London to host conference for support of Israel

Over 1,000 participants to attend ‘We Believe in Israel' in order to push pro-Israel campaign, grassroots activism.

By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
May 15, 2011 03:24
4 minute read.
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israel flag draped 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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LONDON – London will host an Israel-advocacy conference on Sunday to empower its community, and beyond, to respond to the rhetoric and campaigning against Israel – and rouse grassroots activism to unite behind Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

The “We Believe in Israel” conference has been organized by the British Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM), a London-based advocacy organization, in conjunction with the Israeli Embassy and a host of community organizations.

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Over 1,000 people are expected to attend the one-day conference, which will take place at a central London location.

“The Conference will unite attendees around one vital concept: Israel, a democratic and Jewish state. It will give supporters of Israel the chance to really make a difference – whether novice or seasoned campaigner, Jew or non-Jew, politically active or not,” states information about the conference.

British Defense Secretary Liam Fox, Israel’s Education Minister Gideon Saar, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Israel’s Ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor, and Britain’s ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould – as well as a number of MPs, academics and journalists – are among the 80 speakers confirmed to take part in 30 sessions throughout the day.

Subject sessions include a look at the delegitimization campaign waged against Israel, and where the line is crossed between legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies.

It will also look at the progressive case for Israel and the situation on British campuses, trade unions and nongovernmental organizations, along with the idea of endowing participants with the tools to become more engaged and effective in making the case for Israel.



“It will be an opportunity to discuss how we work with different faiths, political parties, trade unions and other groups in society – with over 30 sessions covering theory and practice.

Sessions will allow attendees to develop personal knowledge and skills – encompassing letter-writing, lobbying Parliament,” the organizers said.

“The community should be very proud of the way organizations are putting their usual differences to one side, knowing we need to show unity,” said BICOM’s chief executive, Lorna Fitzsimons. “Only through working together can we convince our fellow citizens of the importance of Israel to Britain.”

“This issue is key to us all – Jew and non-Jew alike – and the conference is about engaging with some of the most difficult issues of our time and gaining the confidence and knowledge to take that understanding out to others. We urge you to join us,” she continued.

“As the cross communal representative body, the board is delighted to be involved with this excellent event which unites Jews of all religions and political views across the community.

At a time when Israel is under increasing attack from all sides, it is vital that we emphasize the positive characteristics that make it such an exciting and attractive country,” said Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

“As the very legitimacy of Israel is being challenged on campuses, in trade unions and even in local council chambers, it is our collective duty to speak out in defense of the land, the state and the people of Israel.

This event will bring us together with friends from other communities. It will equip and inspire us to counter this assault by telling the story of Israel as one of the social and economic miracles of the modern age,” said Britain’s chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks.

A number of anti-Zionist Jewish activists have condemned the conference and challenged its legitimacy. Fringe groups Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the Jewish Socialists’ Group and a radical group called Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods said the event “will paint a distorted picture of the role of media, allegations that Israel abuses international law, the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions, the land of Israel and its traditions and people.”

The groups back up their opposition to the conference by citing “Israel’s illegal occupation, growing settlements, apartheid wall, and the refusal to abide by UN resolutions, international law and humanitarian conventions, as well as its brutal treatment of Palestinians.”

“Israel has criminalized the commemoration of the Nakba by those living within its jurisdiction, and yet this BICOM event seeks to justify the state’s claim to represent Jewish values of justice and compassion,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi from Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.

“Jewish humanitarian values have been corrupted by Israel’s human rights abuses,” said Diana Neslen from Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

“Who are the ‘we’ who ‘believe in Israel?’ Britain’s Jews are more divided on Israel than at any time since the state was created,” said David Rosenberg from the socialist group.

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