On Monday night, Channel 4’s Dispatches programme will focus on what it calls “one of the most powerful… least transparent lobbying groups in the UK”, the pro-Israel lobby. Sadly, the programme seems to have a pre-determined agenda. Some people have suggested that the production team felt compelled to “balance out” their two recent programmes exposing the footprint of radical Islamism in the UK.
I come to this conclusion with a heavy heart, having been led a not-so-merry dance over the past ten days by the programme makers.
Bicom is an advocacy organisation; we work with journalists every day. It is in our DNA to put our side of the story forward and to be transparent. We were willing to offer a spokesperson for interview on the programme and to talk candidly to the producers about all aspects of our work. Last week, every time we attempted to engage with the production company they proved to be obstructive, uncooperative and opaque.
Channel 4 commissioned this Dispatches episode some five months ago but only approached the pro-Israel groups in the last week or so. The producers refused for days on end even to tell us their specific allegations.
This week they have written a series of letters to communal leaders and journalists with whom we work. They insinuated that a cabal of wealthy Jewish businessmen secretly fund the pro-Israel lobby and they advised the journalists in particular that the programme will expose them as being in the pocket of that lobby group. Our fears increased when the JC reported their desire to expose the “tactics it [the pro-Israel lobby] employs behind the scenes” when “it works in support of the interests of foreign powers”.
Do they not think that journalists who oppose Israel’s position — many of whom we have taken to Israel — would not have jumped at the chance to undermine Bicom if they considered us sinister?
For those who don’t know Bicom, we are a British pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-two-state solution organisation that works with British journalists to give them a better understanding of Israel and the Middle East.
Over the past two years we have taken more than 60 journalists to Israel and the PA, working with at least 50 more regularly. Foreign editors, correspondents and leading commentators regularly attend our events, rely on us for information and, after joining our delegations to Israel, regularly recommend that colleagues do the same.
Journalists engage with us because we have credibility and we do our job well. We put journalists in front of a wide range of different voices — Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish and Arab, Left and Right — because we have confidence that the more journalists see of Israel, the more they will see a people desperate for peace but living under constant threat.
It seems that Israel’s critics are no longer content with just attacking Israel. People who even dare to support Israel are attacked. Their implications are clear. The shadowy pro-Israel lobby has prevented the man on the street from learning the truth.
We need fair-minded Jews and non-Jews to re-engage with Israel; to be confident discussing it at work and at dinner parties. Read about the issues, talk about them.