We Believe shelved for this year


Plans to repeat Britain's biggest Israel advocacy conference have been scrapped in favour of a "quiet organisational revolution".

Organisers of the We Believe conference confirmed the "strategic decision" had been taken to postpone the event, which had been due to take place in London on April 29.

Last May's conference – organised by Israel lobbying group Bicom – was attended by around 1,500 people and organised with the help of 26 communal organisations. It featured more than 80 speakers from around the world and was seen as a landmark moment for building grassroots support for Israel in the UK.

The We Believe brand was developed following that success, with Luke Akehurst appointed as a full-time director. He will continue working in his role, staging smaller events in regional communities.

It is understood that the decision to cancel April's conference was taken not primarily for financial reasons but largely due to the logistics of organising the event.

In a statement, We Believe said: "In the short term we have decided we want to focus, rather than on a one-off 'big bang' event, on the quiet organisational revolution that needs to take place to enable us to punch our weight in the debate about Israel in the UK.

"We can't afford a situation where massive effort goes into one big event, and then there isn't the capacity for the year-round follow-up that's needed."

There were also concerns that Israel advocates may experience "conference fatigue", with Manchester's Big Tent for Israel conference having taken place three months ago. It is possible We Believe could return in 2013.

Mick Davis, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, which supported the conference, said: "National conferences and rallies have an important role to play, but in the current financial climate we need to achieve maximum bang for the buck.

"We support this decision to prioritise high-impact low-cost local activities and look forward to another national We Believe conference at an appropriate date."

Controversy had surrounded the creation of the Big Tent brand, with organiser Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag of Whitefield Hebrew Congregation, clashing with Bicom over the political make-up of speakers invited to appear at November's Manchester-based event.

It is thought Rabbi Guttentag may attempt to bring Big Tent to London, which would add to We Believe's concerns about "conference fatigue". Rabbi Guttentag was unavailable for comment this week.

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