Americans of Hispanic origin, the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, are relatively hostile towards Israel because they are ignorant about Middle East affairs and are influenced by traditional anti-Israeli Catholic views, according to the Israel advocacy group, The Israel Project (TIP).
In a media briefing in New York to mark the resignation of TIP’s founder, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the group’s Executive Director for the Americas, Allan Elsner, said that Israel is more popular among older Americans, Republicans, conservatives and Evangelicals and less popular among “liberal elites”, African-Americans and Democrats. Elsner said that the Israel Project was focusing its efforts on “groups where we have a problem.”
In the global arena, according to TIP’s Executive Director of Global Affairs, Laura Kam, the Project has found anti-Israeli public opinion in Europe difficult to budge and is therefore devoting most of its efforts on the continent to working with local Jewish communities.
At the same time, TIP is rapidly expanding operations in Russia, China and India where people “are less interested in the conflict and more in Israeli innovation,” Kam said. But the same approach of trying to “brand” Israel by highlighting its creativity and innovation is “a complete fiasco” in the United States, according to Laszlo Mizrahi, because Americans “are not interested.” In America, she says, one has to focus on Israel’s “quest for peace, shared values and the common front in the fight against terrorism.”
Laszlo Mizrahi founded the Israel Project ten years ago and turned it into one of the most influential pro-Israel advocacy groups in America, with 75 employees, a $12 million annual budget, a 240,000 strong mailing list and an Arabic media website with 300,000 “likes”, half of them from Egypt.
She said that her group spends over a million dollars a year on polling and focus groups, pinpointing the messages and words that work most effectively. She said that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to a Joint Session of Congress last year was formulated in consultations with TIP, as are other statements put out by the Israeli government. She said that TIP deserves much of the credit for the large support that Israel receives in American public opinion.
Laszlo Mizrahi also revealed that her group had recently conducted a poll in Jordan and that “it does not look good for the king”.
Commenting on her decision to leave an organization with which she is so closely identified, Laszlo Mizrahi said that too many Jewish organizations in America are “dominated by strong people who make decisions for the entire organization.” She said that contrary to other groups, TIP is “performance based and run like a business” by TIP’s board of directors, which includes six million-dollar donors.
Laszlo Mizrahi added that TIP had hired an executive recruiting company that would find her replacement before she departs in five months. She expressed confidence that TIP would continue to function well even after her departure. “But I will always be the founder of the Israel Project,” she added.
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