By MARTIN RAFFEL
The Jewish world has now fully grasped the urgent threat posed by the assault
against Israel’s legitimacy – a pincer campaign emanating from hostile
governments and a loose global network of NGOs. The latter initially came
together at the infamous anti-Semitic 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism in
Durban, South Africa, and subsequently became more organized under the banner of
the “BDS Movement” – a long list of far-Left and extreme Muslim groups
(Red-Green Alliance) intent on weakening Israel politically and economically
through boycotts, divestment and sanctions.
Israeli leaders have
described this campaign as an existential danger, and a number of ministries in
Jerusalem are developing a unified, strong, coordinated response.
same time, the North American Jewish community has been doing its part by
challenging delegitimization initiatives wherever and whenever they arise. The
delegitimizers – who are not simply criticizing particular Israeli policies, but
seeking ultimately to bring about the dismantlement of Israel as the Jewish
state – attempt to penetrate key constituencies, especially mainline Protestant
churches, college campuses and labor unions. They have also targeted cultural
elites, corporations doing business with Israel, and certain states and
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, along with its
national and community member agencies (CRCs), has enlisted the help of
sympathetic non-Jewish allies to counter these initiatives. We have accomplished
this by drawing upon an extensive web of personal relationships formed through
coalition engagement on shared domestic and international concerns, which often
have nothing to do with Israel.
However, in the past couple of years,
there has been a significant expansion in the efforts of these delegitimizers,
along with the sophisticated use of new media to spread hateful, anti-Israel
Recognizing this trend, the Jewish Federations of North America
(JFNA) recently approved a major new project – the Israel Action Network, which
will increase resources available to local federations and CRCs, the backbone of
any community-based response.
The project, which I am directing, will
work alongside Israel and key organizational partners in the US and Canada, not
only to stand up against anti-Israel initiatives, but also to anticipate and
prepare for future challenges and actively promote a fair and balanced picture
of the Middle East among key constituencies.
This issue will receive
considerable attention at the upcoming JFNA General Assembly in New
Orleans.The writer is senior vice president of the Jewish Council for
By MICHAEL C. KOTZIN
When the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) convenes its annual General Assembly in New Orleans early next month, a new priority will be at the heart of the agenda. While support for Israel has long
been a defining characteristic of the federation movement, and while Israel
advocacy has long been a major area of activity for many federations, the
growing global assault on Israel’s legitimacy is taking JFNA and its
constituents into new territory.
Recent years have witnessed an
escalating campaign to demonize Israel in the court of public opinion and to
weaken and isolate the country through steps such as boycotts, divestment and
sanctions. The ultimate goal is to deny Israel its very right to exist as the
nation-state of the Jewish people. Organizations across the ideological and
religious spectrum in North America are mobilizing to take on this threat in
But the federation movement is uniquely positioned to deal
with the issue.
That movement involves not only JFNA itself, but 157
federations in cities throughout North America. And it also brings into play the
Jewish Council on Public Affairs – the community relations arm of JFNA, that
itself brings together Jewish community-relations councils around the US, along
with 14 national affiliates.
Much of the most problematic action now underway in North America takes place in communities throughout the continent. For one thing, that is where the
campuses – the major centers of delegitimization agitation – exist, places where
radical Muslim student groups and ideology-driven faculty create a climate not
unlike that more familiar in European cities today.
That is where
churches and church leaders are attempting to advance divestment. That is where
shoppers are being called on to boycott Israeli culture and Israeli products.
That is where demonstrators take to the streets calling Israel an apartheid
state, labeling it and its supporters Nazis. And in a city like my own, that is
where enemies find countless causes to advance – in our case by attempting to
force Chicago to sever its sister-city ties with Petah Tikva.
Israel Action Network, which will be set in motion at the GA, will mobilize
Jewish communities and their allies in a comprehensive, strategic response to
this challenge as it is playing out in North America – the most important place
in the world for ensuring understanding and support for Israel.
the initiative, JFNA will put itself on the map in a new, highly relevant
fashion.The writer is executive vice president of Jewish United
Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.