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Manchester Israel rally set to attract 2,000 people, say organisers

    The national pro-Israel rally which was cancelled after protests from boycott activists is set to attract 2,000 supporters to a new venue this Sunday - and has the support of the Israeli Prime Minister.

    “Say No To Terror: Say Yes To Peace,” organised by North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI), will take place at 2pm at the Palace Theatre in Manchester city centre, which organisers expect to fill.

    The event, originally named “Say No To Terror: Stand With Israel,” was due to take place on January 31 until the Sheridan Suite pulled out following what NWFOI said was “gross intimidation” from “the antisemitic boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.”

    Attendees from across Britain will hear speakers including Conservative Friends of Israel chairman Sir Eric Pickles, Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan, Board of Deputies senior vice-president Richard Verber and Zionist Federation chairman Paul Charney.

    The rally has also received support from the Chief Rabbi, Jewish Leadership Council and the Israeli embassy, as well as grassroots groups around Britain.

    And as well as securing what he called a “very prestigious” venue, NWFOI co-chair Anthony Dennison revealed that he had received a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, which will be read out at the rally.

    “I wrote to his office last week, and he was kind enough to send us a letter of support. It’s nice to know that he’s heard of NWFOI and that he appreciates what we’re doing. It was very warming to receive.”

    Although the NWFOI was forced to keep the location of the rally secret to guard against another cancellation, Mr Dennison said he was confident the Palace Theatre would keep the booking.

    “We spoke to them and told them what the event was about, and they had no issues with it. I guess the Sheridan didn’t have any issues with it until two or three people expressed outrage, but we do not think the Palace will cancel it, because they are a professional organisation.”

    The NWFOI co-chair said the change of name was made because “we want people to know that we are not just anti-terror; we’re pro-peace.

    “We believe in the two-state solution and peace with the Palestinians, and we thought it was right to emphasise it, rather than be negative.”

    Part of the rally will clash with the Manchester United v West Ham FA Cup quarter-final, which Mr Dennison said was “a shame, and it’s inevitable that some people will go to the match, but there’s always something.

    “The community in Manchester is vibrant, with social and sporting events all over the place.”

    He added that on a personal level, the choice had not been easy. “My loyalties were torn between Israel and Man Utd, but Israel has won. And I say that with real difficulty.”

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