In This Review

Our American Israel: The Story of an Entangled Alliance
Our American Israel: The Story of an Entangled Alliance
By Amy Kaplan
Harvard University Press, 2018, 368 pp

Kaplan’s perspective as a scholar of American studies provides the key insight of this book: that the United States’ affinity for Israel has less to do with American Jewish activism than with deep cultural forces that have manifested themselves on both the left and the right over the years. In the 1940s and 1950s, for example, the left was the source of Israel’s most vocal U.S. support. Kaplan’s sympathies lie not just with the left in general but also with the pro-Palestinian trend that has supplanted the left’s earlier Zionism, and perhaps as a result, the book is better at analyzing the myths and assumptions behind right-wing pro-Israel sentiment today than at examining the equally fascinating mythmaking behind contemporary left-wing views. Kaplan largely ignores the international context of views on Israel, apparently forgetting that the European left was even more pro-Israel than the U.S. left until the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and so her otherwise keen analysis misses some important detail. Even so, Kaplan’s approach is so fresh, her command of the sources so solid, and her prose so engaging that both casual readers and experts will find new insights in the book.