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Israel in the American Mind
The Cultural Politics of US-Israeli Relations, 1958–1988

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Part of Cambridge Studies in US Foreign Relations

  • Publication planned for: October 2019
  • availability: Not yet published - available from
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108434003

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  • This book examines the changing meanings Americans and Israelis invested in the relationship between their countries from the late 1950s to the 1980s. Bringing to light previously unexamined sources, this study is the first to investigate the intricate mechanisms that defined and redefined Israel's place in American imagination through the war-strewn 1960s and 1970s. Departing from traditional diplomatic histories that focus on the political elites alone, Shaul Mitelpunkt places the relationship deep in the cultural, social, intellectual, and ideological landscapes of both societies. Examining Israeli propaganda operations in America, Mitelpunkt also pays close attention to the way Israelis manipulated and responded to American perceptions of their country, and reveals the reservations some expressed towards their country's relationship with the United States. By contextualizing the relationship within the changing domestic concerns in both countries, this book provides a truly transnational history of US-Israeli relations.

    • Challenges key assumptions and exposes hidden foundations in the field of US-Israeli relations
    • Based on Hebrew and English sources from state and non-state archives
    • Methodologically innovative in that it looks at the process and contexts of cultural production to examine political intent and meanings
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'A unique perspective on the formulation of the steady and growing US support for Israel in the late twentieth century that detects previously unnoticed twists and turns in the narrative history, including fissures in the US-Israeli relationship when it seemed sturdy and elements of strength when it seemed shaky.' Peter Hahn, author of Missions Accomplished?: The United States and Iraq since World War I

    'Eschewing more traditional approaches focusing on bilateral diplomacy and geopolitics, Mitelpunkt explores the symbolic roots of the special relationship between the United States and Israel and offers a provocative new explanation for the American love affair with Israel from the age of Eisenhower through the age of Reagan.' Douglas Little, author of Us versus Them: The United States, Radical Islam, and the Rise of the Green Threat

    'This brilliant demonstration of the power of culture in international relations provides essential context for understanding Israel's exalted status in American politics today. Genuinely transnational, with rich research in US and Israeli sources, the book offers a chastening lesson in the emotional and imaginative ties that can supersede national interests.' Barbara Keys, author of Reclaiming American Virtue: The Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s

    'Tracing the back-and-forth debates that unfolded between writers, filmmakers, diplomats, professors, cartoonists, and others - both in English and in Hebrew - Mitelpunkt thoughtfully reveals how thinking, dreaming, and arguing about Israel provided a way for intellectuals and policymakers of both nations to talk about citizenship, military service, and democracy in an age of persistent warfare.' Brooke L. Blower, author of Becoming Americans in Paris: Transatlantic Politics and Culture between the World Wars

    'With subtlety and verve, Mitelpunkt carefully reconstructs the complex, ambivalent cultural politics of US-Israeli relations at a critical moment in their development. Deeply grounded in US and Israeli sources, connecting state and non-state actors, and possessing a keen sense of the ironies and costs of US-Israeli ties, Israel in the American Mind is transnational cultural history at its best.' Paul Kramer, author of The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States and the Philippines

    'Deeply researched, impressive in its scope, Israel in the American Mind is enlightening, dismaying, even at times amusing, but altogether a superb exploration of the vital and fraught relationship between Israel and America.' Andrew Rotter, author of Hiroshima: The World's Bomb

    'Bringing to light previously unexamined sources, Israel in the American Mind is an impressively informative study that is the first to investigate the intricate mechanisms that defined and redefined Israel's place in American imagination through the war-strewn 1960s and 1970s. … A solid work of original scholarship … enhanced for academia with the inclusion of listings for figures and abbreviations, and introduction (Did I see only America?), a twenty-six page bibliography, and a sixteen page index.' Midwest Book Review

    'Unlike the earlier works in this field, Israel in the American Mind makes great use of Israeli sources; the book can thus be considered the first truly transnational history of the U.S-Israel relationship in the realm of cultural politics. The merits of such an approach are clear. It allows Mitelpunkt to show that the citizen-solder imagery was on one hand, not an innovation originally created for export but rather emerged in Israeli domestic discourse; on the other hand, Mitelpunkt demonstrates just how active a role Israeli officials played in deploying this cultural narrative to Americans in the hopes of garnering diplomatic, political, and military support.' Geoffrey P. Levin, H-Diplo

    'Shaul Mitelpunkt's impressive study of the three decades bookending the entrenchment of the United States as Israel's main arms supplier is notable for blending the tools of elite-based analysis with cultural analysis, and for demonstrating how bilateral relations serve the needs of each party in sometimes surprising ways. Using a wide array of sources, Mitelpunkt recounts how the State of Israel became firmly situated in the American political-cultural imaginary, tracing the content of those representations and the function they served to shore up America's own shifting global identity.' Mira Sucharov, The Journal of the Association for Jewish Studies

    'Shaul Mitelpunkt's Israel in the American Mind is a welcome arrival that offers an ingenious new interpretation of how Americans perceived Israel over three key decades from 1958 to 1988 … The resulting rich account is at once a work of international and transnational history, and a fine example of the best kind of scholarship that has transformed the study of the history of American foreign relations over the past few decades … Israel in the American Mind is remarkably comprehensive while also achieving analytical insight. The result is a superbly fresh reading of a familiar subject.' Andrew Preston, Journal of American History

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    Product details

    • Publication planned for: October 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108434003
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
    • contains: 14 b/w illus.
    • availability: Not yet published - available from
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures
    Acknowledgments
    Introduction: 'did I see only America?'
    Part I. The Disciple State:
    1. 'Lie without blushing': manipulation and friction in the courtship of patronage, 1958–60
    2. 'Might as well be the Midwest': visions of Israel as a development project, 1961–67
    Part II. The Citizen Soldier:
    3. Envying 'indomitable citizenry': the zenith of US fascination with the Israeli citizen-soldier, 1967–73
    4. Reforming Sparta: the October war and the collapse of the citizen-soldier idyll, 1973–76
    Part III. Processes of Peace and War:
    5. 'We ARE moral leaders in the world': the popular foundations of the Camp David Agreement, 1976–79
    6. 'Recollections and regrets': Israel and the conservative-liberal divide, 1980–88
    Conclusion
    Bibliography
    Index.

  • Author

    Shaul Mitelpunkt, University of York
    Shaul Mitelpunkt is a Lecturer in US History at the University of York. Shaul obtained his B.A. in history at Tel-Aviv University before moving to Chicago where he received his Ph.D. in history in 2013.

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