Anglo-Jewry is confused

April 19, 2012

The debate over who is best-placed to defend Israel in Britain was exemplified by widespread confusion over what the response should be to the Global March to Jerusalem protests in London last month.

As around 800 anti-Israel demonstrators protested outside the Israeli Embassy - a number displaying images of the Israeli flag interwoven with a swastika - only 20 counter-protesters attended, mainly supporters of the British Israel Coalition.

BIC's Sam Westrop said it had been the "worst response" from the Jewish community he had encountered, and attacked the Zionist Federation for apparently reneging on an agreement to organise counter-protests whenever anti-Israel demos take place.

On the eve of the GMJ protest, Israeli sources in London had also criticised the lack of preparation to combat what was expected to be a major event in anti-Israel activists' calendars.

Israeli officials were said to be dismayed by the failure to organise a large counter-demo, and suggested embassy staff had been left to deal with the protest alone.

But the JC understands that the Israeli Foreign Ministry had in fact discouraged communal groups from counter-protesting, as they "did not want to make a big thing" of the GMJ.

That sentiment was reportedly echoed by senior embassy officials in London, who told activists in the days leading up to the protest not to do anything which would attract more attention to the protests.

To add to the sense of confusion, a Foreign Ministry spokesman this week denied any advice on GMJ had been offered to groups outside Israel.

ZF executive director Alan Aziz said his organisation's lack of response to GMJ had been "an exception" and said counter-protests would take place "whenever we think it's appropriate".

    Last updated: 4:46pm, April 19 2012