It has been little over a week since America went to the polls, and much of the
post-election analysis has centered on one rather stark subject:
More specifically: the soaring number and increasing power
of America’s Hispanic population has captured center stage on the political
scene. Indeed, for the third presidential election in a row, Hispanic Americans
played a decisive role in determining who would be the leader of the Free
In 2004, George W. Bush succeeded in garnering 44 percent of the
Latino vote, while Barack Obama won 67% of Hispanics in 2008 and 71% in the
As pundit Juan Williams noted in a column last week,
“In the battleground states of Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada there is
no question, based on exit-poll surveys, that Latinos made the difference for
And it seems certain that they will continue to do so for
many years to come.
In 2012, Latinos constituted 10% of the US electorate
for the first time, having added four million new registered voters in just the
past four years. It is no wonder, then, that various Republicans are now racing
to figure out how to win a larger share of the Hispanic vote in the
Israel, too, needs to pay more attention to the Hispanic wave
that is sweeping the American political world. In light of their growing clout,
the Jewish state must take proactive steps to reach out to Latinos and enhance
their familiarity and knowledge of Israel.
To put it simply: we need to
launch a comprehensive and coordinated hasbara, or public diplomacy, campaign
that makes Israel’s case to Hispanics directly and “en Espanol.” In a democracy,
demographic dynamism translates into political strength, and it won’t be long
before we see a slew of Latinos rising through the ranks to the heights of
decision-making power in Washington.
According to the US Census Bureau,
Hispanics are now the fastest growing minority group in America.
the past 20 years, the number of Latinos in the United States has more than
doubled to over 50 million.
That means that one out of every six
Americans is now Hispanic, and they account for nearly a quarter of all those
under the age of 18.
Their influence is being felt in nearly every state
in the union, including America’s heartland, the Midwest.
Over the past
decade, the number of Latinos in Iowa and Indiana jumped by 82%, while in
Nebraska and Minnesota it grew by more than 70%.
As The Wall Street
Journal reported last week, “Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population in
the Midwest swelled 49%, more than 12 times the 4% overall population growth
there, according to the census.”
Clearly, the face of America is rapidly
changing, and so too should Israel’s hasbara.
A number of important
initiatives have been launched in recent years with this aim in mind.
Organizations such as AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee’s Project
Interchange have been devoting more resources to building relationships with
Last November, for example, Project Interchange
brought a delegation of prominent Hispanic leaders to Israel. They participated
in a special week-long seminar which highlighted issues that resonate strongly
among American Latinos, such as immigration and integration, and
And Israeli consulates in various parts of
the US have also been expanding their outreach work to Hispanic
But a great deal more needs to be done, from identifying and
engaging with up-and-coming Latino leaders to focusing more energy on the
Spanish-language media in the United States. Israel is blessed with a large
number of immigrants from Spanishspeaking countries, so there is no shortage of
people with the requisite language skills and knowledge to man such a
In doing so, it will be important to recognize that Hispanics
are not a single monolithic group. To lump together Mexicans, Cubans and Puerto
Ricans is to ignore many of the subtle cultural and social differences among
them. Programming and materials need to be tailored to each community so that
they speak to them and connect them with the Jewish state.
Israel is blessed with solid support from American Jews and pro-Israel
Christians. But moving forward, we cannot and must not rely solely on these
groups alone. A financial portfolio is strongest when it is diversified. So too
must Israel’s base now branch out to include Hispanics as well.
we should know by now, when a vacuum exists in the world of hasbara, it does not
remain empty for long. Our foes will almost certainly fill it, unless we move
quickly to do so. And if the numbers are correct, the key to ensuring long-term
US support for the Jewish state may just lie in the answer to a very simple
question: Habla Espanol, Israel? For the sake of Israel’s future, the answer had
better be, “Si.”