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The Israel Project (TIP) describes itself as “a one-stop source for detailed and accurate information” that “provides facts” and is “dedicated to informing the public and media conversation about Israel and the Middle East.”
Put succinctly, TIP is one of many advocacy organizations dedicated to promoting a positive image about Israel and telling Israel’s story in the midst of heated debate and controversy.
The question is: do its tactics help or hurt in one key dimension of the work of the pro-Israel community — reaching out to progressive young people who care about Israel and object to the occupation.
Let’s look at a recent TIP effort to burnish Israel’s image.
TIP recently posted a photo on Facebook of an Israeli woman soldier clad in a tight-fitting IDF uniform with flowing long blonde hair and her rifle resting against her backside. This picture was posted along with the caption, “✡ Only in the IDF ✡”.
This post is extremely sexist and should have no place in pro-Israel advocacy. TIP was trying to glorify Israel and engage young people by portraying a “hot” Israeli soldier. Instead, they are objectifying women, denigrating their service, disrespecting Israeli soldiers, and turning an important position — securing the safety of one’s country – into sexual objectification.
In an article in the Jewish Daily Forward, Andrew Dubrov pointed out that “selling Israel with sex has become a strategy that many groups are doubling down on. TIP’s little slip-up here falls neatly in line with other blindly pro-Israel ad campaigns like … ReThink Israel, one of Sheldon Adelson’s pet projects. The avowed mission? To appeal to “stuff 18- to 24-year-olds care about.” This “stuff” includes such serious topics as “surfing, beer, hotties, style, music and changing the world. Except they’re all — that’s right — in Israel.”
The mainstream Jewish community already struggles with engaging young, progressive voices in pro-Israel advocacy — and objectifying women alienates us further. I was enraged and disgusted by this messaging. To me, and students across the country, advocating for Israel is not about gawking at “hot” soldiers; it is about creating peace, ending the occupation and working towards a two-state solution. By not addressing these important issues and then displaying overt misogyny, TIP is alienating the voices of young people who hold these values, not engaging them. Women already face enough objectification in the mainstream media, TIP does not need to use “pro-Israel” as a platform to create more.