BICOM makes Israel’s case with integrity

Making Israel’s case must not exclude being honest about the challenges Israel faces, or its shortcomings.

July 9, 2011 22:14
4 minute read.
Lorna Fitzsimons

Lorna Fitzsimons_58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

David Newman is right to praise the excellent appointment of Daniel Taub as Israel’s new ambassador to London, but wrongly characterized London’s pro-Israel community. He suggested that BICOM, the leading British pro-Israel organization, holds center-right views which exclude liberal, pro-peace, left-of-center supporters.

Professor Newman is not the only one who tries to pigeonhole BICOM.

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There are left-wingers who accuse us of being on the right, and right-wingers who accuse us of being on the left.

The truth is that BICOM is neither left-wing nor right-wing. We are not affiliated with any political party in Israel or the UK. We are pro-Israel. In Britain, Israel has supporters and detractors across the political spectrum. As a former Labour MP, I am particularly aware of the need to make our case to individuals with a wide range of political perspectives. It would not make sense for BICOM to have a narrow ideological focus.

THE CLEAR and principled case we are making in the UK spans the political divide. We believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. We believe in a twostate solution (which every Israeli prime minister in the past decade has endorsed), and that Israel wants peace and is ready to make peace if it has the opportunity. We believe Israel faces serious threats in the region, and has the right to defend itself. We also believe the futures of Britain and Israel are bound together by common interests and shared values.

LAST MONTH BICOM in London organized ‘We Believe’ – an event for 1,500 participants in London which brought together Israel’s supporters from across the political and religious spectrum. Every major pro- Israel organization in Britain, Jewish and non-Jewish, from left to right, was brought under a common banner of support for Israel. It wasn’t easy to get these organizations to work together, but we did it because we knew it was important.

What we achieved was a breakthrough for Israel’s supporters in Britain – the start of a newly invigorated, broad-based, British, pro-Israel movement.

BICOM’s role in this coalition is very clear. We do not promote one any political agenda. We promote a better understanding of Israel, in all its complexity, among British policy makers. We bring them to Israel to present a wide range of Israeli and Palestinian voices. We produce expert briefings and publications to ensure they have access to accurate news and analysis. We bring Israeli, regional and other international experts to engage with British counterparts in London.

And we engage with the British government to propose ways that the UK can best build its relationship with Israel, and play a constructive role in the peace process. In all our events, delegations and publications, we work hard to reflect the broad spectrum of Israeli society and the richness of Israeli political discourse.

Our mission has never been more important. The political discourse in Britain (and Europe more widely) presents considerable challenges.

Israel faces a torrent of libels and accusations which are drowning out informed debate. Britain is also affected by the rising tide of delegitimization, with dangerous campaigns to boycott and demonize the Jewish state.

OUR RESPONSE must be robust, and rooted in a commitment to truth and integrity. We work knowing that the facts support our case. We know now, 10 years after BICOM’s founding, that making Israel’s case in the British context also requires nuanced sensitivity.

The right message is key, but just as important is the credibility of the messenger. As I argued in these pages a few months ago, making Israel’s case must not exclude being honest about the challenges Israel faces, or its shortcomings.

We are confident that Daniel Taub will be a true asset for all British supporters of Israel, as Ron Prosor was before him. Taub’s articulate, informed, and wellreasoned tone has proven highly effective when we have brought delegations to meet him in Jerusalem.

The Israeli government is right to send its best and brightest to London. Britain punches above its weight, not only in the diplomatic arena, but in the international media, playing a pivotal role with the US, the EU and many other countries. Britain’s premier news outlets are read and watched internationally. British civil society, including its universities and NGOs, also has global reach.

In this vital arena, we look forward to working alongside Israel’s representatives and supporters from across the political spectrum in promoting the values we share.

The writer is CEO of BICOM. BICOM can be followed on twitter @britainisrael.

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