A myth was broken in the Subcommittee on Israel-Jewish relationships: British Jewry representatives discussed achievements in the struggle against anti-Israeli sentiment. Chairman of the Subcommittee, Knesset Member Dr. Einat Wilf: The British Jewish community proved highly innovative in the face of difficult challenges in the past.
The Subcommittee on Israeli-Jewish Relationships in the Knesset`s Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs held a long meeting yesterday. The meeting included several disclosures on Israel-British relations. Subcommittee chair, Knesset Member Einat Wilf (Atzmaut) said: ”Israel must actualize its responsibility for the future of the Jewish nation, and Israeli leaders must become aware of the significance their decisions and declarations have on Jews outside of Israel.
According to Mick Davis, Chairman of the United Jewish Israel Appeal and the Jewish Leadership Council there is no actual academic boycotting of Israel; a Jew was elected vice-president of Great Britain`s National Student Union, the Holocaust is taught in schools, Jews do not fear walking around the streets of London, and every year the chief rabbi speaks about Rosh Hashana for 20 minutes on television—in comparison, the Bishop of Canterbury receives only 10 minutes of screen time, and the queen—five. Davis reported to the Committee that 75% of Jewish children in Britain learn in Jewish day schools with assistance from the Appeal (primarily elementary schools, and including ultra-orthodox schools). According to Davis, a survey conducted on British Jews found that 82% of British Jews believe that Israel fills a central role in their identity, 95% had visited Israel, and 90% see Israel as their birthright.
Subcommittee Chair Wilf said, ”We were impressed by the depth of responsibility British Jews feel for the State of Israel and for Jewish life. The integration of a community committed to and involved with Israel and Judaism, considering the difficult challenges faced in Britain, turns that country into a special laboratory which allows the development of insights and practices for achieving gains in the political struggle. The British Jewish community proved highly innovative in the face of difficult challenges in the past; it can be assumed that this will also be the case in the political struggle for Israel and the Zionist idea.”
MK Wilf supported the community leaders` stance that Israel must express its responsibility for the future of the Jewish nation, and show the importance of Israeli leaders understanding the effect their decisions and declarations have on Jews outside of Israel. ”I especially support their request to expand the dialogue between Israel and Israelis and Diaspora Jews in a way which will allow them to express support for and responsibility towards Israel as the home of the Jewish people, while struggling with complex, contested subjects.”
Mike Davis, from the organization ”Stand With Us” discusses British Jewish support for Israel during the second Lebanon war, and that 170,000 British Jews visited Israel last year. However, in British Universities, there were many cases of anti-semitism, de-legitimization of Israel and events which propagated lies. 31% of students said they were attacked for being Jews, and many charity organizations are used as pipelines to carry funds to Hamas. Despite this, Dickson discussed the British youth who support Israel. ”Most British do not hate Israel, and support for the state is growing,” he claimed.
Dermott Kehue from BICOM (British Israel Communications and Research Center) spoke about extensive PR activity, explaining Israel`s position, the Jewish nations` right to its birthright, and the threats to it, and the creation of sympathetic public opinion in Britain. Few British Jews, he said, blame the Palestinians for the conflict, and even fewer blame the Jews. Two-thirds blame both sides, and fewer than 10% do not support Israel.
Ehud Rosen, a researcher in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, which organized research on about organizations which de-legitimize Israel in Britain, clarified that ”we are talking about a lot of names, but in specific groups, not a mass movement and not tolerated in the center of the political map, which denote themselves ”human rights organizations” or ”humanitarian aid”. Their strength lies in persistence, organization and financing. According to Rosen, ”for over a decade, Britain has been portrayed as one of the international centers for de-legitimizing Israel, and general political subversion towards the country. We are not talking about government policy, but rather, efforts made primarily by civilian social organizations which act via professional associations, academia, the media (sectoral and institutionalized), different political echelons and religions organizations.” Rosen stressed that the purpose of these activities is to delegitimize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, and is independent of Israel`s policies or borders. In the last few years, he claimed, an alliance was made between radical left-wing groups and Islamic circles. Adam Shai, the Center`s public diplomacy coordinator, added that Israeli anti-Zionist émigrés are the leaders of anti-Israel activities and incitement against Israel in Britain, in connection with the left`s reorientation.
Motti Amichai, from the Northern Europe department in the Foreign Ministry, added that ”the delegitimizing endangers interests essential to the State of Israel. Lately we have hired a public relations company in Britain in order to `sell` the Israel that is not politics, subject such as culture, heritage, nature and technology.” According to Amichai, two people were added to the embassy who deal with social and citizen media. Despite the problems, there have been significant achievements: cultural performances with thousands of participants each year and covered by the media. Amichai praised the cooperation in Britain between the embassy and Jewish organizations and Christian congregations, friendly associations in parliament and young Christians. He added that the foreign ministry is working to bring many British opinion makers to Israel.
MK Wilf added that the British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gold, apologized for his absence from the meeting, and promised that ”If he is given a chance, he will prove that Britain is the most pro-Israel place in the world.”