Israeli-American Civic Action NetworkDavid Wanetick
Israeli-American Civic Action Network
An Introduction to the Israeli-American Civic Action Network
There are public interest groups for Mexican-Americans, Indian-Americans, Chinese-Americans and just about every other ethnic group besides Israeli-Americans. That is, until Dillon Hosier founded ICAN: Israeli-American Civic Action Network.
ICAN, an extremely efficient organization, is active in educating, informing and lobbying city councils, state legislators and U.S. representatives on a wide array of issues that impact Israel. ICAN has worked tirelessly to remove antisemitic and anti-Israel libel in ethnic studies teaching materials. ICAN has taken the position that the BDS movement impedes Israelis of color of the right to make a living and violates the civil rights of Israeli-Americans. The groundbreaking organization has successfully lobbied against diluting Holocaust teaching in schools and has allied with the Persian expat community in explaining to legislators of the importance of restricting Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.
You won’t want to miss this session on breaking issues of importance to the Israeli-American community as well as to learn how a small organization can consistently make a profound difference.
About Dillon Hosier
Dillon Hosier is the co-founder of ICAN: Israeli-American Civic Action Network, serves as the co-chair of the National Board, and the Chief Executive Officer. Previously, Mr. Hosier served for a decade as the Political Officer at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, managing the diplomatic and political relationship between Israel and states in the Pacific Southwest. Mr. Hosier has advocated for state and local-level Iran sanctions and anti-BDS legislation in this position and worked to support and strengthen the relationship between Israel and the U.S. in the Pacific Southwest.
So many of us are not aware of what the Israeli American Civic Action Network does or what its mission is. Maybe you can just give us an overview of that sure So I can the Israeli American Civic Action Network is actually a new Pro Israel advocacy network. Just to give a little bit of a background on me, I previously worked for the Israeli Government serving as the political officer for the Israeli consulate under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here in Los Angeles. And in that time I noticed that every other immigrant community in. And we’re based on Los Angeles, by the way. Every other immigrant community has an advocacy organization, has a vehicle to engage with elected officials and advocate for policies and legislation that would support their community and address their interests. But there was a big gap in terms of the Israeli American community. And in fact I had noticed in the Jewish community broadly that there is kind of a. There was almost a an expectation that Israelis not be involved in civic life in America, that there that it was too complicated. It was too big too unwieldy for an Israeli to understand and so we established ICAN contrary to that a week established I can with the belief that Israelis absolutely should play a role in civic life in America. That Israelis probably above all other people in other communities in the United States have the best perspective on Israel and how important it is for the United States and Israel to have a relationship. So to me it’s actually an honor i they think Israel, United States are two of the best countries on Earth and to be able to help a great people from a great country like Israel come to this country and serve and represent their communities is really an honor to do this kind of work great so it’s very interesting. There’s a lot of course a Jewish organizations in the United States and Pro Israeli organizations in the United States. But before your organization started, I don’t think there was anything specifically for Israeli Americans. All the other ethnic groups seem to have their own organizations. Pro Chinese or Filipino or what have you. So this is very interesting. What specific issues do you tend to? support. In your organization.
Speaker 1 03:09
So it’s interesting I think about our approach and again when we looked at the advocacy landscape in the United States. Number one, we noticed that that the traditional models of Pro Israel advocacy seem to be losing their traction when it came to especially Congress, I think we see with the squad growing and rank, they’re in the house. I expect. By the way, we’re already looking at 2024 I know we just got past the last election, but it looks like that’s gonna grow and so. When you look at the landscape of advocacy organizations, you can look at the Latino groups for example, look at the issues that they address and often more often than not actually most immigrant organizations, you mentioned China, I think they. Deal with both domestic issues and foreign policy issues. So domestic because these are immigrant communities and immigrant communities have unique challenges and demands English as a as a second language, the quality of public schools. Many who come here for the first time aren’t able to send their kids to private schools, and so public education is a vital issue. So we have things like ethnic studies that marginalizes Jews and paying say completely defamatory and false picture of Israel. These are domestic issues that we have to get involved in but of course Israelis are very concerned about foreign policy issues as well. So if it’s, if it’s foreign policy and defense related to international peace and security in the Middle East and throughout the broader North Africa region then that’s an important thing to work for as well as you know obviously a foreign aid for Israel and things like that. So I think. We’re unique also in that aspect that we deal with both domestic issues, things like education, anti-Semitism, by the way, BDF, that the role that BDS plays in American life. Frankly, we see that as a civil rights issue. It’s not just an issue of who we support in terms of our friends abroad, in terms of Israel being an ally, but BDS has a corrosive effect on Jewish life here in the United States and especially Israelis. You live here who feel like when you boycott Israel, you’re boycotting them and you’re fostering an environment of bigotry. So that’s those are. That’s kind of interesting too, about organization that we do. We don’t just do foreign policy. We don’t just do foreign sorry, domestic issues. We see a Nexus between the two, especially in this, in this immigrant community of Israelis great so in connection with ethnic studies, what have you found to be very troubling and how have you combated that?
Speaker 1 06:07
Yeah so, umm, ethnic studies is really, it’s a, it’s an interesting issue on the face of it. And if you actually look at the authorizing or in some cases mandatory language of the legislation that requires ethnic studies to be taught in our public schools, it seems very innocuous. It seems incredibly innocuous and only in the implementation of the language of the bill just does the problem tends to crop up. So, if you look at California, which I think is probably the most egregious example. And ethnic studies Bill was passed in 2016 signed by then Governor Jerry Brown. And to us, we initially supported it because to us this is seen as an opportunity to teach other people about American Jewish life, immigrant Jewish life, whether you’re from Israel, Iran. Or the former Soviet Union or other where elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa we saw this as an opportunity to engage and to educate others who may not be aware of what Jewish life is like or Jewish history is like. Unfortunately, some radical folks kind of got themselves appointed to a Commission at the state level and they drafted something that was unrecognizable in terms of anything that might have any grounding in fact or basis in history or anything. It was a document that was basically. Meant to marginalized other groups. In an effort to lift up, i suppose other marginalized or other appearance apparently marginalized groups. And if I sound like my tongue is tied, it is because the language that was used in this in this curriculum that was drafted was also unrecognizable. The LA Times criticized it nearly times is not known for being a bastion of conservative thought or even sometimes moderate thought. The elite Times criticized the ethnic studies curriculum as truthful of jargon and difficult to even understand because some of the language they used was so off base. So what we had to do when we saw this draft curriculum containing pro BDS messaging, anti Jewish messaging or just outright anti-Semitic messaging and also anti Israeli messaging too. By the way, oftentimes we see activists who are anti Israel claim that their only anti Israeli government and those who are in charge. But we saw in this curriculum that they really advocated effectively for, in their view, collective punishment in Israel. Or, again, what they would call offences against the Palestinians, Palestinian people. We of course disagree with that and think that again, there’s no basis in fact there. And so we advocated that the bill be delayed if the implementation of the bill be delayed while the curriculum was redrafted. The anti Israel stuff was removed at that point. We really kind of took a step back once the anti Israel stuff was removed. And there were other folks in the Jewish community throughout California who had put in a new curricula about Ashkenazi, American Jewish life, Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews and so on and so forth. So ultimately ended up in an OK place statutorily, but it’s still a fight that’s ongoing in the United States. Most recently with, I mean this is happening right now, we’re finding that. Despite the fact that the fringe curriculum was removed. These advocates are trying to kind of backdoor through the Community College system here in California. So I think that depending where you are in the United States, you can look to California as kind of a Canary in the coal mine on ethnic studies to see what activists, what tactics and strategies activists are using to try to push this radical infringe perspective of different ethnicities in the United States.
Speaker 2 10:25
As far as textbooks that have been published and used, are there any specific instances you can tell us about where Israel is cast in a negative or inaccurate light?
Speaker 1 10:38
So in terms of specific textbooks, no. We had seen, I can’t think of it now. I mean there were certainly textbooks that were referenced in that curriculum. If anybody’s interested, they can go to the California Department of Education. I believe the draft curriculum is still published there and you can look at it yourself and see the material that was that was being advocated for. Much of it wasn’t necessarily in a textbook, but maybe it’s in PDF reading assignments that professors or others had drafted to make these available to students. And by the way, these are not just these, not just college students. This is really this is for high school. And even they’re trying to push even younger than high school to learn some of this stuff so. I they use not just textbooks, but like I said, other articles and papers and briefs. Interestingly though, they also use multimedia, so whether it’s podcasts or videos or documentaries, they’re pushing those too. So there’s really a wide gamut of media that they used to try to push their in our view, anti-Semitic message.
Speaker 2 11:53
Has any other group in cast in a such a consistently bad light? Any other ethnic group portrayed on unattractively?
Speaker 1 12:07
Generally. I would say probably the United States and Israel are in good company in that regard. There is a thread of anti American attitudes, it seems, that runs through this effort to push a radical version of ethnic studies. So I would say that probably there’s a distorted view of American history and of Americans in general, but in terms of another immigrant community United States, no, I would say this is uniquely targeting the Jewish community and the diverse aspects of the Jewish community as well.
Speaker 2 12:44
So how specifically did Icon try to change some of the curriculum? Was it proposing alternative curriculum or pointing out that inaccurate or slanderous or libelous? Parts of the text that were used yeah so we again, we really it’s an interesting story now that you you’re asking me a good probing question. It was very interesting because in the beginning of this. Of this, issue with ethnic studies, at least here in California. There were many different groups involved from many different political ideologies and parts of the political spectrum from left to right and everywhere in between. What was concerning to us, and this is again from the from the Jewish Community side, from people, from organizations that are ostensibly Zionist or Pro Israel. If there was a chatter that we would be OK leaving the anti Israel material in as long as there is a discussion and recognition of anti-Semitism as a form of hate or has as a vector for hate, and as long as the curriculum would be updated to include the histories of Ashkenazi Jews who had come to the United States. For us that was unacceptable. We weren’t going to trade away in acceptance of a denigration of Israel or the delegitimization of Israel in order to elevate or include. Aspects of the American Jewish community. And so we fought frankly even in that dynamic when others were willing to let the BDS content stay, we were not willing to allow that to us. And I think this is where you get into the unique aspects of I can and by the way just for listeners to who may be unfamiliar or who may be familiar even with the Israeli community, we named it I can intentionally because we wanted Israelis. To feel like I can get involved and I can get engaged in civics and that kind of thing. So it’s meant to be an aspirational inspirational name as well. But it I can we. Did not accept this notion that BDS should be included and it this. So as I said, this gives you a unique perspective about the role that we can play and in this kind of arena where. You know, for an American, sure, maybe it’s OK to let the Israel stuff in there because it’s OK to criticize Israel and maybe they there’s a belief that it’s deserved or whatever. I don’t know what the thinking is, but to an Israeli that leaving that content in is, I think, an existential kind of threat in a way. Because imagine the Israeli student who has to go to school and listen to that false material and have a complex conversation with his classmates or a hostile teacher. So we really said look, from the Israeli perspective this is unacceptable. Whereas others didn’t care about these really perspective. And so I think that was our unique role to play was we’re drawing the line, we’re not going to accept leaving the pro BDS material in exchange for Pro broad Jewish material. So once that was done, we considered a success, but we’re still monitoring vigilantly the effort because there is an organized group called the Liberated Ethnic Studies Movement, I think it’s called that are trying to push this liberated version of ethnic studies through any way possible.