WASHINGTON - Dr. Alexander Mashkevich, president of the United Israel Appeal's annual conference of Jewish leaders in Washington, has announced his plan to form a pro-Israel international news network, similar to al-Jazeera and the BBC.
This year's conference focused on attempts to deal with the de-legitimization campaign against Israel, and was attended by some 200 Jewish community leaders and key philanthropists.
Al-Jazeera studio in Washington (Photo: MCT)
An announcement on the creation of the international news network was made at the end of the conference, with the aim of dealing with anti-Israel defamation in the media and influence public opinion.
Mashkevich, who also serves as president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, said that the network would offer programs in English, French, Arabic and Spanish, focusing on news only.
"My intention is not to create a propaganda channel," he told Ynet, "but simply a channel telling the truth.
"Unfortunately, in the current situation most channels simply don't tell the truth about Israel," he explained. "Every day that passes we lose the battle for Israel's image. I am sure that Goldstone is a decent person, who didn't want to damage Israel consciously and intentionally, but if everything he gets from the media every day is anti-Israel propaganda, I assume it's hard to make the right decisions."
Presentation within 3-4 months
Mashkevich, whose fortune is estimated at some $3.7 billion, plans to recruit other philanthropists and senior businesspeople for the mission. "The international de-legitimization has become a huge risk for Israel," he adds.
Anchor Anderson Cooper. 'We'll get talents from everywhere' (Photo: AP)
"It's unthinkable that Israel has no television network like the channels operated by countries such as the United States, Britain and Russia. The creation of such a channel is necessary, and does not require something out of nothing, as there are existing models we can work according to."
The channel is in the thinking stages, without a target date for the launching or even a revelation of the other names behind it. All Mashkevich agreed to say was that it would be a private, independent channel.
"We are preparing a work program, and in about three-four months we'll hold a presentation in Israel. We'll purchase talents from all other channels," he promised. "From BBC, CNN – everyone."
'If we don't fight back, we'll be in trouble'The conference was also attended by outgoing Israeli Ambassador to Britain and newly appointed Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who analyzed the anti-Israeli incitement on international media.
Student protest in UK (Photo: Leon Ferri)
"We deal with creating awareness," said Prosor. "Today there isn't one university campus in Britain which I, as an Israeli ambassador, can enter without facing horrible protests. If we don't fight back – we'll be in trouble.
"The current situation is that Jewish students in Britain feel uncomfortable in their own campuses. What I saw in Britain could definitely be seen here, in the United States, in the coming years," he warned the Jewish community leaders.
Prosor told Ynet that the organizations behind the de-legitimization must be exposed, denounced and suffer a counter attack. "We have no choice but to strike back at them, to give a 'price tag' to those who demonize Israel. Too much is at stake here. We are all at the front, but if we coordinate, we'll be able to win the battle."
'Situation like in 1947'
"It's time for us to stop complaining about how bad Israel's PR is," added Hoenlein. "It's not just Israel that's in danger – but all of us. The entire Jewish people are under attack, and this is about the future of all the Jewish people.
Hoenlein with Peres. 'World recognizes Jewish power, Jews don't' (Photo: Avi Hayun)
"Those who undermine Israel's right to self-defense – hurt the entire Jewish people's right to self-defense. We are not talking about a situation like in 1967, but like in 1947 – about the entire Jewish people's right to exist.
"If we unite, others will join us too. So we must launch a well-coordinated campaign. It's unthinkable that according to research we've conducted, the European governments are more committed to Israel than the public opinion in those countries. These are the enemies rising to destroy us – from the inside and the outside.
"Jews today have power, and the entire world recognizes it – apart from the Jews. We can make a difference, if only we remember that it's a battlefield. We must educate our children from an early age – know what to answer."
Hoenlein believes the establishment of a news network like al-Jazeera is vital. "People are influenced by it," he says, revealing that he has already held several meetings in a bid to strike a collaboration with media organizations and Israeli governmental bodies.
Mashkevich recently bought an apartment in Israel and lives in the country. He is considered one of the most influential Jewish oligarchs in the world, and a "warm Jew" who donates in many fields close to his heart. He built seven synagogues in different countries, named "Beit Rachel" after his mother, and donated 17 Torah scrolls. He also participates in the bringing in of each new Torah scroll.
"I still remember as a child, how difficult it was for me to get to the synagogue, which was far away and crowded," he said.
His parents fled the Nazis and gave him "a proud Jewish education". His childhood in Kyrgyzstan contributed to shaping his Jewish awareness as well. "In Soviet Russia people would never let me forget I was a Jew, not for one day," he said.
"I feel the persecution of Jews on my skin. We can't just be indifferent. Every year the situation gets worse, and we monitor it. People tend to think that the American Congress members know the truth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it's not true. All their information comes from the media.
"Seventy percent of what the international media reports in terms of the conflict is of anti-Israel nature. We check the 'anti-Semitism index' in 27 countries, and there is definitely a rise in anti-Semitism, which I believe is a direct result of what the media reports."
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook