As communications professionals who have worked on hundreds of political races, we accept democracy and recognize the importance of red lines. As Jewish Americans and proud Zionists, we believe that the consensus in the Jewish community means saying no to boycotts and supporting the Israel Defense Forces.
Over the past year, we have written extensively in order to educate the public about the New Israel Fund. We are aware that NIF has claimed that this is motivated by a right-wing agenda, and those who “take issue with NIF’s support for a two-state solution.”
Hence, allow us to declare here – one of us (George) supports a two-state solution, and the other (Hank) is a longtime Democratic strategist.
The Right does not have a monopoly on a love for Israel – yet the Left which stands with NIF stands against Israel.
This campaign is not about personalities or individuals as NIF has endeavored to make it – it is about protection of the civil rights of the members of the IDF, and all people of Israel.
Simple facts: • The NIF slickly claims they don’t boycott Israel, since the post-1967 borders of Israel are “occupied territory” not recognized by the International community, hence they claim it is not a boycott. NIF (thankfully) does not get to determine the borders of the State of Israel.
Eastern Jerusalem, Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim are all part of Israel – and as the Sodastream issue showed, the Jewish community is unified in standing against all boycotts of Israel.
• The NIF is an organization shunned by the Right and Left in Israel – and has drawn harsh public criticism from Israeli ministers, Knesset members, senior IDF officials (such as Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror), and many others. They respond by noting that their board includes Avraham Burg, a former deputy speaker of the Knesset. What they neglect to mention is that Burg is a radical extremist who has recently joined the Israeli communist party, and declared that “Zionism is over.” Burg claims that Israeli society is fascist and violent, due to continuing trauma over the Holocaust, and claimed that “to define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. A Jewish state is explosive.
It’s dynamite.” Burg openly supports a boycott of all settlement products.
• NIF notes they are against “global BDS” – and that’s because they support “limited BDS” – a boycott of all things that come from the settlements. As Israel’s former ambassador to the US Michael Oren (and current Kulanu MK) said: It is absolutely wrong for American Jews to boycott settlement products.
“Something is wrong here,” Oren said. “Terribly wrong. No doubt, a majority of American Jews care deeply about the security of Israel and oppose those seeking to undermine it. And even some of those calling for boycotts do so out of a sense of caring – I’d say misplaced sense of caring – about Israel.” He’s right.
As opposition MK Yair Lapid said, “extremist organizations” like Breaking the Silence “harm Israel’s efforts in the struggle” in the world.
He is no right-winger – and of course NIF is a major benefactor of Breaking the Silence.
We personally know many people associated with NIF, both donors and supporters.
Many of them are Zionists and have their hearts in the right places. Sadly, the organization they support does not always act with Israel’s best interests in mind, and in fact, often acts against Israel’s interests.
We call upon these people to stand up and tell NIF to stand against all boycotts of Israel and to support the IDF. It is really that simple.
George Birnbaum is an international political consultant who formerly served as chief of staff for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Hank Sheinkopf, CEO of Sheinkopf Communications, is a leading political strategist who has worked on campaigns in four continents. His clients have included former president Bill Clinton. Ronn Torossian is a public relations executive and author of For Immediate Release.