Volunteers join forces to stand behind Israel

Steven Jaffe

Steven Jaffe

Grassroots supporters of Israel are rallying to defend the country from the "assault on its legitimacy" in Britain, according to the man tasked with co-ordinating a new advocacy project.

Steven Jaffe said community groups were now increasingly running their own letter-writing campaigns, sharing successful ideas, and co-ordinating media appearances.

After May's We Believe in Israel conference, communal leaders turned their attention to setting up local volunteer groups to combat the delegitimisation campaign.

Plans are now underway to install pro-Israel initiatives in Liverpool and Newcastle, with Manchester and Birmingham due to hold their own We Believe events later this year.

Mr Jaffe began work last month to co-ordinate grassroots Israel advocacy in Britain, funded jointly by the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council. He is the co-chair of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, which provides a blueprint for many of the new groups.

He said communities should take different approaches, depending on their resources and members' abilities.

"The hard work is currently being done by a small number of people, [but] the assault on Israel's legitimacy is being waged right across the UK. Each of us has to play his or her own part in positively promoting Israel."

Communities in the north of England and Scotland are leading the way. Leeds, for example, has more than 130 people enrolled in a hasbara course.

But Mr Jaffe said there were now signs of groups in the south enjoying similar success. He highlighted Kingston, in south London, where activists run forums to keep community members up to date with events in Israel and promote the country's case in the local media.

No community was "too big or too small" to do its part, he said. "No one is too old, too young or too busy to do something in the battle we are facing."

Mr Jaffe said there was also an increasing trend for young professionals who have moved to London from the provinces to use their "invaluable local knowledge" in the communities they have left.

He said: "You can follow the local press online and make a huge impact even if your home city can no longer run a fully-fledged pro-Israel campaign. You can still contact the local MP and talk their language."

‚óŹ The outgoing campaigns officer and chair of the Union of Jewish
students, Carly McKenzie and Alex Dwek, this week called for the dissolution of the Board of Deputies. In a letter to the JC the two former officials described the Board as "irrelevant and out of touch."

Last updated: 1:56pm, July 28 2011