When the Israel Action Network was created in 2010 to combat the then nascent Boycott/Sanction/Divestment movement as a joint venture of the JFNA and JCPA, with an excellent lay Chair, we expressed our doubts -- precisely because it was formed by two organizations characterized by their exceptional institutional ineptitude, JFNA and JCPA. For JCPA, which saw the $2,000,000 in annual funding from JFNA as a life-saver for the organization (and not necessarily for the anti-BDS effort JCPA would staff in part), going operational was not something with which it had demonstrated success; for JFNA, it was to be chance to get its hooks into something that might elevate the brand (always the brand) while requiring nothing more than money -- the federations' money. Then a funny thing happened: the federations' insisted that JFNA fund the IAN out of its budget -- perish the thought -- and JFNA was forced to agree!! Two years later, JFNA pled with the federations that they fund it -- JFNA could no longer "afford" it. (No one asked "why not?") The IAN, conceived as a separate legal entity, appears on its own website as no more than a "Committee" -- of what, JFNA or JCPA? It apparently files no 990 with the IRS. What exactly is it?
With an excellent staff, this "Committee," this IAN, has worked with a sure focus and some positive results (the latest, a Pittsburgh federation-inspired "Israel Action Lab" effort to assist Jewish college students deal with BDS), but any campus effort has been overwhelmed this school year by the well-funded BDS campus activists. The IAN budget of $2 million per year plus some assorted additional donations had to be divided to fight on a broad front against a well-funded enemy; fighting the battles of the campuses was but one part of the IAN effort. By 2015 exceptionally well-funded campus efforts emerged -- the "Campus Maccabees" of Adelson/Saban with apparently unlimited means; and the Jewish National Fund's campus effort the catalyst for which was a $100,000,000 contribution; and Hillel, funded by the federations, with its broad campus representation, also paled in comparison. Meanwhile, JFNA, of course, had once again ignored even the possibility of raising significant funds for the IAN leaving it so weakened financially and, from press reports, perceived by the newly formed anti-BDS community as "left-leaning," as to be excluded from the more well-financed campus efforts. When one considers how underfunded the IAN has been, its staff should be congratulated for their efforts on our behalf.
For whatever the reason, one thing is very clear -- the organized Jewish community's anti-BDS vehicle has been relegated to the sidelines while the on-campus efforts will be led by others. Neither JFNA nor its IAN will even have the status that JFNA treasures in all things -- it will neither be the "convener" nor the "co-convener" of this critical on-campus effort. And, it seems like only last Spring that JFNA was claiming the fiction that it was the on campus champion claiming to be the coordinator of all organizational on-campus anti-BDS efforts.
So, here you have the Israel Action Network with a terrific lay Chair (Is there a Board? If so, you can't find it on the IAN's own website.) and an excellent professional staff (what exactly does JCPA contribute to this effort? Back room assistance?) that needs no help from JCPA. There is so much it might accomplish. But the IAN is so woefully underfunded as to be on the cusp of irrelevancy...leaving the IAN in the same position as its founding organizations...
Irrelevant. We can't let that happen.