Opinion: Was The ZF Right To Reject Yachad? … NO

Long-frustrated at having been told their support for Israel was not good enough, people wanted a seat at the table.

It is no surprise Yachad grew so quickly. It captured the hearts and minds of so many thousands of our community, many from a younger generation, who, graduating through Zionist youth movements and active on university campuses, wanted a new framework by which they could support Israel, rather than simply defending the status quo.

When Yachad applied to affiliate to the Zionist Federation we did so in good faith, hoping to be able to represent this perspective within an organisation that claimed to be an umbrella movement of Zionism in the UK today.

After nearly ten months of answering questions, inviting council members to our events and doing everything that was required of us, we were told our application had been rejected ‘on no grounds’.

It was simply put to a vote and the vote went against us. We know from those present at previous discussions within the Zionist Federation, members of
the constitution committee ‘found no strong grounds to reject the application’, but nonetheless did so.

We thought this community had long ago done away with the notion that being ‘pro-Israel’ and ‘pro-Palestine’ – or, more accurately, ‘pro-the creation of a Palestinian state’ – were mutually exclusive. Apparently not. We’ve been told that our desire to show Anglo-Jewry Palestinian areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem means we are ‘too pro-Palestinian’ and not ‘pro-Israel’ enough.

The fact that we vocalise concerns in relation to settlement expansion is apparently indicative of our lack of support for Israel, despite the fact that 70 percent of this community does not support settlement expansion.

But supporters of Yachad stand with large numbers of current and former political, military and cultural leaders inside Israel whose opinions are no different to ours. Ehud Olmert, former Prime Minister of Israel, recently said of Yachad: “A two-state solution is the only possible road to peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. The work of Yachad, which takes a strong and firm approach in support of this outcome is to be commended as the work of a truly Zionist organisation.” Is he too not welcome at the table?

When Yuval Diskin, most recent former head of the Shin Bet, was quoted as
saying tensions cannot be diffused so that a resolution can be found while settlement expansion is ongoing, did he forgo his right to call himself a Zionist? The chairman of Meretz, Zahava Gal-On, supported Palestine’s upgrade at the United Nations. Yet Meretz in the UK remains a member of the Zionist Federation. Had Meretz applied to join today, would its application, too, have been rejected?

Zionism has never been a monolithic ideology. One only has to look at the
disagreements between Ben Gurion and Ze’ev Jabotinsky as proof of this.
However it appears the Zionist Federation today perceives its role as policing the term, deciding what is Zionist behaviour and what is not, and in doing
so, chooses to exclude large numbers of this community.

A supporter of Israel, who desires to see a two-state solution and chooses to visit East Jerusalem with Yachad, in order to better understand who lives
there and the options for how the city could be shared in a final status agreement, can, it seems, no longer claim to be a Zionist.

The Zionist Federation of course has a right to make any decision it likes, but surely it has lost the right to define itself as the ‘umbrella of Zionism in
the UK’?

It is clear from the depth of feeling inside the community that has been shown this past week, that many people are looking to understand why supporting Yachad and being represented at the Zionist Federation are mutually exclusive.

This is now a conversation about what, and who, defines Zionism in 2013, and is too important to remain behind closed doors.

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Cast lead II

Hamas’ military chief Ahmed al-Jabari, who had been on Jerusalem’s most wanted list for a decade, was killed in a pinpoint airstrike while travelling in a car in Gaza City, signalling the start of Operation Pillar of Defence to reduce terrorists’ capacity to launch attacks. Hamas immediately declared that the move had “opened the gates of hell”.

In a joint televised statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Hamas and the other terror organisations chose to escalate its attacks in recent days. Israel has sent Hamas a clear message that it is prepared to defend its citizen.”

Around twenty sites in Gaza were reported to have been struck last night, killing at least nine people, while there was a significant upsurge in the number of rockets fired towards Israel. Nevertheless, Netenyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned they remained prepared to “expand” the operation if necessary.

Al-Jabari, who is widely believed to have been involved in the capture of Gilad Schalit, was the most senior Hamas figure to be assassinated since Israel’s last major offensive to halt rocket attacks, Operation Cast Lead, four years ago. After more than 100 rockets were fired into southern Israel since the start of the weekend – causing several injuries and widespread damage to property – the IDF operation targeted rocket launching sites. Defence Minister Ehud Barak claimed that strikes had destroyed a large number of long range Fajr missiles.

In the hours after al-Jabari was killed, at least 55 projectiles were launched towards Israel, according to police. While the Iron Dome system intercepted at least a dozen missiles by 12am Israeli time, most of which were headed for Beer Sheva and one for Dimona, others were reported to have hit shopping centres and cars, causing a number of injuries.

With reservists now being called up, Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai said the Israeli actions could “prove protracted”, adding that “the home-front must brace itself resiliently”. As sirens sounded, residents in the south of the country were being told to stay within 15 seconds of a shelter.

On Tuesday night, it appeared that a truce was in place after days of violent exchanges. But following yesterday’s air strikes, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned Israel’s actions, calling the assassination of al-Jabari “a major escalation against our people”. And in the first sign of diplomatic fallout, Egypt immediately recalled its ambassador to the Jewish state. In America, however, the administration issued a statement backing Israel’s right to defend itself.

In London, as the Zionist Federation called an emergency rally for Israel for tonight, the foreign office urged restraint on both sides “to prevent a dangerous escalation that would be in no one’s interest”.

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Romney Hailed as ‘Realist’ on Mid East

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has told donors that Palestinians “have no interest” in peace with Israel and suggested that efforts at peace under his administration would languish, according to a newly released video of his private remarks to donors in May.

In the video, Romney is heard lamenting the current stalemate, saying that the pathway to peace was “almost unthinkable to accomplish”. He says that pushing Israel to give up land in disputed territories “is the worst idea in the world”, and that Iran would infiltrate a Palestinian state to threaten Israel in the same way it does in Lebanon.

In the video, filmed at an event hosted by Florida-based millionaire Marc Leader, Romney adds that in the event of Palestinian statehood, “the Iranians would want to do, through the West Bank, exactly what they did through Lebanon [and] what they did through Gaza. They would want to bring missiles and arms to the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel”.

The explosive comments by the Republican candidate, in which he infers that all Palestinians are “committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel,” sparked debate across the British Jewish community this week, with some suggesting Romney is right.

Likud Herut UK chairman Zalmi Unsdorfer said: “I see Romney as a refreshing realist. The Palestinian Authority shows no sign of recognising a Jewish state. In this situation there is every justification in maintaining the status quo.”

Alex Brummer, Vice-president of the Board of Deputies, said: “We know Mr Romney to be a good friend of Israel, but the British Jewish community believes a two-state solution remains the best way forward for a lasting settlement between Israel and the Palestinian territories.”

Romney’s comments, however, have led to concern by some who worry that, under a Republican presidency, US efforts to re-engage the two sides in peace talks would falter.

Others took exception to Romney’s apparent grouping of all Palestinians into the category of violent extremists. Alan Aziz, director of the Zionist Federation, said: “We disagree with Mitt Romney’s comments if they inferred that all Palestinians are committed to Israel’s destruction.”

Romney has been widely criticised both within and beyond the US for factual inaccuracies and the less-than-diplomatic way he made his points, but it is the timing of this latest video release that has raised eyebrows, with the election campaign entering its closing stages.

The Republican candidate is proving gaffe-prone. In earlier excerpts taken from the same dinner meeting, Romney is heard saying that almost half the American people were “victims” relying on benefits, and that his role “is not to worry about those people”.

Romney later admitted that his remarks were not “elegantly stated”.

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BBC Squandered 330k to Conceal Israel Report

The figure was released following a freedom of information request by the website thecommentator.com.

It revealed the corporation has so far spent £332,000 on legal fees to conceal the Balen Report, commissioned in 2004 by former BBC director of news, Richard Sambrook, following allegations of anti-Israel bias. The actual cost to the BBC is likely to be far higher, as in-house legal time and VAT are not factored in.

Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow told the Jewish News: “It is outrageous that the BBC has spent license fee payers’ money on trying to suppress information about their attitude to Israel that should have been public. I will raise the matter in the Commons.” Halfon will also write to Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust.

The report by senior journalist Malcolm Balen looked at the corporation’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict across radio and television. In 2005, commercial lawyer Steven Sugar asked to see Balen’s assessment but his request was turned down by the BBC on the grounds that publication of the report would directly impact on its coverage of crucial world events and FOI legislation did not apply. The corporation subsequently won its case at the information commission.

Sugar appealed to the information tribunal, which overturned the commission’s ruling in 2006. However, in 2007, the high court not only backed the original commission decision but imposed restriction on potential appeals to the tribunal in the future. That ruling was upheld in January 2008 in the court of appeal. In May 2008, the House of Lords’ judicial committee allowed Sugar, who died last year, to take his appeal to the law lords. However, it was rejected.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal by Sugar’s widow, Fiona Paveley, and his former firm, Forsters.
Paul Charney of the Zionist Federation said: “The question is why the BBC would spend this money to cover up its own publicly commissioned report? The only credible answer must be that they have something to hide, for they would not bury good news.” A spokesman for the Board of Deputies said: “We are surprised that the BBC should see fit to spend such a large amount of the licence fee, to keep secret a report on a matter of concern to many members of the public.”

A BBC spokesman said: “We have always maintained that the report was held for the purposes of journalism and was therefore not disclosable under the act. This is the principle we are protecting.”

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The Community’s Games!

The 29-year-old drummer told the Jewish News: “Danny Boyle, the English filmmaker and artistic director of the ceremony, gave us a passionate explanation of his vision, which is brilliantly ambitious. If the performers can pull it off as planned then it will be an amazing spectacle for all the world to marvel at and enjoy.”

Adam, who was born in Hampstead, is a drummer in blues band Gaby Young and Other Young Animals. He saw an advert on a drumming website to sign up for auditions. There have since been 30 rehearsals over the past eight weeks, involving 10,000 performers.

Adam shed some light on what the Olympic stadium in Stratford will look like tomorrow night: “It will be transformed from a sports ground to a typical pleasant English countryside scene with green fields, real cows, sheep grazing, a leisurely game of cricket and even clouds hanging above that can produce rain if required!” Adam works for Newham Music Academy as a drum and ukulele teacher in local schools, so is acutely aware “there is a great sense of excitement and enthusiasm about the summer ahead”.

He adds: “I can’t wait for the Games to begin. The Olympics will only come to town once in my lifetime and not only is it in London this year but it is right on my doorstep. I can see the Olympic stadium from my bedroom window! To me, the Olympics stands for unity through diversity – celebrating the talent and achievement of people from nearly every nation in the world. And London has to be one of the most successfully diverse major cities in the world. On this level, it is a perfect match.”

Adam managed to give two of his loved ones even more nachas by getting them tickets for the final dress rehearsal tonight. “I was able to bring two guests. Choosing between my parents, sisters, grandma, girlfriend Susie and close friends made my head spin! I chose my girlfriend Susie and my mum, knowing that my dad would be gracious. Keeping the important women in my life happy must be beneficial!”

Meanwhile, Olympic fever hit the streets of London this week as the torch relay passed through Ilford on Sunday and Hendon on Wednesday.

The oldest torch bearer in the country is 100-year-old Diana Gould. She was born in Lodz, Poland, and came to London as a child. Diana’s 220-metre torch route began outside Hendon Town Hall and ended on the forecourt of the Middlesex University campus, where it was carried by Harry Potter star Rupert Grint. Diana told the Jewish News that the secret to keeping fit at 100 is “keeping myself active in mind and body. Don’t think old, just get on with it!”

Hundreds of members of the local Jewish community were among those contributing to the electric atmosphere by lining the streets as the torch continued its route past the Holocaust Survivors’ Centre and Nancy Reuben Primary in Finchley Lane, where pupils chanted “Team GB!” and waved paper torches created as part of the school’s Olympic activities. After the torch passed the school – whose gates featured a Jewish News banner welcoming the torch relay. Sara Kastner, a governor at the school, said: “All the pupils have been learning about the Olympics and they were incredibly excited for today. They understand that millions are coming to London for the Games and they’ve had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of it.”

Pupil Eitan Field, 10, whose face was painted with a British flag, said it was “amazing” to see the torch up close and that it was an occasion he’d always remember.

To celebrate the relay passing its offices, Zionist Federation staff and supporters also took to the streets with British and Israeli flags to wish the teams good luck. Chief Executive Alan Aziz said: “The atmosphere was amazing and the flags were well received.”

David Gilbert also carried the torch in Hendon. He has run eight marathons and triathlons raising over £150,000 for Grief Encounter Project, a charity which helps bereaved children. He was nominated by his sister-in-law, Shelley Gilbert who was orphaned at the age of nine and founded the charity in 2003 to help others who have been hit by the loss of family members. Woodside Park Synagogue member David said: “I am overwhelmed by the excitement and support I have received from family and friends. I made sure that I savoured my 15 minutes of fame.”

Ilford’s Josh Newman, 13, national under-15 trampolining champion, held the torch in Ilford town centre on Sunday morning.
The King Solomon pupil, who hopes to compete at the Rio Olympics in 2016, said: “It was thrilling to be introduced personally to thousands of people watching the relay. Being involved in this event in my home town was a great honour.”

There will also be six Rabbinical chaplains, including from Chabad, Liberal Judaism and the Movement for Reform Judaism. Rabbi Richard Jacobi of Woodford Liberal Synagogue told the Jewish News that the chaplaincy service is there “for everyone in the Olympic Village who wishes to use it – staff, volunteers, contractors, delegation officials and support staff, and, of course, the athletes themselves. I shall be there for both the Olympics and Paralympics Olympics. It’s a fantastic opportunity to show London and Judaism at their best. Of course we all hope there will be no major incidents, but we are part of the planned response to any such event. Also, there will be personal traumas and we will help support people as they face those.

“There are daily prayers offered for each of the five major world faiths recognised by the IOC – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Kosher food is provided in the main dining room for anyone who requests it. We may need to help people order their meals. One of the important messages is that we are all working alongside each other, especially when we learn of stories such as the suicide attack in Bulgaria.”

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Habima Plays On as Globe Protesters are Thrown Out

Protests spilled into the building on both nights of the company¹s
performances of The Merchant of Venice on Monday and Tuesday.

One pro-Palestinian activist was arrested and one pro-Israeli audience member
was reportedly removed for challenging a protester during the interval.

The scenes echoed the disruption to the Israeli Philharmonic’s performance
at the Royal Albert Hall last year. Unlike in September 2011, however, this
week¹s disruptions were minimal, and the performances, in Hebrew, were
hailed a success. Habima played on as security and police quickly bundled
banner-waving protesters, some of whom shouted their message from the
audience or simply stood up with their mouths taped. Outside the theatre,
ejected protesters emerged through a police cordon to a hero¹s welcome from
fellow campaigners.

Boycott campaign representative Ofer Neiman said tempers flared between the
groups as the audience left. “As people were leaving the theatre, a few of
us chanted slogans. I did so in Hebrew, saying Israel was an apartheid state
and Habima was an apartheid theatre. I faced some very hostile reactions
then.”

The authorities had been prepared for trouble. Police numbers were high and
Globe security personnel were deployed in significant numbers around the
perimeter. Anti- and pro-Israeli protesters were kept apart on opposite
sides of the theatre entrance.

There were Jews and non-Jews on both sides of the divide. Among those waving
Israeli flags on Monday was Belfast-born Simon McIlwaine, a co-director of
Anglican Friends of Israel, who called the anti-Israel protest “unwanted,
unwarranted and disgraceful”.

The spokeswoman for the campaign, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, is herself Jewish.
Trying to make herself heard over her colleague’s rendition of Ode to Joy,
she said Habima had made itself a legitimate target for protest because
Israeli national interests were served by the theatre.

Stefan Kerner, director of public affairs for the Zionist Federation, said
the counter-protest, comprised of up to 150 people, was intended to show
that the theatre was welcome. “The pro-Palestinian groups want to stop them
coming and boycott Israel, and we want to show that there is a different
side of the story. We’re standing up for what we believe is right, and to
defend Israel¹s honour.”

McIlwaine agreed with the sentiment. “There is far too much hatred of Israel
going around at the moment, and I think it¹s important for us decent people
­Christians and Jews alike ­ to stand up and be counted.”

Habima was one of many theatres from around the world invited to perform at
the Globe as part of the Cultural Olympiad. In March, a group of prominent
figures from the arts world called for them to be disinvited.

There was general agreement in some quarters that the protest against Habima
had back-fired. Board of Deputies CEO Jon Benjamin said: “The boycotters
ended up politicising the event with the unintended consequence of the
Israeli performance being full to capacity and the Palestinians¹ being a
sideshow.”

Liberal Judaism¹s chief executive, Rabbi Danny Rich ­ who was joined at
Tuesday night’s performance by the Chief Rabbi and the Israeli Ambassador -­
said: “I am not a fan of boycotts, but even less so when they seem to apply
to Israel and not, for example, to Syria or Saudi Arabia.”

Pro-Palestinian campaigners defended their actions. One, Zoe Mars, said: “We
tried non-violently to convey the message that culture may not be used to
give a civilised gloss to a state that perpetrates human rights abuses.”

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Co-op off its trolley

The Co-op, the fifth-largest supermerket chain in Britain, first took a decision not to sell produce from the settlements in 2009, when the government ordered that such products should be marked as from the occupied territories.

A Co-op spokesperson said: “The Co-operative Group, which has not taken any produce from the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories since 2009, is extending its policy to cover engagement with any produce suppliers known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements, where there is broad international consensus that the settlements are illegal. This follows a decision by the group board, which was mindful of the additional costs involved in the tracing and auditing of all produce supplied by these companies.

“Following an audit of the group’s supply chain, it will no longer do business with four companies, accounting for 350,000 pounds’ worth of sales, as there is evidence that they source from the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

“However, the group will continue to trade with Israeli suppliers that do not source from the settlements, and currently has supply agreements with some 20 Israeli businesses, a number of which may benefit from a transfer of trade. The group will also continue to actively work to increase trade links with Palestinian businesses in the occupied territories.”

The decision will hit four companies, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, but the Co-op stressed this was not a general boycott of Israel and that its contracts would go to other Israeli companies that don’t export from settlements.

Welcoming the move, Palestinian human rights campaigners said it was the first time a Western supermarket chain had taken such a position. Hilary Smith, Co-op member and Boycott Israel Network (BIN) agricultural trade campaign co-ordinator, said the Co-op had “taken the lead internationally in this historic decision to hold corporations to account for complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. We strongly urge other retailers to take similar action”.

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which works to improve the conditions of Palestinian agricultural communities, said: “Israeli agricultural export companies like Mehadrin profit from and are directly involved in the ongoing colonisation of occupied Palestinian land and theft of our water. Trade with such companies constitutes a major form of support for Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, so we warmly welcome this principled decision by the Co-operative. The movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law is proving to be a truly effective form of action in support of Palestinian rights.”

Attacking the move, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson said: “It is a pity to see some, who ostensibly pretend to contribute to peace and reconciliation, advance a negative agenda of boycotts, inject an atmosphere of confrontation and widen the distance between the parties involved. It would be prudent to seek a more positive approach to conflict resolution.”

And the Board of Deputies’ Chief Executive Jon Benjamin, speaking on behalf of the Fair Play Campaign Group, said: “The Co-op’s decision to reformulate its policy on settlement goods to include a boycott of four Israeli companies is naive and a retrograde step.

This extension is significantly less than the full boycott of Israel sought by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. However, the Co-op has not fully understood the Jewish community’s serious concerns with an ever-increasing slippery-slope boycott policy. Despite the Co-op’s claims that they are applying their policy even-handedly, goods from occupied Northern Cyprus, for example, may still be sold in Co-ops and labelled as ‘produce of Turkey’. The Co-op claims that it may buy more produce from other Israeli companies in place of these four. This remains to be seen, and we will monitor the outcome closely.”

The WeBelieveinIsrael organisation said that if community members wanted to express their disquiet, they should also write to Co-op board members, whose details could be found on the Co-op’s website. “If the Co-Op’s policy is going to affect your willingness to shop there, you should say this in your correspondence, so they know their policy will have an adverse commercial impact,” said the group.

“To shift their policy in the long-term we also need people to join the Co-op, for 1 pound, and engage in its democratic structures, as it is a membership-based organisation.”

And in an angry letter to Co-op CEO Peter Marks, Zionist Federation chairman Harvey Rose wrote: “Boycotts and sanctions do little apart from create further tension and division in an already fraught political arena.

“There are countless programmes and organisations that work to build bridges between Israel and the Palestinians that have a clear and positive impact on the economic and political environments of both peoples. There are better ways that your organisation can make a difference to the region without taking sides in a difficult and complicated conflict.”

Mike Freer, Conservative MP For Finchley and Golders Green, said: “The Co-op’s policy is particularly egregious. I have written to its chief executive to ask why Israel has been singled out when the firm is happy to sell goods from countries with poor human rights records. It is even happy to sell goods from genuinely occupied areas such as Northern Cyprus.”

The Co-op has around 3,000 food stores across Britain, including in Borehamwood, Barnet and Kingsbury.

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Israeli Bedouin women face double discrimination

Hannan al-Sanaa, who was in London this week at the invitation of the Zionist Federation – and took part in a joint ZF-UK Taskforce talk at King’s College, University of London – told the Jewish News: “More than 80 percent of Bedouin women in the Negev are illiterate. The government won’t implement its own laws towards us, so we have had to take matters into our own hands.”

“The association I set up, Sidreh, has had to lobby the government to get what all Israeli citizens have a right to. And when the government doesn’t deliver, we go to court – and win.”

The feisty 33-year-old al-Sanaa is the youngest of 13 children born into one of the largest tribes of the Negev. The only one of her family to be university educated – “I always wanted to be a strong and independent women,” she said – she has been working on behalf of the Bedouin in both recognised and unrecognised communities.

Israel has set up seven “recognised” Bedouin communities in the Negev. However, the move to urban communities has meant that they have lost their agricultural lands. Despite promises from successive governments to ensure skills training and replacement work, al-Sanaa said that the move had “led to massive unemployment especially among women and chronic social problems, such as domestic violence”.

Sidreh, she said, lobbied on behalf of the women and “teaches them old traditional skills, such as weaving. We use the money from the sales of what we make to fund our work, including an Arabic-language women’s newspaper”, which goes out in 11,000 copies every week. “We also help educate the women on their rights and teach them how to read and write,” said al-Sannah.

She was proud, she said, that Sidreh had produced “the first Bedouin nurse, the first Bedouin woman driver and – unfortunately – the first Bedouin divorce instigated by a woman who opposed her husband’s polygamy”.

The ZF event was the first in a series of meetings for Hebrew-speakers set up by new emissary Nir Cohen. He said: “Our aim is to reach out to Israelis in London. There will be more events like this.”

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Amnesty defends guest author over claims of anti-Semitism

In his letter to Amnesty International UK’s managing director Kate Allen, Zionist Federation chairman Harvey Rose claimed that author Ben White, whose new book Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy was being launched at an AI event next week, had allegedly distorted events in Israel and made up quotes to further his anti-Israel agenda.

Rose quoted White as saying, in 2002: “I have just provided a by no means comprehensive list of reasons why I can understand very well that some people are unpleasant towards Jews. I do not agree with them, but I can understand.”

He also noted that White claimed Juergen Moellemann, the Deputy Leader of the [German] FDP Party, had not been anti-Semitic when he compared the Israeli government’s actions to those of the Nazi regime. To White, wrote Rose, these comparisons were merely “unwise and unsound”, but “not anti-Semitic. It does not make racist assumptions, nor does it smack of bigotism”.

In response, a spokesperson for Amnesty International UK told the Jewish News: “We have received a letter about the Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy event which makes various claims about Ben White. We will be writing back as soon as possible.

“Amnesty’s work on human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories includes raising important issues about discrimination. This event is part of that work.

“Ben White’s book talks of a ‘fresh vision of justice and peace for Jews and Palestinians’, expressing the author’s support for ‘a future based on a genuine co-existence of equals’ and a ‘solution that protects the rights of both the Palestinian people and Jewish Israelis’. These are important issues and the event is an opportunity to explore them”.

A ZF spokesperson commented that it was “sad Amnesty International blindly follows any anti-Israel rhetoric without ever truly getting to grips with the reality on the ground. Such organisations have a duty of responsibility to the public to present an honest and balanced platform of debate. Something they have again failed to do with this event”.

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Standing Up For Israel and Gilad

Sunday’s event was organised by the British Israel Coalition and StandWithUs UK. One participant said it was “sad” there did not appear to be a visible presence from the main Zionist organisations and Jewish establishment but BIC and StandWithUs said they were keen to maintain an ongoing, highly-visible profile.

Organisers said it was mainly good-natured, although they were heckled by some anti-Israel protesters. They added that the rally was a response to the al-Quds Day event a week earlier in the square, where some had called for Israel’s destruction.

Joy Wolfe, the StandWithUS chair, said: “We want to mobilise massive grassroots support to get Israel’s message across and to make people aware of how much misinformation is circulated. We want an end to double standards and we want action and we want it now.”

Hasan Afzal, the director of British Muslims for Israel, spoke at the rally. “British Muslims for Israel is proud to be part of the British Israel Coalition,” he said. “Israel is the only country in the Middle East that guarantees Muslims the freedoms of a democratic society. We support Israel because it is the right thing to do.”

Meanwhile, the Zionist Federation is planning a demonstration today to counter a Palestine Solidarity Campaign rally outside the Royal Albert Hall where the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, will be performing at the BBC Proms.

The ZF said that it was very important that “we show our support for the IPO and also for Israel at this time”.

The counter-demonstration is due to take place between 6-8pm outside the Royal Albert Hall’s main entrance on Kensington Gore.

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