U.S.-based pro-Israel groups plan first-ever TV ad campaign

By JONATHAN D. SALANT

WASHINGTON (AP) – Jewish groups are starting their first American television advertising campaign and will spend more than dlrs 1 million to promote Israel’s side in its conflict with the Palestinians.

The ads are to run on American cable news stations in 100 cities nationwide. Their message is that Israel is a democracy, where Arabs, Jews and Christians enjoy freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the right to vote.

“This is really a back to basics campaign,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, one of the oldest and largest Jewish organizations in the United States. “The essential element is that Israel is a democracy, the only one in the region, a kindred spirit of the United States.”

The AJC is funding the campaign along with Israel 21c, a Silicon Valley-based group supported by executives of high-tech companies. It marks the first time that Jewish organizations have begun a TV campaign in support of Israel.

While the ads do not mention the current violence in the Middle East, supporters say the goal of the campaign is to build political support for Israel.

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, a pro-Arab advocacy group, decried the ad campaign.

“The message they build on is an age-old theme of that movement: We’re like you; they’re not,” Zogby said. “It is subtle in some ways but blunt and racist in others. Of course I find it troubling. What they’re trying to do is sell an image that will cover up the real problems that exist.”

Larry Weinberg, of Israel 21c, said the campaign is to tell the story of a democratic country that shares the same values as the United States.

“If people understand the true nature of Israel’s society being so similar to our own, it’s better for America, and it’s better for Israel,” Weinberg said.