Red faces over squabbling Israel lobbies

Competition between two pro-Israel advocacy groups over their lobbying of the British media has been described as a "war of the Jews" by a senior Israeli government official.

Bicom - the British Israel Communications and Research Centre - is said to be angry that the Israeli government is working closely with the US-based Israeli Project over public relations initiatives aimed at British media.

"There is intense competition between the two groups when it comes to working with the British media, with Bicom telling us that the Israel Project doesn't understand how to work with journalists from Britain," a senior Israeli official said. "We don't want to get into this. We work with both organisations."

According to the official, the Israel Project - which feeds the media with information and polling results that cast Israel in a favourable light - works with the Israeli government on PR projects dealing with journalists from a range of countries. Bicom, which conducts briefings for British journalists and opinion-makers and takes them on regular trips to Israel, is interested in preserving its primary role in the UK.

"There are ‘wars of the Jews' on this subject," an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said. "It's a small field, but we think the different groups can complement each other, rather than compete."

According to one Bicom official, the organisation objects to the Israel Project being involved in lobbying in the UK, other than running its European polling operations from London.

But Marcus Sheff, executive director of the Israel Project's Jerusalem office, said that he was not aware of any tension with Bicom.

"Of course we work with the British media, just as we work with the entire international media - with the BBC just as we work with CNN.

"We are not territorial and we work with all the British correspondents working in Israel and send our reports to the media organisations based in London."

Bicom's chief executive Lorna Fitzsimons declined to comment, other than to say: "We don't respond to speculation."

 

    Last updated: 2:57pm, September 11 2008