June Update: Danger of Self-Bias

Before looking at the current events that will shape my research, I started by looking back at history. How did the United States begin its alliance with Israel? When did this alliance actually informally and formally start? What is the historical precedent of relations between US Presidents and Israel? Finally, how do these actions compare to those of President Trump?

For the last three weeks I collected documents from every US President since 1948. I have been reading them and categorizing them into three main themes: Active support of Israel, Neutrality, and Attempts at Restraint.

In looking back at history, I realized that my research question was inherently bias. I anticipated that Trump’s actions would be strikingly different than his predecessors. What has been more striking is the similarity. I am still in the process of sorting each president into the correct categories, but the the transition to alliance with Israel occurred informally much faster than I had anticipated after 1948. Many presidents made de facto alliances with Israel to increase domestic support, with little consideration of international implications. This theme runs throughout almost every Presidency, and is no exception today.

When I complete my sorting of previous presidents since 1948, I will turn to current events. I will collect documents from both English and Arabic sources to prevent a skewed perception of events. I had anticipated my project forming as a contrast of President Trump’s actions to all other Presidents, but rather I believe it will be a comparison. I will find actions in past presidencies that parallel those of Trump. Although the manner of which Trump has released his decisions, without much oversight via Twitter etc. may be unconventional, the relationship he has with Israel is not groundbreaking. This has been a disheartening discovery in my research.

Additionally, I have begun to slightly stray and look at the role of Department of State alongside Presidential actions. The Department of State often fought against Israeli de-facto alliances, even issuing long documents to advise Presidents away from Israeli support. Today, the State Department recognizes and support Israel as a strong ally. I have yet to find where this transition occurred, but it is something I am analyzing alongside my research of presidents. The delay between Presidential support of Israel and the State Department’s support has been very interesting.


  1. empeairs says:

    Your research sounds really interesting! I appreciate how you relate actions of past presidents to our current administration. For your research on current events, are you going to use mostly published sources like newspapers or utilize social media channels? I’m interested how the current landscape of communication and news delivery might affect your research.

  2. Jehan Narielvala says:

    This project sounds really interesting and I can’t wait to read more updates on it throughout the summer! I think it’s also interesting that although Trump is an anti-status quo foreign policy president, that his policies in the Middle East (besides the JCPOA) have been very similar to the actions of past administrations. It would also be interesting to find out how state department has changed under the Trump administration because for one thing, the new administration no longer labels any part of Israel as “occupied”.

  3. Emma Russell says:

    The historical analysis and comparison of presidents will be through scholarly articles, but the current events will be from official news agencies. Many news sources from Israel print in English, but there is less access to public opinion in English from the Palestinian and Arab perspective. To understand their view of events (such as the move to Jerusalem) I will be translating these news articles from Arabic. I do not have the capacity to sort through social media unfortunately. The risk would be inflating polarized extreme views represented on social media, due to my inability to sort through it all. Instead, I will be using news a wide range of news sources to help me condense public opinion. This will allow insight into the prospects of peace, and how both sides are adjusting their strategy according to Trump’s actions.
    Thanks for the question!