Introducing the Israel Action Network

At the upcoming JFNA General Assembly in New Orleans, the federation network will lay out its plans to counter delegitimization.

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.
AT THE 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 municipalities.
Click for full Jpost coverage of the GA 2010Click for full Jpost coverage of the GA 2010
 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 messages.
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 Public Affairs.
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 various ways.
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.
JFNA’s new 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.
Through 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.