By Michael C. Duke
A growing new organization serves as a source of information for Spanish-language Latino journalists around the world who report on Israel and the Middle East.
“It’s our job to make sure these journalists can access Israel in real time, in their own language, on issues that they want to cover from afar,” said Leah Soibel, founder of Fuente Latina (Latina Source).
Fuente Latina was launched in December 2012 and currently operates offices in Jerusalem and Madrid. The nonprofit, privately funded 501(c)(3) is planning to open a third office next year in Miami. The latter will cater to Spanish-language U.S. media.
Israel coverage in Latino media is booming, according to Soibel. Most of the journalists with whom Fuente Latina engages are based overseas. However, the organization also reaches out to Spanish-language journalists working on the ground in Israel. This past year, for example, Fuente Latina took nearly 100 Latino journalists on helicopter tours across the country.
“Our number one service is making sure journalists have experts in Spanish to interview on issues,” Soibel said.
The strategy proved necessary this summer, with international media focused on the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Fuente Latina engaged journalists from two dozen different countries during the month-long Operation Protective Edge and facilitated more than 300 interviews.
Working with those on the ground and with those covering the conflict overseas, Fuente Latina connected journalists with the IDF’s Spanish-language spokesperson, as well as with Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking commentators and analysts based in Israel, Europe, the United States, throughout Latin America and in some Arab countries.
The organization also put journalists in touch with Latino Israelis, who shared personal stories of their experiences during the conflict.
While a majority of the Israel-related news covered in the Spanish-language press deals with politics, other topics, such as religion, also garner major attention, according to Soibel.
“Pope Francis’ visit to Israel in May was a huge story in the Latino world,” Soibel said. “We wanted to make sure it was as well covered as possible in the Latino media.”
Soibel stopped off in Houston earlier this month on her way to Mexico and South America, where her organization is conducting focus groups.
“The purpose of the focus groups is to gauge the level of understanding of the issues, to see how we can better educate audiences from afar,” Soibel said. “We want to know what’s being heard through the media so we can fine-tune the information we’re providing.”
Chile is one of the South American countries that Soibel will be visiting. It’s home to one of the largest Palestinian communities outside the Middle East and was one of five counties on the continent that recalled its Israeli ambassador during the recent conflict in Gaza.
“Latin America plays an important part in Israel relations vis-à-vis the Palestinians,” Soibel said. “We need to engage with Latin America a lot more.
“In terms of the U.S. Latino market, we have a great opportunity to really strengthen relationships there,” she said.