Thursday, February 16, 2012
One of the Zionist Federation’s flagship events took place last week, on Wednesday 8th February 2012. Organised in conjunction with the Christian Friends of Israel, 300 people gathered in Westminster for the annual Lobby Day of Parliament. This is always an opportunity for our members to meet and hear from Members of Parliament from all sides of the House on how they express their support for Israel in the heart of British democracy. It is also a great opportunity for some of our members to meet individually with their MP to talk about this point on a personal basis and to highlight some specific issues.
This year, the main issues that were raised directly with nearly 100 MPs or their assistants were the actions of the BDS campaign against Israel and to urge them to oppose any calls to boycott Israel in any form; and the need to force the Palestinian Authority to stop its state sponsored incitement against Israelis and Jews. We also supported a third issue, that was to highlight the plight of Christian minorities in Arab countries.
While private meetings with Members of Parliament were taking place, the main group were based in two committee rooms. When I write about the ‘main group’ what I need to highlight is that the popularity of the event meant that we had to take a second committee room in order to accommodate all of those who joined us on the day. We are delighted to say that we managed to fill both rooms to capacity and with standing room only!
Throughout the afternoon, the two groups were fortunate enough to be able to hear from a number of MPs and one Peer. Invited to speak for just a few minutes, Members ended up speaking for an average of 15 minutes before fielding a fair number of questions. Some speakers were even cut short in order to be able to accommodate the queue of MPs waiting to address the room! Even after finishing, the MP was then approached to speak in the ‘other’ room. It is great credit to both the work ethic of the MPs and the reputations of the ZF and the CFI that every request to speak twice was met with a positive response. I would like to record my personal thanks here to all the MPs who gave up their time to address us on the day.
With the MPs speaking with no prior agenda, the question of the Iranian Threat proved to be an issue that united virtually all of them. The British Government has lead the way in standing up to Iran on this matter and the message from the MPs was that it will continue to do so. The other consensual issue that came through was that it is vitally important for individual members of the public to develop relationships with their Member of Parliament. Don’t be shy is the message! An MP is there to represent their constituents and also to hear and understand about the matter that are important to them. So by keeping in touch with an MP on matters relating to Israel will keep them informed and highlight that there is support for Israel within their constituency. The strength of the Palestinian Lobby was mentioned and those attending the day were urged to work to balance their effectiveness by developing relationships with their MPs. Sending them an article here and a comment there can go a long way. Don’t be a constant pest or nag, but don’t be afraid to make your voice heard when you have something important to relay. If you do not know how to contact your MP, please follow this link and you will find all the necessary contact details for all the MPs in Parliament. ClickHere
Without wishing to promote any particular MP it is important that some of their messages are relayed in this report. For example, Nigel Dodds (DUP) said that it was important that the Party leaders spoke up for Israel, not just the individual Members. Andrew Percy (Con) said it was fair for the Foreign Office to criticise Israel where and when necessary but that it must be even handed with its criticism of both sides of the conflict. Luciana Berger (Lab) talked about her involvement with the International Committee of Jewish Parliamentarians and their efforts to work in coordination with each other. And somewhat poignantly, David Burrowes (Con) reminded us of Canon Andrew White’s statement that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians can feel safe.
The morning training session took place at the Emmanuel Centre, a few minutes walks from the House of Commons, where we were addressed by Harvey Rose, Chairman of the Zionist Federation, Vivian Wineman, President of the Board of Deputies, and Alon Roth-Snir, the Deputy Ambassador of Israel. The day was chaired by Professor Eric Moonman, President of the ZF, and Geoffrey Smith, former UK Director of the CFI. Thanks must also go to Robin Benson, Head of Communications at CFI, for all his hard work in helping organise the Lobby Day with us.
Although there were a few negatives on the day in that the group was so large that we could not all fit into one committee room, and more people would have liked to have had the chance to meet with their MP face to face, the overriding sense was that the day had been a great success and helped to renew and encourage those attending. It can be quite demoralising sometimes when faced with what appears to be a tidal wave of anti-Israel sentiment, so it was good to be surrounded by so many people who share the same love and support for Israel and to hear that Members of Parliament not only share this view, but are also prepared to stand up and state that publicly. We look forward to an even bigger and better Lobby Day next year, but will continue to support and work for the benefit of Israel every day…with your help.
Here is a link to a report of the day that appeared in ‘The Jerusalem Post’. ClickHere
at 4:17 AM
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
The British embassy in Tehran is sacked. Britain severs its diplomatic ties, expels the
Iranian ambassador and all other diplomats to the court of St. James. It was something
of a courtly dance, the British clearly knew what to expect, there was no surprised struggle,
no hostages and there are signs in the backchannels that the Iranians didn't want events
to go as far as they did or, perhaps, Ahmedinejad or the Supreme Ayatollah is scoring points
off the other. Where does all this sit in the grand strategy of Britain and the Arab world?
By Howard Morris
First, of course, Iran isn't an Arab country.
Most of the time this seems an irrelevant
distinction but it's important in the Middle
East where Iran strives to be the regional super
power and to champion the cause of the
Shi'ite, a minority in Islam but in significant
places forming the majority, strung across
the area in a vast crescent. In Saudi, in Oman,
Bahrain, the UAE, among the Iraqi Sunni, Iran
is feared far more than Israel is loathed. The
Arabs don't want Iran to get the Bomb. That
And so to Britain. What are its Middle
Eastern goals? Competing factors tend towards
a balance but one that persistently
nags Israel, a strategic friend, to compromise
and concede. British governments are not
and never have been driven by the Jewish
vote. There are almost twice as many Jews living in Brooklyn as in the
Kingdom. With a UK population of around
60 million, the presence of 300,000 Jews is
immaterial and while we may have disproportionate
business and professional success,
it's still not enough to make the Jewish
vote, Jewish influence, a powerful voice in
Westminster - whatever our enemies might
say, and of course they do darkly mention
"cabals" and "media ownership," more of this
We need oil, so, like the U.S., this drives
Britain to want to befriend the Arabs. And
the Foreign Office has a tradition of Arabism.
Being an Arabist is a thing in Britain, like being
an Anglophile in the U.S.
But off we went to war in Iraq. A war
from which Israel tried to dissuade us and
that a million marched against. We did that
because of the "Special Relationship" with
the United States. It led to the social democrat,
Tony Blair, making common cause with
the right wing President Bush and burning
his reputation and legacy with the left in
Britain in the process. President Obama, incidentally,
is far less of an Anglophile than
previous presidents - his father saw the
British repression of the Mau Mau uprising
in Kenya. Be that as it may, Britain is closer
politically to the U.S. than to Europe and it
is expedient for America to have an ally that
militarily punches above its weight. So we
won't get out of line with the U.S.
And Britain does respect Israel. The attitude
is sometimes coloured by stereotypes
and tropes about Jews. While Nazi type racist
anti-Semitism haunts the fringes of the
near irrelevant nutty right wingers, the real
anti-Semites are on the left. They see Israel
as America's proxy. They like their minorities
to be obviously suffering and dependent
and Jews seem to do so well. Hence the
BBC's institutional bias. It's full of socialists
who have given up every vestige of true socialism
in their own lives but retain a dislike
for the U.S. and all its works. Israel is seen by
them as a creature of the imperial powers, a
view shared by the left in Europe, a colonial
imposition. In contrast Americans see Israel
as an analogue of their own struggle for liberty
in their own land. So a Labour MP who
questioned the appointment of a Jewish
ambassador to Israel because his loyalties
might be divided and who raised some ugly
implications of conspiring groups of international
Jews, was forced to apologise. But the
mainstream media hardly touched the story.
Britain, whatever its left leaning media
might say, is a friend to Israel and itself a
tolerant country. Remember it was Britain
who gave the Balfour Declaration and even
though the Irgun and the Stern Gang fought
a bitter war against the forces of the British
Mandate I don't once recall my parents or
any family members having encountered
any anti-Semitism during the period before
In the future? Well there is a significant
Muslim minority in Britain that is growing
and will be the majority in some places.
Among them are a sizeable chunk who are
disenchanted and militant and vehemently
anti-Israel and anti-British. Britain has absorbed
minorities before but this will be a
Howard is an English lawyer at a major international
firm, recently seconded to their New York office.
He is accompanied by his wife, Gaby. They have
two children, both in their twenties, back in the UK.
at 3:42 AM