Advocacy group markets Israel to Chinese, Indians

Israel Project sends businessmen, politicians to tell Asian audiences about the benefits of doing business with Israel.

May 11, 2011 11:59
2 minute read.
Israeli businessman Gil Kerbs & a Chinese reporter

gil kerbs 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The Chinese believe Jews are good with money, strong in science and exert a tremendous amount of influence on the world – all Jewish stereotypes, but meant in a positive way, said Laura Kam, executive director for global affairs at The Israel Project, who just returned from a visit of the country last week.

In an interview at her office in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Kam spoke about the lessons she learned from her recent visit to Beijing, which she said was the first destination in the pro-Israel advocacy group’s bid to expand its mission to engage audiences in China, India and Russia.

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“They think every Jew is a genius,” she said. “Every stereotype that is a negative in the Western world is a huge positive in China. The Chinese are extraordinarily forward thinking and entrepreneurial right now, and want to learn the secrets of the Jewish community worldwide. In their mind, there’s no difference between Jews and Israel.”

Kam was accompanied on her trip to Beijing by Gil Kerbs, an Israeli venture capitalist who is fluent in Chinese and does business in the country.

During their week-long stay, Kam helped set up interviews for Kerbs with media outlets like the People’s Daily, the state-sponsored newspaper which has a circulation of between three to 4 million readers, with the aim of raising awareness to the benefits of doing business with Israel.

“In India and China we’re going to push Israel’s high-tech prowess, Israel’s skill in growing food, in dealing with water, because for example, there are parts of China that are deserts and their people need water,” she said. “Israel has a company called Persay, and 20 percent of the water in China is lost in pipes, and this company uses nuclear magnetic traces technology to figure out how much water is leaking from a pipe.”

If Israeli businesses are flourishing in China, and public opinion is so favorable towards the Jewish state and the Jewish people, one might wonder whether The Israel Project might not put its resources to better use elsewhere.

“The world changes very fast,” said Kam. “In a sense it’s the Hippocratic oath: First do no harm. I take that to heart, but clearly, as more and more business is done in the world it’s important for the Chinese to know Israel is a good plan, and to enhance that.”

At the moment, details of what the organization’s programs in India and Russia would entail – besides speaking tours by Israeli politicians, businessmen and artists – are still unclear.

Mark Sloman, The Israel’s Project’s director for India Affairs, said the organization would have a better idea of how to reach out to Indian audiences in June, when they receive the results from a survey.

In the meantime, he cited the results of a poll conducted on behalf of Israel’s Foreign Ministry in India several years ago, as an indicator of what he expects to find.

“India was found to be the friendliest country towards Israel in the world, except the US,” he said. “Pakistan is to them what Iran is to us, but that doesn’t shape the relationship.

It’s a Hindu country and there’s no history of anti-Semitism there.”

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