US & Israel’s changing relationship, eight-hour symposium will examine the issue


Image courtesy of the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies.

By Amer Taleb

The changing political relationship between Israel and the United States will be highlighted in a symposium on Wednesday.

Everything from young, liberal, American Jews drifting away from supporting Israel to assessing the impact of the Arab Spring on U.S.-Israeli relations will be discussed at the Symposium on the U.S.-Israel Relationship hosted by the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies.

“For a long time, there was an assumption that the U.S. would always be a strong supporter of Israel. In a shifting political world, especially with what’s going on in the Middle East, will that continue?” asked Beth Alpert Nakhai, associate professor of Judaic Studies and a symposium organizer. “It’s an important topic, especially as we move closer to an election.”

The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, the symposium’s driving force, has never hosted an event of this caliber at the UA, Nakhai said. One speaker is coming from Tel Aviv, Israel to Tucson for the event.

Gil Ribak, the Schusterman Postdoctoral Fellow at the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, will discuss the relationship between young, liberal American Jews and Israel. That segment’s Jewish identity is eroding due to religious intermarriage and assimilation, Ribak said. A weaker Jewish identity means they support Israel less.

“The average age of Jewish activists is rising, and that’s a crying shame,” he said.

Matt Flannes, a graduate student studying government and public policy and a graduate of the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, will film the event for the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts.

Flannes, who’s researching the Arab Spring and will teach a class about it next spring, said the Arab revolutions are a good sign for Israel.

“Functioning democracies will make a healthier environment,” Flannes said. “It’ll get very messy and dirty before the region reaches that point, but in the long-run I think it’ll be beneficial for Israel.”

Ribak said he hopes everyone that attends learns to appreciate the historical context of the U.S.-Israeli relationship to avoid simplifying complex issues they hear about every day.

“They’ll get several points of view. I suspect that the scholar that goes before me will not have the same take as me,” Ribak said. “It’ll be interesting for students to juxtapose those opinions.”

The eight-hour symposium will begin at 1 p.m. on Wednesday in the South Ballroom in the Student Union Memorial Center. The event will cost around $25,000 and between 150 to 200 people are expected to attend, Nakhai said. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and private donors, among others, will fund the event. The event is free to anyone with a CatCard.

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