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JewishJournal.com

October 18, 2012

‘Israelis on Obama’ video: President ‘a mensch’ on Israel [UPDATE]

http://www.jewishjournal.com/israel/article/israelis_on_obama_video_president_a_mensch_on_israel

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a screenshot from the video "Israelis on Obama" (YouTube).

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a screenshot from the video "Israelis on Obama" (YouTube).

“President Obama is doing, in regards to our security, more than anything I can remember, ” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says at the start of a new video created by The Jewish Council for Education & Research (JCER), a pro-Obama Super PAC. Barak’s comment is taken from a July 2012 CNN interview, and is just one of many interviews with Israelis in JCER’s new two-minute Web video aimed at garnering the pro-Israel vote ("Israelis on Obama").

Promoting Obama as “a mensch” on Israel, the message is directed at “a small subset” of undecided Jewish voters for whom Israel policy might make a difference, according to Mik Moore, co-founder of JCER.

“I have never seen such measures of economic pressure taken against Iran as I see under President Obama’s Administration,” says Avinoam Armoni, CEO of Tel Aviv’s Bet Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People, says in the video. “I have faith that the United States and President Obama are true to their word.”

JCER is best known to date for producing expletive-filled web videos featuring actors Sarah Silverman and Samuel L. Jackson, but this new straight-faced video and Web Site, ObamaonIsrael.org, feature earnest testimonies from Israeli citizens praising Obama’s policies.

Israelis in the video also hail Obama’s funding of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, his administration’s sharing military intelligence with the Israeli intelligence services and the two countries’ staging of joint military exercises.

JCER, whose entire base of support adds up to less than $300,000, typically promotes its videos virally on the Web, but in this case, the message will also be delivered as a 30-second TV advertisement set to air in Florida on cable news channels next week.

The hope, Moore said, is to challenge the barrage of Web videos and advertisements on multiple platforms created by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) claiming Obama is unfriendly to Israel.

“The Jewish vote is not going to turn on this issue,” Moore said in an interview on Oct. 18, noting that most Jews vote Democratic and will likely vote for Obama again in 2012.

“We want [the undecided voters] to make that decision with the facts about the President’s record on Israel,” Moore said.

The idea for the video came from Susan Silverman, a reform Rabbi who lives in Jerusalem and is the sister of comedian-activist Sarah Silverman. “I was sick and tired of the lies and misrepresentations spread by Republicans about Barack Obama’s record on Israel,” Silverman told the Journal in a telephone interview from Israel on Oct. 18.  

Silverman said she finds that the Israelis and American Jews who are fearful of Obama don’t have any particular evidence to back up their claims.

“One right-wing guy said to me, ‘Sure, he hasn’t’ done anything yet, but that’s because he’s saving it for his second term,’” Silverman said. “I feel like it’s the same stuff that fuels the ‘birther’ movement.”

Silverman spent last August filming many hours of interviews with Israelis in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Herzliya, but found one of the most compelling testimonies from a woman named Ruthie in Ofakim, a town near the Gaza border.

Ruthie, a childcare worker with three children and a fourth on the way, took issue with Romney’s assertion that, when it comes to Israe,l he would “do the opposite” of what Obama has done in his first term.

“‘Does he think that’s funny? Does he think it’s OK to be flippant?’” Silverman said, recalling Ruthie’s reaction. “‘Barack Obama has made us safer. I would like [Romney] to come with me to the bomb shelter with my children and see how terrified they are. Let him come with us, and then see how he flippant he can be.’”

The video arrives at a moment when Silverman’s sister, Sarah Silverman, has come under fire from some Jewish observers for her provocative and often off-color commentary in earlier JCER videos. In one, Silverman crudely propositions Republican Jewish mega-donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged to give $100 million in support of the Romney campaign this year, and has already given tens of millions of dollars to Republican candidates during this election cycle. Adelson is also a significant supporter of the RJC’s $6.5 million effort to attack Obama and his policies.

Story continues after the jump.

In an open letter to Silverman published in the Brooklyn-based Jewish Press this week, Orthodox Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt assailed Silverman for “making public that which is private,” urging her to marry and raise children. Writing in Tablet, Liel Leibovitz echoed part of Rosenblatt’s message, saying that Obama “could have asked for no worse endorsement than Silverman’s.”

Moore called the criticism of Silverman “a manufactured controversy, a media stunt by an obscure rabbi to elevate his own status on the back of a very successful entertainer and activist.” In the comments section of the online version of the paper, Silverman’s father also jumped into the fray, strongly defending his daughter.

For her part, Susan Silverman is fully supportive of her sister’s brand of political speech. “She’s a modern-day prophet,” Susan Silverman said.  “I couldn’t disagree more with that rabbi from Texas. Some people will choose to focus on the F-word when she uses it, and some choose to hear the message.”

Despite the Jewish reference in its name,  JCER isn’t exclusively focused on reaching Jewish voters, Moore said. One of its Web videos, featuring Latina actress Rosie Perez, skewers Romney’s statement “it’d be helpful to be Latino,” made at a Florida fundraiser secretly filmed and then publicized by Mother Jones.

Another video, titled “Wake the F**k Up,” features Samuel L. Jackson, and has been viewed over 1 million times on YouTube.

“Our videos are designed to appeal to Jews but aren’t narrowly tailored towards Jews,” Moore said. “They are largely meant for the Democratic base.”

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