Friday, October 29, 2010

(NEWS) Jewish Groups Team Up To Fight Anti-Israel Campaigns

"The Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs are launching a multimillion-dollar joint initiative to combat anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns.

The JFNA and the rest of the Jewish federation system have agreed to invest $6 million over the next three years in the new initiative, which is being called the Israel Action Network. The federations will be working in conjunction with JCPA, an umbrella organization bringing together local Jewish community relations councils across North America.

In fighting back against anti-Israel forces, the Israel Action Network will seek to capitalize on the reach of North America’s 157 federations, 125 local Jewish community relations councils and nearly 400 communities under the federation system.

Under a plan approved in late September, the JCPA’s senior vice president, Martin Raffel, will oversee the new network. He will be working in concert with the head of the JFNA’s Washington office, William Daroff.

The network will monitor the delegitimization movement worldwide, and will work with local federations and community relations councils to enlist the help of key leaders at churches, labor unions and cultural institutions to fight anti-Israel campaigns.

Organizers of the network are looking at the response to an attempted boycott of the Toronto International Film Festival last year as a model for how the system could potentially work.

When organizers decided to focus the festival on films from Tel Aviv, more than 1,000 prominent actors and filmmakers signed a statement threatening to boycott the event. In response, the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles worked together to come up with a counterstatement supporting the festival. The counterstatement won the signatures of even more prominent Hollywood figures, including Jerry Seinfeld, Natalie Portman, Sacha Baron Cohen and Lenny Kravitz.

'It was a great lesson and set a template on how to respond,' said Ted Sokolsky, president of the Toronto federation.

When similar delegitimizing attempts erupt, leaders of the new network plan to respond early, according to Jerry Silverman, JFNA’s president and CEO.

'If the community in Chattanooga all of a sudden is faced with [a boycott of] Israeli products in the mall, they should be able to call the [Israel] Action Network and have response and implementation within 12 hours, and not spend time thinking about how to do it,' he said.

As executive director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, Rabbi Doug Kahn has been embroiled in the controversy over the S.F. Jewish film festival’s screening of 'Rachel,' anti-Israel activities at U.C. Berkeley and other recent incidents.

Kahn welcomes the support of the Israel Action Network. 'In the Bay Area we are at the epicenter of the BDS movement and are actively engaged in combating divestment and boycott efforts, whether on campuses, in stores or in any other venue,' he said. 'We are on the front lines here, and through the new network [we] look forward to continuing to work closely with our national leadership, impacted communities and the federation, and other organizations in the Bay Area that are fully aware of this dangerous movement to undermine Israel’s legitimacy and are prepared to mount the necessary efforts to effectively counter it.'

Silverman said that he expects the network to be fully staffed and up and running by Jan. 1.

'Israel’s government has been advocating for this,' Silverman said. 'It has been in dialogue within our federation movement for a while, especially following the Toronto incident and the incident in San Francisco with the film festival, and divestment movements in the Protestant and Presbyterian churches … We have to do this quickly, and we have to be armed in our community and be offensive, not defensive.'" (source)

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