Images of Jews, Christians and Muslims freely practicing their religions and voting highlight the ISRAEL21c and AJC television commercials.For the first time in history, Jewish organizations are using the powerful tool of television advertising to convey messages about Israel to …
Beginning Sept. 12 to coincide with the first anniversary of 9/11 and the start of the Jewish New Year, the two 30-second spots were designed to increase America’s appreciation for Israel’s democratic society and the individual freedoms of all its citizens. The ads began in Washington D.C., and were rolled out to New York and Silicon Valley on Sept. 18. Beginning Oct. 1, the ads will be seen in each of the 100 top media markets in the United States.
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“We want Americans to know just how much Israel and the United States have in common,” said Zvi Alon, founder and chairman of Israel21c. “In Israel, democracy means every citizen, both Arab and Jew, enjoys the same freedoms and opportunities as Americans have in the United States. We want every American to know that in Israel’s democracy, Arabs and women vote; In fact, 17 women and 10 Arabs have seats in the Israeli parliament.”
The process of placing the ads was not without controversy, as CNN refused ISRAEL21c’s request to buy time directly on the cable news giant. CNN first said that the ad might increase danger to its staff around the world but then changed its explanation to say that it wouldn’t take any advertising that relates to issue advocacy and “regional conflicts” around the world.
“That’s nonsense,” said Larry Weinberg, executive vice president of ISRAEL21c. “Our ads were not issue advocacy nor were they about the conflict. They are educational ads supported by an American group with money from American citizens trying to use American media to reach Americans. CNN had previously refused to take ads paid for by the Saudi government, so, as they do so often, they thought they’d just ‘balance’ it out by not taking our ads.
“CNN did something political that led it to make a very bad business decision. They’re supposed to be media people, not politicians.”
Weinberg went on to say that the ad would still be seen on CNN because ISRAEL21c and the American Jewish Committee are buying time through local cable operators and would access CNN in that way since they had been refused direct access to the network.
“Israel21c has taken a big leap forward,” Alon said. “We’ve broken onto the national scene in a big way, using advertising as a way to inform and educate Americans.”
The advertising campaign represents the start of the third phase of a three-part program undertaken by Israel21c to present a picture of the social, political and intellectual strength of Israel beyond the conflict.
The program’s first phase began with the launching of the Israel21c Web site in November, 2001. The second phase, which is proceeding in tandem with the advertising campaign, involves assembling a news staff in Israel to pitch more positive stories to U.S. media outlets about Israel and its contributions to the Middle East, the United States and Canada, and to the world. As part of the second phase, Israel21c has already hired a U.S.-based public relations agency to distribute news about Israel “beyond the conflict” to the mainstream American media.
For the American Jewish Committee, producing a television ad is a natural step in AJC’s overall advocacy efforts on behalf of Israel. Founded in 1906, AJC is the United States’ oldest human relations agency, and its central mission is advancing democracy, pluralism and mutual understanding through education and diplomacy.