Any reader of Israel Studies‘s recent issue on the "Americanization of Israel" would be likely to conclude that the most important aspect of U.S.-Israel relations was cultural and religious exchange. U.S. commodification of Israeli consumption is a key focus here, as is the impact of U.S. religious trends on Israeli religious practices. Though politics does feature in the issue, its place is largely restricted to the influence of the United States on the Israeli party political system and to the ideological convergence between Christian fundamentalism and the Likud Party. The informing conception of the issue, then, seems to be the endeavor to pinpoint those aspects of Israel that have been "Americanized" in recent years. Contributors are thus preoccupied with determining how specific U.S. forms and norms have migrated to and been translated into Israeli culture and society.
However valuable such an approach might be in tracing interesting connections between the United States and Israel, it is very poorly equipped to tackle a major dimension of U.S.-Israeli relations: U.S. state support for Israeli colonialism. The questions never raised include the following: What has U.S. support for Israel actually meant for the Israeli state? Which state capacities have been enhanced and which were curtailed as a result of this support (importantly, force or peace)? And what impact has this had on Israeli society and its economy at large? To answer such questions would involve specifying the nature of U.S. involvement in Israel-Palestine, spelling out the kinds of policies and objectives the U.S. state has allowed the Israeli state to pursue. It would, in fact, involve raising the specter of Israel as a colonial and occupying power, and this the various contributors to Israel Studies seem unwilling to do. Colonialism and occupation are far from mainstream concerns in the Israeli academy. This may sound strange since both practices have defined the history of Israel since 1967 if not before. Yet it is not so strange if one considers that in this respect the Israeli academy merely reflects the attitudes of wider Israeli society: academic evasion mirrors popular denial and indifference.
One group of academics that has managed to break away from this stifling national consensus has been dubbed post-Zionist. Though by no means a unified or politically homogeneous trend, post-Zionism has come to characterize a certain critical engagement with Israeli history and society that has led to a re-examination of Israel’s "founding myths" and ideology. Broadly speaking, it has been defined as follows: "In a general sense, post-Zionism is a term applied to a current set of critical positions that problematize Zionist discourse, and the historical narratives and social and cultural representations that it produced." Inherited Zionist versions of Israeli history and society have thus been debunked.
In the field of history, their main contribution has been analyzing the "causes, character, and course of the Arab-Israeli conflict," where Zionist historiography has been challenged and proven fallacious. Based on research conducted in newly opened Israeli archives, this revisionist history has clearly documented how, for example, Palestinians had actually been expelled in 1948, as they have always maintained (and were not asked to leave by Arab invading armies, as Israeli propaganda has it); Arab armies never intended to "liberate" Palestine, and Jordan colluded with the Zionists to divide it; Israel consistently shunned peace and settlement of the "refugee problem" at every opportunity in the early years; and, finally, that Israel has always been the powerful side in the conflict and has been the party responsible for denying Palestinian rights and national restitution. The picture that emerges here entirely reverses the conventional orthodoxy about victims and victimizers: Israel is seen as an ongoing perpetrator of a massive injustice against the Palestinians. Edward Said has summed up the collective contribution of this revisionism in the following terms: "It is certainly true that the great political importance today of the new Israeli historians is that they have confirmed what generations of Palestinians, historians or otherwise, have been saying about what happened to us as a people at the hands of Israel." And this judgment also applies to Israel’s new critical sociologists.