whose PR is admittedly so good that they seem to be a negotiation or two away from arranging free lessons from the Israeli Army to figure out how to shoot straight, just to "even the numbers!"

Jul. 28 2014 11:31 AM

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