Israel’s Mangled Message to U.S. Jews


 It's a sign of just how dysfunctional Israel's rightwing government has become that a major campaign so many American Jews considered insulting and demeaning was undertaken by zealots who obviously know nothing about American Jewry and weren't smart enough to consult with the two officials in their government who know it well:  the prime minister who lived here for many years and his American-born ambassador to Washington.

It took weeks of complaints and protests before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepped in on Friday to order the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption to halt what Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic called a "ridiculous Diaspora-bashing ad campaign."

Amb. Michael Oren said that neither his embassy nor the Prime Minister's office had been consulted in advance of the campaign, which began in late September.

Israeli ex-pats were the target of the "come home" campaign, but its message that being in the United States, and possibly even marrying an American Jew, is a threat to Jewish survival was offensive to many Jews here.

One message warned, "Before Hanukkah turns into Christmas, it's time to come back to Israel.

The ad campaign was attacked by Jewish activists and Jewish Members of Congress. ADL's Abe Foxman called it "heavy-handed, and even demeaning." The Jewish Federations of North America called it "insulting."

Amb. Oren conceded the campaign "clearly did not take into account American Jewish sensibilities."

Goldberg said, “I don’t think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads”

The minister responsible for the campaign, Sofa Landver, a Russian-born member of Avigdor Lieberman's ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, told Shmuel Rosner she couldn't comprehend how anyone would misunderstand the campaign and accused critics of "foolishness" and called Goldberg a “journalist with zero understanding”

After a lengthy conversation with the minister, Rosner reported, "I'm afraid to say she doesn't quite get it." Landver told him her focus is Israelis abroad and American Jews are not her issue of concern, and she agreed with the message posted on one billboard stating "Israelis who linger too long in the Diaspora risk losing their Jewish roots."

A big remaining question is whether anyone will be held accountable or the dolts who did the damage have enough proteksia to render them immune and free to screw up again.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.