Sunday Times journalist Josh Glancy takes a look into how Israel’s misjudged ad campaign in the US is an indication of deeper divides.
The furore over Israel’s very strange advertising campaign in the US has begun to die down, but the controversy was an instructive one and is worth reviewing. To recap, some bright sparks at Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption put up billboard advertisements in several major American cities aimed at persuading Israeli expatriates to return home. The campaign featured adverts suggesting that Israeli families would soon lose their sense of Jewish identity in America, and would be better off returning to the Holy Land to safeguard their children’s Jewish future.
Unsurprisingly, the American Jewish community reacted angrily to a project which sought to demean their own Jewish identities and undermine the sense of security of the Israelis who live amongst them.
Benjamin Netanyahu may not have a strong relationship with the American president Barack Obama, but he knows where his real power base lies, and quickly cancelled the campaign after complaints from the Jewish Federation and other American Jewish groups.
The campaign is over then, and the damage done to US-Israeli relations almost certainly superficial. But the gulf in perceptions it demonstrates is a cause for deeper concern.
The Israeli government appears to have become so blinkered in its world view that it is capable of (temporarily) alienating its closest and most important ally, the American Jewish community.
Many mainstream Zionist Jews in both the US and the UK have become increasingly uncomfortable with this Israeli government’s approach to issues such as settlements, free speech and the Israeli Arab community. Supporters of Israel are struggling to balance their loyal Zionism with their distaste for the more illiberal actions of Netanyahu’s government.
The last thing they need is to be insulted in their own country by that same government, whose increasingly oblivious head-in-sand approach to diaspora relations is a source of growing frustration and concern to friends of Israel on both sides of the Atlantic.
Josh Glancy is a news journalist working at The Sunday Times