Labour Friends of Israel to reinvent itself

February 26, 2011
Richard Kuper
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liberal-conspiracyIsrael’s friends reach out to the liberal-left

Ben White, 23 February 2011

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Over the last year, Tel Aviv-based think tank The Reut Institute has offered a lot of advice to supporters of Israel in the West on how to respond to “the erosion in Israel’s diplomatic status” (aka ‘delegitimization‘), including a focus “on engaging the hearts and minds of liberal progressive elites”.

A recent report looked specifically at London, saying “liberal and progressive left” voices are the ones “most effective” in shielding Israel. Reut urged Israel’s defenders to “substantively engage liberal and progressive circles” by “responding to their concerns and building personal relationships”.

Now it has been reported that Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) is set to “re-invent itself” in order to “develop the ‘progressive case’ for Israel”.

The article by The JC’s political editor Martin Bright noted LFI’s “fire-righting role” against “growing anti-Zionist sentiment” in the British left and the “re-branded” LFI’s new slogan – “Working Towards a Two-State Solution”.

Other voices have encouraged a similar tack. Writing on in December, Julian Kossoff cited Reut and the need for “smart thinking” to persuade “liberal opinion”.

Strategically, this means a rejection of the “‘Israel right or wrong’ approach”, and instead being willing “to concede…that Israeli Arabs’ civil rights and Palestinian human rights are in need of intensive care”.

The JC’s Martin Bright also wrote in January how “it will be all the more necessary to develop the progressive case for Israel in the year ahead”.

Fresh from appearing at the Herzliya Conference, Lorna Fitzsimons, chief executive of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), wrote in The Jerusalem Post that BICOM is “launching the progressive case for Israel and driving the campaign for the Left to support it as a Jewish state”. The “re-branding” of LFI will be heralded byan event in the House of Commons next month with Progress.

Progress is chaired by Stephen Twigg, former chairman of LFI, and one of its vice-chairs, Rachel Reeves MP, has previously been on a LFI delegation to Israel. It’s not all one-way traffic however; LFI’s recently-appointed director, Jennifer Gerber, previously worked at Progress where, according to The JC, “she edited its magazine” and wrote articles “on Israel and antisemitism”.

Like all the huff and puff about ‘delegitimization’, this “progressive case” for Israel is unlikely to fare well as long as the Israeli state controls the lives of millions of Palestinians in an apartheid-system of control and discrimination. I’m not sure who they’re trying to kid.

Jewish Chronicle, 11 February 2011

Ben White’s comments also apply to the Jewish Chronicle of 11 February 2011, which was full of “allowing criticism of Israel” articles, such as Mick Davis’s I am a loyal Zionist and that is why I must criticise Israel (in which he only criticised “discrimination against minorities, rabbis who issue racist edicts, the divisions between secular and religious Jews”….). Tzipi Livni got in on the act (see Tzipi Livni: We ALL have a voice on Israel – “We have to listen to our ‘diaspora family’, says Tzipi Livni”); and even JC  editor Stephen Pollard jumped on the bandwagon in his editorial that week entitled A chance to speak. It ends with a call for “a big conversation, of which we can all be proud”- but the participants in this big conversation seem to range only from Mick Davis and Tzipi Livni who, bizarrely, make up the extreme left of the dialogue, to all those who support Israeli government policy…

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