Israel Advocacy - Cooperating with Community Groups

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You can amplify and reinforce the work of your group through cooperation with others, especially on the local level. Cooperation can include coordinating demonstrations, links at Web sites and mentions in each others' publications, as well as providing facilities for a meeting, speakers or funding. From our experience, you may have to work a bit at getting cooperation, and it will probably based on considerations of mutual benefit, rather than considerations of altruism or working for the cause. You will need to convince the other organization that they are getting something valuable by working with you. You will also need to be on guard against being subverted or exploited to support causes and messages you do not want to support.

In the United States, there are a number of well-established community organizations engaged in Israel advocacy. Not surprisingly, the distribution of offices of these groups mimics the concentration of Jewish communities in the major urban centers of the country. Some of these are potential allies and some are sources of information and contacts. They have full time professional staff and have boards that raise considerable amounts of money. In addition there are local groups, church groups, unions etc. that may be sympathetic or willing to join forces for specific issues like protests against Iran or protests for women's rights or gay in the Middle East.

Cooperation and formation of coalitions are essential. Coalitions can be built with any group or groups that share your stand on an issue, whether they are Zionist, Jewish or not. Cooperating with general organizations helps you to reach a general audience. The issues can be general, such as genocide in Sudan, oppression in Iran or Christian rights in Egypt. Coalitions can be built around issues or around an agreed consensus of principles.

Cooperation with other groups - Zionist, Jewish or otherwise is often essential if your demonstration, event, petition or university activity is to succeed. They can often offer publicity, facilities, attendees and handouts. Likewise, you can help form alliances by participating in appropriate events and showing that Zionists care about their cause. Non-Zionist groups including churches, unions and rights groups offer a unique and important opportunity for outreach. Form coalitions based on common interests. Churches may be willing to participate in protests against persecution of Christians in Middle East countries. Evangelical churches are often enthusiastic about helping Zionist causes. Women's rights groups may be eager to protest repressive practices in Muslim countries. Gay activists may be interested in activities related to gay rights. Many of these groups have been bizarrely subverted by anti-Zionists, but that doesn't mean attempts at cooperation should be abandoned. We must always extend the hand of friendship. Remember however, you aren't out to subvert someone else's cause or group, but they should not be allowed to exploit your group unfairly. Make sure you aren't going to find yourself and your members demonstrating for causes and disseminating messages that should not be part of your program.

Below is a list of some of these organizations. It is not inclusive. It especially does not include groups whose positions are inconsistent with the principles in this document.

Prominent Jewish Groups

Jewish Council for Public Affairs: (http://www.jewishpublicaffairs.org/): JCPA (not to be confused with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) is the umbrella organization for the local Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRCs). JCRCs can have a significant amount of their activity devoted to Israel advocacy, depending on the local community needs. Sometimes they are a committee of the local Jewish Community Federation, and sometimes they are separate organizations. The local JCRCs can involve themselves in grassroots advocacy efforts and even demonstrations on behalf of Israel.

Anti-Defamation League: (http://www.adl.org) The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all." Israel is now one of its priorities. It has 26 US offices. Their national leader, Abe Foxman, frequently makes statements regarding Israel. ADL will involve itself in letter writing campaigns, in particular to the media. It does have a policy against officially endorsing demonstrations because they cannot completely control the message if individuals or other groups show up with signs that would be inconsistent with their principles.

American Jewish Committee: (http://www.ajc.org) AJC was established in 1906 by a small group of American Jews deeply concerned about pogroms aimed at the Jewish population of Russia. It has local offices in 27 US cities and makes public statements about Israel through its Executive Director David Harris.

American Jewish Congress: (http://www.ajcongress.org) "The American Jewish Congress is an association of Jewish Americans organized to defend Jewish interests at home and abroad through public policy advocacy - using diplomacy, legislation, and the courts." This organization was much more active and prominent in the 1930ís and 1940ís (when its members included Justices Frankfurter and Brandeis, Rabbi Wise, and Golda Myerson [later Meir]) than it is today. It has 4 regional US offices.

Hadassah: (http://www.hadassah.org/) "Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, is a volunteer women's organization, whose members are motivated and inspired to strengthen their partnership with Israel, ensure Jewish continuity, and realize their potential as a dynamic force in American society." The Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem is probably their best-known project. They do encourage letters and e-mails to Congress.

Hillel - (http:// www.hillel.org/ ) The Jewish Student organization, Hillel, has branches in major university campuses in North America, and international branches in Former Soviet Union and South America. They are a natural recruiting ground for Israel activists and should be enthusiastic participants in campus events. However, they should not be the major locus of campus Israel activities, which should not be directed at Jewish students primarily or exclusively.

WUJS - (http://wujs.org.il/) The World Union of Jewish Students provides information and resources for Israel and Jewish activism. Their Web site includes a page of local affiliates in many major university campuses around the world.

Community political groups focused on Israel

AIPAC (http://www.aipac.org): The American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC has one mission which it keeps in laser-like focus: maintaining the political support for Israel within the United States Congress. Its grassroots activities are all organized around lobbying Congressional representatives, usually with campaigns for letter writing and telephone calls around specific pieces of legislation. It also organizes meetings between the pro-Israel leaders in the community and their Congressional representatives, either in Washington DC or in the district offices. AIPAC does not involve itself, as an organization, in demonstrations, or in advocacy campaigns that are not directed at the US Congress.

StandWithUs: (http://standwithus.org) "StandWithUs is an international education organization that ensures that Israel's side of the story is told in communities, campuses, libraries, the media and churches through brochures, speakers, conferences, missions to Israel, and thousands of pages of Internet resources." It was founded in 2001. It has more of a focus on grassroots activism on campuses and in the community compared to other groups, and is one of the few groups that encourages public demonstrations and counterdemonstrations; they have also made a wide variety of flyers and posters available on their website for free download. They have offices and chapters in Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Michigan, Chicago, Seattle, Orange County, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz.

The Israel Project: (http://Theisraelproject.org) works with Media and offers media training seminars. http://www.theisraelproject.org/ - devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel.

Honest Reporting: (http://www.honestreporting.com) A Web site and organization that monitors news reporting and ensures that Israel gets a fair break.

Camera: (http://camera.org) The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America is based in Boston. CAMERA describes itself as "a media-monitoring, research and membership organization devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East" which "fosters rigorous reporting, while educating news consumers about Middle East issues and the role of the media." CAMERA further describes itself as a "non-partisan organization" which "takes no position with regard to American or Israeli political issues or with regard to ultimate solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Christians for Fair Witness in the Middle East: (http://christianfairwitness.com/) A Christian lay group that advocates among mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics in North America for fairness in the churchesí witness on issues related to the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. A great source of press releases on their reactions to anti-Israel church initiatives, and a group that is aware of the great problems of Israel advocacy.

There are numerous additional groups, as well as umbrella groups like the Israel Campus Coalition (ICC),

Advantages and disadvantages of working with other organizations

Working with other organizations always involves a tradeoff. In general, you are trading control (of your message and your tactics) for access to money, to mailing lists, and to other influential members of the community. Obviously, your message and your tactics have to be consistent with that of the other organization; as an example, a group that is involved in public demonstrations canít really be a part of a local ADL group since they donít involve themselves in that type of action. Of course, there are various degrees to which other groups can help you. Sometimes they will be willing to forward your announcements to their own e-mail lists, sometimes they will provide funds for a specific project, sometimes they will help you make connections with others who are in position to help. All of this, of course, must be individualized to your own local situation.

It is often necessary to have a track record of some successful local projects before approaching other groups. Otherwise, given the broad spectrum of local grassroots Israel activism, they will be appropriately wary of associating themselves with an individual or group whose message and tactics have not been demonstrated to be consistent with theirs. This process may take months or years. Do not be discouraged about that.

Personal connections can be extremely helpful here. Most of the community groups mentioned above have local boards. And if you belong to a synagogue or another Jewish community group, chances are good that you know at least one board member. They can provide you with the opportunity to speak at one of their board meetings. This can be extremely valuable. Even if the organization doesnít provide any specific support, individuals on the board may be very interested in what you are doing.

Problems in Cooperation

Cooperation of Zionist groups is not as good as it could be. Consensus Zionism suffered a great blow in the United States when the "Zionist Organization of America" stopped being representative of American Zionists. There is no organization today that is the "official" voice of Zionism or pro-Israel advocacy. The gap is filled instead by organizations with disparate views that often work at cross-purposes or do not cooperate. This means it is often difficult to form a coalition to fight a specific issue within a community. Israel advocacy and Zionist groups often spend the lion's share of their energy and resources on fighting or intentionally ignoring each other. Web sites of organizations and individuals often refuse to link to or publicize those of other Zionist groups, even if the political difference between them is practically nil. We have to work to change this situation.


This material is copyright © 2009 by Ami Isseroff and members of the Zio-Web group. No part may be reproduced without permission in any form.

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