April 12, 2001
Focusing on Israel
American Jews are increasingly interested in Israeli issues, ADL director says.
After a lengthy hiatus, American Jews, especially younger ones, are again focusing on Israel as a top priority.
"During the last seven to eight years, American Jews thought that Israel's worst problems were over and turned their attention to domestic communal problems," said Kenneth Jacobson, director of international affairs for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
A similar attitude has prevailed on Capitol Hill. "It used to be that senators and congressmen were familiar with Israel's problems and had visited there," Jacobson said. "That largely changed with the new Congress elected in 1994 and coincided with the end of the Cold War and a sharp upturn in the Israeli economy."
Newly elected Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seems aware of the need to reinvigorate his country's relationships with these two key constituencies. During his recent trip to the United States, he made a point of mending ties with Congress and emphasizing the importance of American Jewry.
"Both Prime Ministers Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak relied more on their personal relationships with the White House. In a sense, Sharon seems to be returning to an older Israeli policy," Jacobson commented during a recent visit to Los Angeles.
Jacobson, who also serves as ADL's assistant national director, has written extensively on Israel and the Middle East in a number of books and major newspapers.
Despite a perception among many Jews that the American media are biased against Israel, Jacobson noted that a survey of editorials in 50 leading newspapers showed the majority to be pro-Israel.
Similarly, polls conducted by ADL and other organizations found strong sympathy for Israel and little for the Arabs.
"We cannot be complacent, but there certainly is no groundswell against Israel, either in Congress or among the general public," Jacobson said.