The result is that American Jewish organizations—both new and traditional—see the need to work together to properly combat the new threats.
Shoham Nicolet, co-founder and CEO of the Israeli-American Council, said that as tensions were ramping up in Jerusalem, he and IAC staff held a virtual meeting to decide whether or not to hold rallies in support of the Jewish state.
They already knew that the escalation of violence looked like it was going to be serious. As they contemplated dates and times for their first round of rallies, each member began receiving messages on their WhatsApp Messenger from family and friends in Israel. Hamas had begun launching rockets into the center of the country.
The participants took a break from the meeting to call their relatives, and when they returned, they said, each was motivated to proceed with rallies as soon as possible. While they originally were planning to hold rallies in a few days’ time or on the nearest Sunday, they decided to organize them within the next 24 hours.
During and after the conflict, the IAC was instrumental in hosting a number of large, in-person rallies throughout the United States, in many places joined by local Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Federations, Jewish Community Relations Councils and Jewish Community Centers.
In Los Angeles, where Nicolet lives, they held a rally in Beverly Hills, which he said was one of the largest he had ever seen. Another rally in New Jersey brought together some 3,000 people.
For the second round of rallies, another decision had to be made, said Nicolet, as the ceasefire had already been announced.
‘The community feels much less safe’
The staff had another serious discussion, realized that while the Israeli conflict was winding down, one within North America was heating up against Jewish people and those Israelis living in the Diaspora, prompting another round of rallies with the organized Jewish community.
“First of all, the demonization of Israel is getting into the mainstream, and this is a big issue that we have to deal with because these are lies and blood libels we didn’t hear at such level. It’s really extensive and on social networks, but not only,” explained Nicolet. “And the second part is that, again, it’s not a secret … the community feels much less safe.”
The violence, he continued, was not just anti-Israel. “We hear anti-Semitic statements and anti-Zionist statements, and these are concerns,” said Nicolet. “It went way beyond the military conflict that was taking place in Israel.”
Contrasting with previous times when Israel was involved in a conflict against Iranian terror proxies Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, the anti-Israel presence both in the media and on the street has been far better organized and outspoken.
“If there ever was a moment where our community needs to come together, it is now. Many in our community have been stunned by the rapidity of assaults on us as supporters of Israel and as Jews,” said Dan Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International in an email. “Unlike the past, the Internet has been the force multiplier that spreads this particular virus in ways never before. But this perfect storm of Jew-hatred knows no political or ideological nuance. Each of us—organizations and individuals alike—has an obligation to stand up now against this dangerous, ominous, and unprecedented wave of anti-Semitism.”
Unlike in other conflicts, Jewish organizations faced hurdles in organizing. First, the speed of the conflict, lasting only 11 days—as opposed to the 51 in the summer of 2014 against Hamas in Gaza—gave organizations less time to coordinate a response, especially with the Shavuot holiday in the middle of the rocket-launching.