Singer who's the voice of the grassroots


She is the singer-songwriter hoping to set the record straight on Israel by leading grassroots activists in a series of rallies to counter the boycotters.

Ilana Katz spent part of the summer performing in Nashville, Tennessee, but at the height of the Gaza conflict in July she decided more had to be done to put forward Israel's case.

The 23-year-old former BBYO member set to work forming online groups which have attracted hundreds of supporters. She has spearheaded efforts to run anti-boycott demonstrations, and is now planning an initiative to support Jewish businesses against rising antisemitism.

Like the organisers of last week's rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Ms Katz is part of a new generation of activists spurred on by social media and unaffiliated to traditional groups.

She set up the North-West London Friends of Israel group on Facebook in early August, securing more than 800 supporters, and took a leading role in the protests outside the Tricycle Theatre following its boycott of the UK Jewish Film Festival.

We get pushed and spat at. We had to run for safety. But it doesn't bother me

Buoyed by those successes she took on long-standing anti-Israel campaigners outside Marks and Spencer's flagship store at Marble Arch, central London. She ran weekly rallies which have led to angry scenes with the boycotters.

"We get pushed, we get spat at, we had to run for safety. It is intimidating but it doesn't bother me. The police are there," she said. "We are telling the protesters they have been brainwashed and they are wrong. A lot of Arab people have taken our leaflets about freeing Gaza from Hamas. People have been have been very engaged."

Support has come from a variety of sources, and even the Israeli Prime Minister's office sent a message of thanks, but Ms Katz has received criticism from other Israel supporters.

She said: "I've had messages from older people who said it was not our place to do it, but I've organised more events to prove them wrong.

"Where are their events? You cannot complain if you are not doing anything yourself. There should be no age limit. If you are passionate you should do it. We've got a girl of 14 who comes to every rally. People are angry with the communal leadership, but we don't need them. We are not affiliated to any groups."

Ms Katz said she had been disappointed by a lack of younger supporters at protests, and as a result set up a second group – London Youth Stand with Israel. "I think young people think it's not safe to go out and do this stuff, but for me to go and argue and put the correct facts out there gives me such a buzz."

Currently based near Watford, Hertfordshire, Ms Katz plans to make aliyah to Israel next March. She hopes to lay the groundwork for her initiatives to continue following her departure.

"I want to give people the chance to carry this work on. It has taken over my life, but it's worth it."

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