This is a guest post by Stephen Hoffman
This blog will write about how the recent lobby of Parliament, organised jointly by the Zionist Federation and Christian Friends of Israel made a real difference in the field of Israel advocacy and the lessons that can be learnt from it. It is extremely pertinent, when you consider the recent antisemitic comments by David Ward, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, and the antisemitic imagery used by Gerald Scarfe, in his cartoon for The Sunday Times. This shows the depths our opponents will reach in their attempts to demonise Israel. Although these are extreme examples, it seems that opposition to Israel has become so mainstream that defending Israel’s right to exist, let alone getting people to understand the Israeli perspective, has become a battle. In return we must redouble our efforts and the lessons of the lobby show the way forward.
Clearly, there is an appetite to speak up for Israel, as over 300 people attended the lobby day, where they were provided with the tools to lobby and then put their skills into action when they lobbied their local MP. By doing this, they made a real positive difference for Israel in Parliament.
In the morning those who attended heard from the Israeli Embassy’s press attaché to the UK, Amir Ofek. He reminded the audience about the importance of lobbying Parliamentarians. He reminded everyone that the personal touch really makes a difference. One sound bit of advice was that MPs are much more likely to read letters than emails. It might take a bit more time, but next time you want to talk to an MP or your local MP on Israel, write to them. It shows an effort on your part, which may help your comments to get passed on to the relevant Government Minister.
Ofek then talked knowledgeably about the recent Israeli elections, which showed that Israel is the only truly free country in the Middle East. This is something that we should continually point out, as it counters the lies made by others that Israel is anti-democratic. The constant holding of free and fair elections continues to demonstrate the lies of those who paint Israel as an authoritarian hellhole. It is an argument that appeals to Parliamentarians, who are aware of the democratic process, having been part of it themselves. They feel it gives them a greater affinity for genuine democracies, and Israel is one.
In the afternoon, people listened to 20 MPs and Lords from across the political spectrum including Louise Ellman, Lee Scott, Ian Paisley Jr, Lord Monroe Palmer and Michael McCann amongst others. Many topics were covered, including the Israeli elections, the funding of imprisoned Palestinian terrorists from UK taxpayers’ money, Iran, Syria and their own reasons for supporting Israel. Baroness Deech, a crossbencher in the House of Lords who spoke to the lobby, summarised perfectly why it is important to defend Israel in Parliament saying: ‘If, Heaven forbid, Israel goes down, then the West would follow.’ All those who spoke reminded us that those lobbying for Israel really do make a difference, even if it may not be immediately obvious. They also said that it was important to follow up on the lobby by continuing to write to MPs and the Government itself on Israel. The picture being painted was that the lobby provides the platform for those involved in Israel advocacy to build on, enabling more MPs to understand the case for Israel. This is something we should be incredibly proud of, because without this Parliament could become an unremittingly hostile place, only hearing the views who think Israel is the devil incarnate.
The message from all of this is that lobbying is an important way of keeping the flame of Israel’s case alive, which otherwise may be extinguished. It is also a way of increasing the numbers of those who are pro Israel or at the very least understand Israel’s cause. It helps MPs who have no strong opinions either way have their mind opened to Israel’s perspective, thanks to the fantastic efforts of their own personal lobbyist. The message from all of this is that if you want to make a difference, take part in the lobby next year, so that the case for Israel in Parliament becomes stronger than ever before.
Rest assured on the back of its biggest and most successful lobby yet the CFI and ZF will continue to make Israel’s case heard in Parliament, the Media and to the wider general public.