Jewish peoplehood is under attack by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and other forms anti-Israel activism and in response, the Jewish community “must build a communications infrastructure,” to address those threats, Josh Block, CEO and president of The Israel Project wrote Tuesday in an op-ed published in the Jewish Journal.
Historically, American Jews have risen to the challenges facing them in the United States. In the early part of the 20th century, “Jews in America were indigent — we couldn’t feed ourselves — so we built the infrastructure and organizations to thrive. After World War II, it was refugees and the nascent State of Israel. Later, the community came together and built the infrastructure to face down the threat to Soviet Jewry, ” Block noted.
“During the past 125 years, we have addressed the great existential problems facing our people and overcome incredible obstacles to build a foundation for thriving Jewish life,” Block wrote. However, “the threat facing Jewish peoplehood is again different and we do not have the infrastructure we need to survive.”
The existing communal institutions are not appropriate for combating the new threat posed by anti-Israel activism, so “we must build a communications infrastructure designed to fight delegitimization and anti-Semitism hidden in anti-Israel sentiment,” according to Block.
He noted that there are three elements to the success of the American Jewish community.
The first is “lobbying and politics,” which establishes connections to politicians and decision makers who can introduce legislation that is “good for America and good for Israel.” Block observed that “we invest in this work at a high rate, in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually, with great effect.”
Think tanks and other institutions which are “crafting ideas to strengthen America and Israel” constitute the second element. Block observed that the “vast preponderance of our philanthropic dollars,” amounting to tens of billions are invested in this arena.
By contrast, strategic communications “is barely funded by our community.” Block estimated that “less than $10 million a year is spent” on strategic communications which must be vastly increased “to have any meaningful impact on our shared destiny.”
To create the necessary infrastructure to meet today’s challenges when “more people will watch video content online than on ABC, NBC and CBS combined,” Block calls on philanthropists to increase their investment to “at least 5 percent of annual distributions” in order to expand this critical domain.
He also observed that organizations like The Israel Project, which he heads, are best positioned to meet the challenges by “using data-driven solutions and developing new platforms to fundamentally change public opinion on Israel and world Jewry.”
The Israel Project publishes The Tower.
[Photo: Ed Yourdon / WikiCommons]