Israelis ask: where is the community support

By Anshel Pfeffer and Candice Krieger, November 20, 2008
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Senior Israeli diplomats and members of President Shimon Peres's entourage have expressed their disappointment at the absence of pro-Israel demonstrators around the events in the presidential visit.
"In every visit that Peres makes abroad," said one of the president's aides, "there are anti-Israel demonstrators but the local Jewish community always makes sure that there are counter-demonstrators showing their support for Israel and the president. We were very disappointed not to see that happening here, especially at Oxford where there was a very vocal demonstration by the pro-Palestinian crowd."

A senior source at Israel's Foreign Ministry said: "The Jewish communities in countries like the United States, Canada and France, would have never let such a thing happen, a demonstration against the president of Israel with no response. It's not that the community here isn't pro-Israel, but they seem to find it much easier to show up at fancy receptions rather than standing outside in the cold."

Another Israeli diplomat referred to the long time it had taken for the British Jewish community to organise a public march in support of Israel, which finally took place in June this year, an event, he said, which annually takes place in every major American city. "Our conclusion from this visit," he said, "is that lot more work has to be done on this at a grassroots level, especially with Jewish student groups."

In response, a UJS spokesperson said: "We have done counter-protests in the past but we run them on a case-to-case basis and we didn't feel that this was in the best interests of the students or the event. The powerful message was Peres speaking."

Alan Aziz, executive director of the ZF, said: "Where appropriate we have organised counter-protests in the past but in yesterday's case, we didn't know about the protests in advance."

A spokesperson for Bicom said counter-protests were not something they do or plan. "Peres responded to the protests in an utterly dignified way and it is disappointing if they were unable to hear what he was saying."

Jon Benjamin of the Board of Deputies said: "President Peres has been accorded the kind of reception that benefits a head of state and has, quite properly, been given a number of prestigious platforms at which to speak. That is the message that should come out of his visit, not the activities of a small group of protestors."

    Last updated: 5:15pm, November 20 2008

    COMMENTS

    Martin Sugarman

    Fri, 11/21/2008 - 16:02

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    The Jewish establishment talks cowardly nonsense; the supine attitude and not getting out onto the streets to oppose the pro Arab lobby makes us all look fools and loses us influence. There are community leaders paid fat salaries to organise these things and if they put out the call to active people via e mail or other means, many would turn out, including school kids and elderly. I remember reading by chance of the protest organised outside the Hackney Empire theatre when the Rachel Corrie play was performed about 2 years ago. About 70 pro-Israel people turned up BUT the organisers brought banners and leaflets and it was very effective and morale boosting for all of us - that is what is needed - not all these excuses about "we did not know"; you are PAID to know, so get on with it. The CST knew, so why were we not mobilised outside the Oxford venue, or Mansion House or Dorchester Hotel etc etc? Herut used to stand outside M&S in Oxford Street to oppose the pro Arabs - it was marvellous but the community never supported them and they had to give way - disgracegul! And then we moan that the Pro Arabs are getting their voice heard. Where are our voices being organised??