Leeds lobbying in growing numbers

One of the Leeds community's fastest-growing organisations is a grass-roots group of volunteers working to defend Israel in public and against negative media coverage.

Under the stewardship of retired teacher Mike Fligg, the Leeds Lobby Network has recruited 200 supporters since forming three years ago.

The network has taken on two dozen projects, ranging from issues raised in West Yorkshire to letter-writing initiatives targeting international organisations.

Mr Fligg said he felt moved to act after learning of the Co-operative group's plans to boycott companies sourcing produce from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

"Their boycott had just started. People were pretty sick and tired of it. That was our first campaign," he explained.

"For 18 months now, all the groups in Anglo-Jewry have been pulling together. We have to. It makes sense. Luke Akehurst's work at We Believe has been tremendous.

"Groups like ours seek the support of a wider base of people. I've tried to encourage people at whatever level of Jewish religious life or Israel support to take an interest."

Mr Fligg launched an appeal for new volunteers last month and the group now intends to focus on developing resources to research anti-Israel campaigns and educate younger members of the Leeds community.

There is also the possibility of setting up a rapid response team to speak to media outlets.

"We try to co-ordinate and collaborate within the city so lots of people can be involved," Mr Fligg added. He cited the membership of Muslim and Catholic campaigners as proof of the network's cross-communal, multi-racial credentials. "One of my dreams is to make Leeds Lobby Network a household name like JNF or UJIA. I would like us to hold major events and host regular speakers."

    Last updated: 2:54pm, March 4 2014