Becoming a Better Activist for Israel

This posting was written by Richard Friedman, Executive Director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, who is blogging from southern Israel during a solidarity mission for UJC National Young Leadership Cabinet members and alumni and members of NYL's Ben-Gurion Society (read more about BGS)

TEL AVIV -- The media, for a variety of reasons, do not always give a fair shake to Israel, which too often diminishes public support for the Jewish state. The Israel Project, known as TIP, is trying to do something about it.
A relatively new organization, its founder and president, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, spoke to our group Sunday night at the start of a two-day visit to Israel. The purpose of our trip, organized by UJC, is to give us the chance to learn more about the situation in the southern part of the country, express our solidarity and assess the human needs stemming from the recent war with Hamas.

As we gathered at our Tel Aviv hotel for the start of our program, we focused on problems gripping Israel's image in the world and what we can do about it as members of local communities representing every region of the US. Mizrahi said a cornerstone of TIP's approach is to be accessible 24/7 to journalists, especially as news is breaking. "Jewish organizations go on vacation," she said and sometimes fall behind on big stories that break over a holiday or weekend. Israel's incursion into Gaza, for example, began Saturday, Dec. 27. "You really have to be on top of it."

TIP also focuses on "framing" issues ahead of time, by anticipating events and offering background reports and briefings to journalists. The idea is to prep reporters ahead of time, so that when events break their coverage is fair and has context. Mizrahi also said there is an "extraordinary correlation" between negative reports people read and watch about Israel and Jews and anti-Semitism.

TIP was founded in 2002 as Palestinian suicide bombings against Israel were accelerating. TIP describes itself as an "international non-profit organization devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security, freedom and peace." The organization, through a variety of strategies, wants to help "hundreds of millions of people around the world see a more positive public face of Israel. This helps protect Israel, reduce anti-Semitism and increase pride in Israel."

Israel needs our help right now and there is plenty we, as individuals, can do. We can support organizations such as TIP, and become media activists by drawing upon its many offerings; we can increase our annual UJC/Federation campaign gifts, if possible; we can work to educate elected officials at every level of government, and we can travel to Israel to express solidarity and gain a better understanding of Israel's current difficulties.

- Richard Friedman

Give to UJC's Israel Solidarity Drive Now.

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