(photo credit: Courtesy)
By all accounts, Israel continues to enjoy widespread support among a large
portion of the American public.
Despite the hostility shown toward the
Jewish state by the current occupant of the White House, sizable majorities of
Americans from across the political spectrum continue to value Israel as a
And while the American Jewish community, along with
growing numbers of evangelical Christians, forms the core of this popular
support, it is evident that strong pro-Israel sentiments are not limited to
these two groups.
This is clearly borne out by polling data as well as
consistently rock-solid Congressional backing for the
Nonetheless, with all due respect to the shared values and
historic bonds that underlie American- Israeli relations, the shifting sands of
public opinion must not be taken for granted.
After all, the United
States is undergoing a profound demographic transformation. America’s face is
changing, and so should Israel’s hasbara
, or efforts at public
Nowhere is this more pressing than in the need to reach out to
America’s burgeoning Hispanic, or Latino, population. In the decades to come,
they will play an increasingly prominent role in molding American
Put simply, we have to do more to make Israel’s case to them,
directly and in Spanish.
Consider the following: According to data
collected by the US Census Bureau, Latinos are now the fastest-growing minority
in America. In the past two decades alone, their population has more than
doubled to over 50 million people. 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.
Since 2000, The Wall Street Journal
reported, the Hispanic share of the population grew in every one of the 50 US
Mark Lopez, associate director of the non-partisan Pew Hispanic
Center, estimates that more than 80 percent of US population growth through the
year 2050 will come from immigrants and their children, the overwhelming
majority of whom are Latino.
Hispanic-Americans are making their presence
felt in all sectors of American life, from pop culture to the playing fields to
political campaigns. It is only a matter of time before their political clout
matches their demographic prowess.
IN ORDER to ensure continued strong US
backing for Israel, it is essential that we educate Hispanic- Americans about
the Jewish state and the challenges that it faces.
In recent years, a
number of American Jewish organizations have begun to do just that, with AIPAC
and the American Jewish Committee leading the charge. Israeli consulates in
various parts of the US that are home to large Hispanic populations have also
been investing greater resources in this direction.
But much more needs
to be done, from organizing regular trips to Israel for prominent Latino leaders
to translating and disseminating basic materials in Spanish to reaching out to
the burgeoning Spanishlanguage press.
There is a wide and influential
variety of Spanish media outlets that reach tens of millions of Americans and
serve as their primary source of information and entertainment. Israel has got
to start tapping into this important medium to get its message
Toward this end, the government should consider appointing a
roving ambassador tasked specifically with reaching out to
Of course, such efforts need to recognize the diversity
that exists among Latinos, who are far from a monolithic group. While
Mexican-Americans make up the largest group, there are also significant numbers
of Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Salvadorans and others.
If we do not start to
better understand this community and take its growing influence more seriously,
Israel and American Jewry will only lose out.
Indeed, in the coming
decades, the success of preserving broad US support for Israel may very well
rest on our ability to cultivate stronger relations with Latinos. Hence,
building bridges between them and American Jews and Israel is now more crucial
The writer serves as chairman of Shavei Israel
(www.shavei.org), a Jerusalem-based organization that assists lost tribes and
hidden Jewish communities return to the Jewish people.