Tory and Labour frontbenchers join in support for Israel at We Believe conference


Benjamin Netanyahu’s win in the Israeli election and the upcoming general election in the UK were at the forefront of people’s minds at the We Believe in Israel conference in London on Sunday.

Around 1,500 people flocked to the event to hear politicians from across the political spectrum and representatives from 58 communal organisations talk about their solidarity with Israel.

In a rare display of cross-party unity, Conservative chief whip Michael Gove and Michael Dugher, Labour’s shadow minister for transport, spoke of their shared support for the Jewish state.

Mr Dugher, who condemned the Israel boycott movement, said: “It’s good to be here with Michael Gove. We sit at opposite benches in the House of Commons, but we have one thing in common and that is we both share a passion and believe in Israel.”

He added: “Israel is more than just a country – it is an idea founded on a set of values and principles worth fighting for: democracy, liberty, rights for all citizens, freedom of religion…

“I am proud to call myself a friend of Israel. I am proud to call myself a Zionist.”

The sentiment was echoed by Mr Gove.

He described Mr Dugher’s stand with Israel as “outstanding – courageous.

“At the moment, for any politician to say they are a ‘Zionist’ is not an easy thing to say.

“I am a Zionist too…

“I feel as someone, who was brought outside the Jewish community as a Christian, an enormous sense of pride in what the Jewish people have achieved in Israel.

“Israel was from the very first, always going to be a democracy, it was a nation which was going to be a shelter for those who had suffered, who had been persecuted elsewhere. It was going to be a country with human rights for all of its citizens.”

Representatives from the Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Ukip “friends of Israel” groups led individual sessions at the conference.

Israel ambassador Daniel Taub was applauded as he delivered one of the event’s closing speeches.

He called on the audience to: “Raise your voice, raise your kids, and most importantly raise your head with pride.

“Don't let your relationship with Israel be defined by your defence of Israel.

“When you look at headlines about Israel, they can be depressing, but meet the people of Israel and they're inspiring, full of energy and vision. And that's our real strength.

“When you see a demonstration against Israel, it's usually a bizarre coalition of what is sometimes called 'the red-green alliance': radical leftists and extreme Islamists. If you want to break up that coalition, it's extraordinarily easy. You just have to say to them: ‘I know what you stand against, but what do you stand for? Are you for women's rights? Or gay rights? Or freedom of expression’. And of course that feeble coalition, which only stands against things, never for, disintegrates before your eyes.
“Our strength is that we stand for, we believe in, we believe in Israel.”

Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel, said: “I’m incredibly proud of the work that the activists in our network do, and thank them for their commitment to Israel and for their input into the conversations and workshops we had today.”

Edward Misrahi, chairman of Bicom, said: “The conference showed once again that this community is ready and able to become more active once it is provided with the tools and training. The energy and passion of the delegates gave us a lot of confidence in our ability to ensure that the case for Israel is heard loud and clear across the country.”

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