Chaos in the Middle East – Danger or Opportunity for Israel?

By Gordon Haas

While the Jewish community was celebrating the High Holidays, the international community was busy discussing issues of great importance to our community: responding to use of chemical weapons in Syria; meeting the new Iranian president and finding ways to stop Iran’s nuclear program; watching Abbas support the EU’s boycott of sanctions and receive a standing ovation at the UN General Assembly as the president of Palestine – a non-member state of the UN.

The opening of the General Assembly always makes for an interesting time of year for our community.

The Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest NJ is the primary place in Federation where these issues are discussed. As the Jewish community has watched the “Arab Spring” in Egypt deteriorate, and the civil war in Syria escalate, and the new President of Iran seem to be more collegial, we are continually asked the following questions:

What is the impact on Israel. Does the upheaval in the Middle East mean Israel is in more danger? What response should we, as the organized Jewish community, take? We don’t want to be seen as pro-war yet we understand the consequences of not speaking out when we believe that civilians, the Jewish community, and the State of Israel are in possible danger. We don’t want our children and grandchildren to ask us where we were when danger was lurking.

To ensure the community is informed and educated on these issues, especially as they relate to Israel, the CRC has focused its third Step Up For Israel Advocacy Summit on these international concerns. We have a great line up of speakers who will address the chaos in Syria, Egypt, and Iran.

We are also going to be focusing on branding Israel. A number of new studies show the best way to gain support for Israel is to positively brand it and that social media is having a big influence. We will also be hosting workshops to help people build on their advocacy skills to effectively counter attacks on Israel’s legitimacy, respond to the media, and engage in diplomatic outreach.

The Israel Advocacy Summit will take place on Sunday, October 20, from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany. It is free and open to the public. This is an historic moment and I urge everyone to attend and to share the information with their congregations and friends.

It is important that we all be informed by thoughtful experts versus moved by bits of information we receive from the media. It is important that we all have the skills to be effective advocates for Israel on college campuses, in community organizations, and in analyzing media reports. For more information and to register, click here.

In the meantime, the CRC is urging community members to sign a letter to Senators urging them to introduce and swiftly pass the Iran Nuclear Prevention Act. This Act would increase sanctions on Iran. It has already passed the House. We believe it is imperative to continue to engage in diplomatic efforts while we continue political and economic pressure to influence Iran influentials to stop their nuclear ambitions. To sign the petition click here.

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