We are two proud Jewish New Yorkers who work in communications. Though we differ in some of our approaches in business and politics, we share a common love for Israel, a unique democracy which celebrates the triumphs of the Jewish people, and is America’s closest ally in the Middle East.
Like other friends of Israel worldwide, we are concerned about Israel’s safety, and pay close attention to the never-ending challenges Israel faces. We each make a living from language and communications -- building brands and enhancing images – and are also uniquely positioned to see conflicts from different perspectives.
Israel faces tremendous challenges living in a “dangerous neighborhood.” And while we embrace diversity of thought, we also know that sometimes language can be used in a harmful manner. For example, yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre would lead to a calamity. Likewise, those who support boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) are simply anti-Israel. To suggest otherwise is a lie.
At the 2014 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised actress Scarlett Johansson for her decision to continue representing Israeli carbonated beverage company SodaStream. Johansson stepped down as a global ambassador for the human rights group Oxfam International after being criticized for supporting this Israeli business.
“Everyone should know what the letters B-D-S really stand for: bigotry, dishonesty, and shame. And those who oppose BDS, like Scarlett Johansson, they should be applauded,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Thus, we urge anyone affiliated with the New Israel Fund (NIF) to stop supporting this organization financially. These extremists – amongst many other activities -- openly support BDS, as is reflected on their website. They write: “NIF will thus not exclude support for organizations that discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.” NIF prides itself in funding numerous organizations that also support BDS.
The Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Yoni Chetboun noted, “The main goal of the NIF is to undermine the Israeli Army, by knowingly financing left-wing Israeli groups that try to get young Israeli soldiers prosecuted for war crimes.” The New Israel Fund spends nearly $27 million annually on activities which harm the Israel Defense Forces, encourage sanctions on Israel, and more.
This month, senior officials of NIF-funded organizations signed a petition calling on European countries to boycott products from the so-called settlements, to restrict the entry of settlers and to restrict academic cooperation: “We call on you to not only label settlement products produced in violation of international law, but as we do ourselves, to also boycott them.” If that does not mean BDS, what does?
The New Israel Fund must be ostracized by the Jewish community. An ideal starting point? Do not allow NIF to march with its banner at the annual Israel Day Parade. Why allow the parade to be maligned by traitors whose activities prove they stand against Israel.
Scarlett Johansson, an A-list celebrity, was commended throughout the pro-Israel world for walking away from Oxfam because of its support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. The Jewish community should follow her.
As communications professionals we know that words matter – but actions matter more. Walk away from the New Israel Fund if you care for Israel. There is no other choice.
Hank Sheinkopf is CEO of Sheinkopf Communications and a leading Democratic strategist. His clients have included former President Bill Clinton, former NY Mayor Bloomberg and others.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, one of the 25 largest PR firms in the United States.
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