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BSST

BSST is the leading charity focusing on small-scale grass roots cross community, anti poverty and humanitarian projects in Israel/Palestine
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JfJfP comments


2016:

06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics

2015:

23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo

2014:

15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014

2013:

29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011

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Posts

The minister who says the IDF needs her help

Three pieces: 1) Jewish Chronicle on Lord Polak, CFI; 2) extract from FT on lobbyists, the CFI and the FCO; 3) The Independent, bipartisan policy on illegal occupation of Golan Heights;

The IDF keeps a contingent on the Golan Heights border with Syria, without Ms. Patel’s assistance. Photo from Reuters.

Stuart Polak: the Westminster veteran at the centre of the Priti Patel storm

By Marcus Dysch, Jewish Chronicle
November 7, 2017

Ennobled by David Cameron two years ago, Lord Polak is a veteran of Westminster’s corridors of power. He is likely to be horrified by the headlines and coverage around the Patel trip.

Political observers may consider the Priti Patel affair to be another fine mess for the government, but, in many respects it is a surprising one.

Surprising because Stuart Polak, one of its main protagonists, is a shrewd political operator with decades of experience in his field.

The jury is currently out on whether, in organising a series of high-profile meetings for the International Development Secretary in Israel this summer, he made one of the biggest misjudgements of his career, or whether he is a largely innocent party in a fiasco which damages him, the Conservative Friends of Israel group which he has nurtured for more than quarter of a century, and the political party which he loves.

Ennobled by David Cameron two years ago, Lord Polak is a veteran of Westminster’s corridors of power. He has taken literally hundreds of Tory MPs to Israel over the years, educating them about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and securing their support in parliamentary votes and the public arena.

Under his guidance, CFI became the biggest lobbying group in Westminster, holding lunches for 700 guests, making countless Downing Street visits, and developing contacts throughout Israel and the Middle East.

In turn Lord Polak – the savvy networker who began his career as a United Synagogue youth officer in Edgware – gained the ear of Prime Ministers, a peerage, and influence.

He is likely to be horrified by the headlines and coverage around the Patel trip. As long ago as 1990 he told the JC what motivated him – a desire to “put as much as possible back into the community”, but he hinted at his own determination to succeed.

“I’m as ambitious as the next man,” the peer, an avid Liverpool football fan, said, “but I’m motivated more by a sense of duty.”

One Westminster activist told me they assumed there was “no malice” in the meetings the pair held in Israel, but accepted Ms Patel “would have been toast” in a different political climate.

While no doubt there are JC readers, and perhaps even political correspondents, who might travel to Israel on a family holiday and find themselves meeting a charity leader or politician over a falafel by the beach, for a government minister to arrange a dozen engagements without telling her department, the Foreign Office or the British embassy in Tel Aviv, is a totally different matter.

The almighty dressing down of Ms Patel by the Prime Minister yesterday will no doubt have reminded the International Development Secretary of the error of her ways, to say the least.

Were Mrs May stronger, and in less choppy political waters, Ms Patel would already be spending more time with her constituents in her Essex constituency of Witham.

In Westminster, insiders are musing over how damaging the fall-out will be, particularly for those with the Jewish community and Israel’s best interests at heart.

Certainly CFI will be bruised by the events of the past few days, and a key pro-Israel voice in the cabinet will be neutered – if she manages even to cling on to her position as a minister.

It has been thought for some time that Ms Patel has clashed with mandarins in her department. A year ago there was confusion over the Department for International Development’s position on funding for the Palestinian Authority. Ms Patel was said to have ordered a freeze on payments, while civil servants were trying to continue a review of the system.

One source said today: “Her department clearly don’t like her – she’s pro-Israel and wants to get to grips with the issues.”

Another figure who knows Lord Polak and Ms Patel said: “Probably Stuart thought she was doing everything properly, but if I was a CFI staff member I’d be massively p***ed off.”

Those in the community who cringe at the thought of Israel being involved in another lobbying story, following the Al Jazeera secret filming row at the start of the year, will also despair.

“There are so many antisemitic conspiracy nutters out there – they love to believe this stuff. It’s a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream,” said one leading figure.


Lord Polak speaking in the House of Lords last week. Photo from Parliamentlive.tv via The JC.

For Lord Polak it is unclear how damaging the episode will be. Insiders – including those who have known him for years – describe him as a “hard character to read” and someone who largely operates “below the radar”.

That may be the case, but he is at times a prominent figure around Parliament. The day before the Patel story broke, he was deep in conversation with Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s chief of staff, for a considerable amount of time in a public area. Hardly the stuff of secret backroom deals.

Another Westminster source may have hit on the best explanation for the peer and politician’s actions last summer: “I think they knew they were not doing the right thing. They took a gamble and screwed up. Love him as I do, Stuart may have got too cocky for his own good. He’s helped Priti’s rise – and her fall.”


Priti Patel proposed UK aid for Israeli army on secret trip

Calls for minister to resign after revelations over ‘family holiday’ Priti Patel held 12 meetings in Israel, including with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

By Henry Mance, Financial Times
November 07, 2017

EXTRACT
Priti Patel, the UK international development secretary, wanted to give British aid money to the Israeli army following a secret trip to the country with a pro-Israeli lobbyist in the summer. Ms Patel’s plans were scotched by UK officials, who said it was “not appropriate” for Britain to provide aid for use in the Golan Heights. The UK considers the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in 1967, to be part of Syria.

However, following Ms Patel’s 12-day trip to Israel in August, she also proposed “more co-operation between the UK and the Israeli aid agency”. Her department is currently “working hard” on that idea, her junior minister Alistair Burt confirmed on Tuesday. The revelations raise the prospect that Ms Patel’s “family holiday” in Israel will affect how Britain’s aid budget is spent. ….

Ms Patel held 12 meetings in Israel, including with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, public security minister Gilad Erdan, and the politician Yair Lapid. The Foreign Office only became aware of her visit on August 24, the day that Mr Lapid tweeted a photograph of him and Mrs Patel. Downing Street did not become aware until November 3.

One former UK official said that while there was a low risk that Ms Patel had revealed information which could compromise her or UK security, the British intelligence services “won’t be particularly pleased” at her unauthorised contact with senior Israeli politicians and officials. “They’ll be thinking ‘Oh God, the Israelis should not be allowed to get away with this sort of thing’,” added the former official. “Israel takes more risks than other democracies . . . Developing a relationship with senior figures in the UK cabinet is an opportunity they wouldn’t miss.” None of Ms Patel’s meetings in Israel involved Palestinian politicians or groups……

All of Ms Patel’s meetings in Israel were organised by the honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel, Stuart Polak… Conservative MP Hugo Swire said the trip raised questions about lobbyists’ influence.

The Conservative Friends of Israel is one of the most best-connected groups at Westminster. “What people want is transparency and accountability,” said Sir Hugo, a former Foreign Office minister. “It is time finally to address the issue of privileged access and lobbying and funding, if we are not to have this repeating time and time again.”

Crispin Blunt, another Conservative MP, said that ministers needed to “understand all the perspectives around” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Additional reporting by David Bond 



Priti Patel, an ardent Thatcherite and Brexiteer, a former supporter of Goldsmith’s Referendum party. Her father was a UKIP candidate. A passion for Israel logically follows. Photo by Jonathan Brady/PA W

Priti Patel discussed giving British foreign aid money to Israeli army, Downing Street confirms

Number 10 highlights that country’s armed forces run field hospital for Syrian refugees in Golan Heights – where the UK does not recognise Israel’s permanent presence

By Joe Watts, Political Editor, The Independent
November 07, 2017

Downing Street has admitted that International Development Secretary Priti Patel discussed with Israel the idea of giving the country British foreign aid cash.

A Number 10 spokesman said a conversation had taken place between Ms Patel and Israeli officials, after it was reported that she had suggested funnelling money to the country’s armed forces.

Theresa May’s spokesman highlighted that the country’s army runs a hospital for Syrian refugees, but said the UK currently provides no financial support to Israeli forces and that there would be no change in policy.

Any move to provide aid money to Israeli armed forces which have been engaged in bloody campaigns in Palestinian occupied territories, would prove hugely controversial in the UK.

The admission heaps embarrassment on Ms May who was completely unaware that Ms Patel had met the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other key figures on her holiday to the country.

It also comes amid a storm over Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s erroneous comments which have left a British citizen imprisoned in Iran facing a sentence twice as long as it currently is.

The Downing Street spokesman said: “[Ms Patel] did discuss potential ways to  provide medical support for Syrian refugees who are wounded who cross into the Golan Heights for aid.

“The Israeli army runs field hospitals there to care for Syrians wounded in the civil war, but there is no change in policy in this area. The UK doesn’t provide any financial support to the Israeli army.”

Asked whether Ms Patel had informed Ms May of this part of her visit once it eventually came to light, the spokesman said: “She was absolutely clear on everybody she had met, and [her department] has been very clear this conversation did take place. But there hasn’t been any change in policy resulting from that. There is no UK financial support for the Israeli army.”

Ms Patel only made Ms May aware of the meetings on Friday, more than two months after they took place, when reports began to emerge of talks she held with a politician and a disability charity.

The minister has apologised and admitted a “lack of precision” for suggesting last week that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson knew about the trip, and that only two meetings had taken place when she attended 12.

But she appears to have avoided the sack after going to Number 10 on Monday to apologise to the Prime Ministerwho “reminded her of her obligations” under the ministerial code, the PM’s official spokesman said.

Ms May has been forced to say since that she still has full confidence in Ms Patel, despite having to give her a dressing down over the affair, which saw the cabinet minister take time out from a family holiday to meet Mr Netanyahu, other politicians, businesses and charities without telling the Foreign Office.

 The meetings between August 13 and 25 were arranged by the honorary president of the lobbying group Conservative Friends of Israel, Lord Polak, who also attended all but one.

On returning, Ms Patel commissioned Department for International Development work on disability and humanitarian and development partnerships between Israel and the UK.

Ms May’s spokesman added: “The Secretary of State has been clear with No 10 that on no other occasions while a minister has she organised meetings with foreign government ministers outside the normal channels while on holiday.”

But Ms Patel is set to face MPs over the visit on Tuesday afternoon after Commons Speaker John Bercow granted an urgent question on the subject.

Shadow International Development Secretary Kate Osamor called for an investigation, adding: “No one should be unsackable. Theresa May’s weak refusal to launch an investigation just won’t be acceptable to the British public.

Priti Patel must now explain her actions in full before Parliament.”

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