- July 11, 2017
From concerned suburban Jews in Los Angeles to a rabbi, to former high-ranking officials in government, advertising, communications, media and even a former Reagan speech writer, meet the people who founded and work in the organizations that fight BDS.
They were brutal murders. Koby Mandell and Yosef Ishran, two boys under the age of 14, were found dead in a cave in a wadi near the settlement of Tekoa in Gush Etzion in 2001. The murderers—who were never apprehended—pelted the bodies with stones to such a severe degree that dental records were needed to positively identify the boys.
At that time, Roz Rothstein was a family therapist with a private practice in Los Angeles. Jerry Rothstein, her husband, was an advertising and marketing business owner. They partnered with community member Esther Renzer. Like many US Jews, the Rothsteins were horrified by the international media's treatment of Israel, which was blamed for the gruesome murders because of its policies toward the Palestinians.
They decided to act and so the organization StandWithUs was born in a living room in Los Angeles.
The organization now has 18 branches across the United States, along with a branch in London, Australia and Israel. In addition, the organization has thousands of activists in different countries across the globe. The organization is non-profit and is built upon private donations with the aim of educating the world about Israel and fighting de-legitimization.
Today, Roz is the organization's global director and is considered one of the 50 most influential Jews in the United States.
StandWithUs acts against the BDS Movement in several arenas simultaneously. For example, take academia. When boycott efforts reach student unions and organizations, StandWithUs leads the fight. Organization representatives meet with students on campus, build a campaign, become active on social media and formulate resolutions against BDS.
Over the past year, the organization has aided Jewish communities across the world that encounter the BDS Movement. For example, when demonstrations are held outside of businesses that sell Israeli products, the organization sends activists to buy from the same businesses.
A lot of the organization's activities are based on social media. The main Facebook page of the organization has more than a million followers, with a weekly record of 105 million views. The organization also manages an additional 18 Facebook profiles in different languages along with Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat accounts.
"After our main Facebook page, which is in English, our most popular page is the Hebrew-language Facebook page," said Michael Dickson, 39, who heads the organization's Israel branch. "We get pictures and supportive responses from people in many Arab countries. Even during Operation Protective Edge, when we ran a campaign in which we asked supporters all over the world to upload pictures with their passports supporting Israel, we had participants from Gaza, the Palestinian Authority and other Arab countries. An Egyptian newspaper defined our Facebook page as one of the most dangerous pages for Egyptian youth, and that is a huge compliment."
Along with the activities of the Israeli government against BDS, headed by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, activists from Jewish organizations around the world are at the forefront of the struggle.
Minister Gilad Erdan's policy is to unite and strengthen the network of pro-Israel activists and organizations to jointly combat the threat of de-legitimization of Israel. To this end, the ministry has initiated campaigns such as Act.il, which creates a united, online community open to all organizations.
"BDS is losing," says Lior Weintraub, former chief of staff and spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington DC, who is now the vice president of The Israel Project (TIP). TIP is an independent and apolitical American pro-Israel organization that was founded in 2003 to aid Israel in the media war.
"We are the only organization that specializes in strategic communication," explains Weintraub. "The organization's leaders are people who have worked for years in the field of international communications, political media and advertising agencies. We take the professional methodology of campaigns and the world of advertising and bring it to the pro-Israel world. Our activities are extremely strong in new media and we have more than 900,000 activists on Facebook."
The Chairman of TIP is Allan Myer, a media personality for over 50 years who, among other things, worked as a speech writer for President Ronald Reagan and as a media advisor to Boeing. Leading TIP’s professional team is CEO and President, Josh Block, who served for a decade as AIPAC’s spokesperson, while the organization's new-media manager is Gary Rosen, a former senior member of the international advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi.
"Our enemies work in a communal fashion and know how to attack," says Weintraub. "When an artist or international star declares they're going to Israel, they immediately pounce. However, if tens or hundreds of thousands of people across the world send them words of support and encouragement, it can make all the difference."
Rabbi Menachem Margolin is not even 40 years old yet, but apart from his duties as General Director of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe and Chairman of the Union of Jewish Organizations of Europe, he also founded the Europe Israel Public Affairs (EIPA) five years ago, which has quickly become one of the strongest and most influential organizations in the war against the de-legitimization of Israel.
"After years of incitement, we brought a complete change to balance the attitude," says Margolin, whose organization works with some of the most influential media personalities in Europe. "In less than four years, we have published more than 700 positive articles about Israel in the most important media outlets in Europe. Changing the attitude and trend of the media brings a similar change in the attitudes of government."
Margolin also has a potent example of his organization's power and influence. "Last week the Palestinian delegation to the European Parliament held an event in Brussels and invited the wife and daughters of Marwan Barghouti to discuss the conditions of security prisoners in Israeli prisons. We got 17 members of parliament to sign a letter to the president and he forbade their appearance. Why should they appear before parliament? It's like inviting Bin Laden's wife."
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