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10/4/2006 Analysis
smithg.jpg (3545 bytes)Israel Lobby Initiates Hispanic Strategy

"Invadimos a Iran"

by Grant F. Smith

The Israel lobby has recently begun strategizing how to influence the Hispanic vote in the United States.  Already a $760 billion[i] powerhouse consumer market, the Hispanic share of US voters will reach 8.6% in 2006 according to the Pew Hispanic Center.  Hispanics accounted for 50% of the US population growth between 2000 and 2004 but only 10% of the increase in the total votes cast.[ii]  In the event of amnesty or other citizenship initiatives for undocumented immigrants, this segment of voters will become even more significant as population gains translate into voting power.   Understanding and influencing the Hispanic vote will soon attract additional resources from many special interest groups.  The Israel lobby clearly sees Hispanic voters as a new and largely untapped force in American politics in need of leadership harnessed to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) foreign policy issue framework. 

AIPAC, the tip of the Israel lobby spear in Washington, began an executive search for a Deputy Director for Hispanic Outreach  (PDF)  in August of 2006.  Reporting directly to AIPAC's "National Outreach Director" in Washington, the responsibility of the new deputy director will be to "develop relationships with key members of the Hispanic community and encourage their involvement in political advocacy in support of the US-Israel relationship."[iii]

AIPAC's focus on the Hispanic community dovetails with an unprecedented opportunity for Spanish language media outreach.  Shareholders of Univision Communications, the leading Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S., voted to sell the company last week to a group of private-equity firms for $12.3 billion.  The deal was signed even though a higher bid from Mexican TV giant Grupo Televisa was still on the table.  Led by media mogul Haim Saban, the US group acquired the equivalent of the "ABC" network in terms of Spanish speaking US viewership.  Among all Spanish-language US networks, Univision averaged 3.7 million viewers followed by Telemundo at 880,000 and TeleFutura's 660,000 viewers.[iv]

Most of Haim Saban's new viewers are probably unfamiliar with his role as a financial "shaft" of the US Israel lobby spear.  Haim Saban is an extraordinary media entrepreneur who immigrated to the U.S. from Israel at age 22. Haim Saban was at one time half-owner of Fox Family Worldwide, a company that produced and broadcast programming via the Fox Family Channel and Fox Kids' Network.  Saban and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp sold Fox Family to Disney in 2001 for $3.2 billion.   Famously quoted by the New York Times in September 5, 2004 for saying "I'm a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel", Saban has played an active role in "shaping" US foreign policy toward Israel through the Democratic Party, and spending hours on the phone with the Likud Party's Ariel Sharon.

Saban hosted a $3.5 million fundraiser for Democrats during William Clinton's presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush.  Anxious to maintain his lead donor status with the Democrats, when Saban learned that another donor had topped his contributions to the DNC by a quarter-million dollars, he immediately sent the DNC a $1 bill attached to a check for $250,000.    Saban served on the President Clinton's Export Council, advising the White House on trade issues.  He was instrumental in former AIPAC lobbyist Martin Indyk's installation as US Ambassador to Israel in 1995.  In 2002 Saban pledged $13 million to start the new "Saban Center for Middle East Policy" at the Brookings Institution directed by Martin Indyk.  In 2003, in spite of the change of administrations in Washington, from Democrat to Republican, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq Brookings was the single most cited think tank in the American news media.  Brookings garnered roughly double the number of news citations and "expert" quotes over competitors such as Council on Foreign Relations, Heritage Foundation, and American Enterprise Institute.[v]  Brookings exhortations for the invasion of Iraq, immortalized by Martin Indyk's essay "Lock and Load[vi]", assured Americans not only that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction but that Iraq could only be neutralized by US force.  Brooking's analysts in the media repeated Indyk's core mantra about Iraq: "There is real risk in allowing the inspections to run on indefinitely."[vii]

US Spanish language television has not traditionally been a battleground for shaping viewer opinions on the Middle East.  Producers and viewers hailing from lands in South, Central and North America (Mexico), peopled with formerly colonized populations may be more culturally attuned to national narratives of assimilation between indigenous people and Spain.  In Mexico the mixed descendants of Spanish and indigenous peoples, or "mestizos", power the business community and dominate the government.  Mexican society is flush with pride and symbolism celebrating the nation's rich Aztec and Mayan history.  In South American nations such as Colombia the conquest and assimilation narrative is the same.  The mystic cultures of the Chibcha and visionary Simon Bolivar fused to break colonial ties to Spain.and create a new national identity. 

Israel lobby objectives to legitimize population separation by religion, retain conquered and occupied territory, regional military domination and wall building are not natural or easy policy "sells" to a Hispanic viewership.  AIPAC's current policy priority, US military stikes on Iran, also goes against the grain of audiences that respect and feel affinity with ancient cultures.  Mexicans and their Mexican American counterparts are already up in arms over the Israeli inspired US-Mexico border "separation" barrier.  Univision producers now looking up through the chain of command toward the new owners will undoubtedly begin tapping Spanish speaking "scholars" from Brookings, as well as the package of Israeli diplomats and Middle East analysts pushed by AIPAC's new Hispanic division.  Any savvy producer would rightly view this as a "career enhancing move".  The question remains whether audiences and Hispanic voters, accustomed to frank and brutally honest news coverage and debate over the Middle East, interspersed with steamy soap operas, will respond to Haim Saban's "single issue".  Their transformation into uncritical political foot soldiers of the Israel lobby may require more than slick policies transmitted by groomed experts through the dominant Spanish language media network.


[i] Univision ad, WSJ 10/4/2006 citing data from Global Insight, 2005 Hispanic Market Monitor,


[iii] AIPAC job posting

[v] Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting study, 2003




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