Secret London meeting to plan battle against Israel boycott

Dozens of leading politicians, campaigners and grass-roots activists gathered in Britain this week for a secret conference on tackling delegitimisation of Israel.

The three-day event, held in closed sessions amid heavy security at central London’s Hilton Metropole hotel, was attended by Israel’s Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister, Yuval Steinitz.

Speakers at the Global Coalition for Israel event included Britain’s former Middle East Minister Alistair Burt and Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to Britain.

The conference was part of the Israeli government’s efforts to co-ordinate international responses to delegitimisation and boycott campaigns. The coalition project has been running for years but this was its first meeting held outside Israel.

Around 25 countries were represented, including Australia, the United States, Canada and a number of European states.

The Jewish Leadership Council and Bicom president Poju Zabludowicz hosted the event alongside the World Jewish Congress and British Jewish communal groups including the Board of Deputies.

Speaking at the conference’s gala dinner on Tuesday, WJC president Ronald Lauder told the 140 guests that countering the boycott movement might be the most important work they ever do.

He said: “It is not a burden or even a challenge. It is an honour. We will send the message that a campaign against Israel is a double-edged sword. We are not powerless — far from it. We have the resources. We have the intelligence. Most important, we have unbounded determination.”

Mr Lauder promised greater use of legal means to challenge boycotts.

“We will draft and lobby for legislation that will withhold government funding from academic institutions that boycott Israel,” he said.

“We will draft and lobby for federal anti-discrimination statutes in the United States against banks, businesses and governments that target only Israel. We will follow the money to find out just who is funding these attacks on Israel and if there is any connection to terrorism.”

Members of the British We Believe advocacy campaign attended a session on Monday evening with fellow grass-roots activists from Australia, Canada and Holland. They discussed methods of challenging anti-Israel activity.

Mr Steinitz also met British Foreign Secretary William Hague during his visit. They discussed the Middle East peace process and Iran’s nuclear weapons negotiations.

Last updated: 5:19pm, April 10 2014