Do U.S. Donors Drive Israeli Politics? Author Contributes to New York Times Israel / Palestine Aid Debate

by University of Michigan Press on July 16, 2010

Part of a full article originally posted July 7, 2010, at The New York Times (Below: Israel Map: Sending Money to the
Settlements–click to view.)

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The Diaspora’s Influence, by Yossi Shain

Yossi Shain is a professor of political science and the director of the Aba Eben Program of Diplomacy at Tel Aviv University and a professor of comparative government at Georgetown University. He is the author of Kinship and Diasporas in International Affairs.

“As early as Hellenic and Roman times, politically motivated charitable donations from sources abroad have played a role in international politics, particularly in the Middle East. Members of all sorts of ethnic and religious communities, including Jews, who settled in the Hellenic world, felt no tension between duty to Jerusalem, the symbolic and real embodiment of their faith, and loyalty to their place of domicile.

Attachment to Jerusalem manifested itself in yearly tithes for the maintenance of the Temple, paid by Mediterranean Jews after the Seleucid and Ptolemaic overlords ceased subsidies. The historian Erich Gruen has written that the overseas contributions brought great wealth to the Temple, a gesture that did not signify a desire for return. On the contrary; it signaled that the return was not necessary.

In our time, money from the diaspora to influence national identity and finance conflict in the country of origin is a common phenomenon in many parts of the world. But financial transfers come not only from kin communities; non-kin organizations and individuals may see the conflict affecting their own international vision or even identity.


This has always been the case in the Arab-Palestinian—Israeli conflict, where Muslims and Christians funneled money to promote their causes, while liberal-left groups have invested money to advance their politics.

For example, an Israeli group, Im Tirtzu, recently published a detailed report demonstrating that 16 “anti-Zionist” non-governmental groups supported by the liberal-left New Israel Fund worked to provide the Goldstone committee with material that accused Israel of committing war crimes during the 2009 Gaza operation. The report provoked calls in the Israeli Knesset to investigate the New Israel Fund and its operational arms in Israel.

For many evangelicals, Israel’s victory in 1967 was a confirmation of the accuracy of the biblical prophecies and the nearness of Christ’s own reign. Indeed many Christian fundamentalists find Israel’s conflict with Palestinians over the control of God’s territorial gift to Abraham, not only as a matter of contemporary political battle, but in the words of Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma as “a contest over whether or not the word of God is true.”

The historian Joseph Dan noted the disparity between the theological significance attached by many Christians and Muslims to the existence of a sovereign Jewish entity, and the little attention paid by most Israelis to the way non-Jews view their country.

While Israel’s theological significance is accentuated by both friends and foes, the vast majority of (secular) Israelis is completely ignorant about such perceptions and is paying little attention if any to foreign Christian involvement in their domestic affairs.

Undoubtedly, transnational money flows is often a source of influence on politics and national identity in Israel, but most Israelis believe, correctly so, that the solution to the conflict with the Palestinians will be determined in a different arena.”

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Kinship and Diasporas in International Affairs
by Yossi Shain
Cloth: 978-0-472-09910-8  /  Paper: 978-0-472-06910-1

A major study of the vast—but until now unappreciated—influence of kinship and diaspora on international politics. More

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Professors: Request Free Paperback Exam Copy Here

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