Report: Israel's Relations with Abroad Suffering

Think-tank finds despite encouraging demographic growth, Israel must work to repair relationship with Jewish communities abroad.

Cynthia Blank,

Only 14% of American Jews are Orthodox
Only 14% of American Jews are Orthodox

The Jewish People Policy Institute's (JPPI) 11th annual Assessment of the Situation and Dynamics of the Jewish People presents a complex picture issues of key concern to world Jewry. 

While the report suggests anti-Israel activity on college campuses is not as widespread as believed and that Jewish demographics have seen a positive jump in 2015, Israel's relationship with Jewish communities abroad has become more strained. 

Presented Sunday at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, the report found that anti-Israel groups, the main backer of the BDS movement, are present on over 300 US campuses. 

But “severe anti-Israel activity is limited to around 20 campuses, mainly in California and in some elite eastern schools,” the report found.

Among the suggestions the JPPI report had for combating efforts to delegitimize Israel on US campuses was "exposing ‘activist’ faculty members who use their academic lecterns to advance an anti-Israel agenda."

The report also recommends enlisting Jewish donors “to prevent the misuse of academic freedom in promoting a politicized anti-Israel platform" as well as “to increase cooperative endeavors with Israeli universities.”

JPPI is currently, at the request of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, working on a comprehensive study on the impact of the BDS movement on Israel. 

“Delegitimization needs to be seen for what it is: No less an existential threat to the Jewish state than the Iranian nuclear program,” JPPI’s co-chairmen, Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat, wrote in their introduction.

“Israel needs to mobilize all its assets to deal with the strategic danger posed by the delegitimization movement. Making sure that there is a coherent necessary but is not a substitute for policies that permit Israel to go on the offensive and take it off the defensive.”

Israel-Diaspora ties

Although reports of anti-Israel sentiment in the US may be exaggerated, the report described Israel's relationship with Jewish communities abroad as "less positive" than that of a year ago. 

“Israel’s negative international position and the increasing worldwide criticism of its policies, together with the election of a right-wing government whose position in regard to many important issues substantially differ from those of the majority of world Jewry raised difficulties this year in regard to the ties between Israel and the Jewish communities in the Diaspora."

Rising anti-Semitism made these relations even more complicated, the report notes. 

“On the one hand, it caused Israel’s role as a shelter for persecuted Jews to stand out, yet on the other hand, it sharpened questions concerning the connection between Israel’s policy and attacks against Jews all over the world and as to its role as the representative of Jews who are not its citizens.”

However, the report found, at least in the US, with the dramatic growth of ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox communities there, support for Israel among the younger generations is growing, and not shrinking as is commonly thought. 

Netanyahu welcome the findings, calling them both a challenge and an opportunity. Cabinet ministers were also intrigued, stressing the importance of reaching out to all denominations of Judaism to encourage greater Jewish unity particularly against the BDS movement.