Thursday, February 16, 2012


One of the Zionist Federation’s flagship events took place last week, on Wednesday 8th February 2012. Organised in conjunction with the Christian Friends of Israel, 300 people gathered in Westminster for the annual Lobby Day of Parliament. This is always an opportunity for our members to meet and hear from Members of Parliament from all sides of the House on how they express their support for Israel in the heart of British democracy. It is also a great opportunity for some of our members to meet individually with their MP to talk about this point on a personal basis and to highlight some specific issues.

This year, the main issues that were raised directly with nearly 100 MPs or their assistants were the actions of the BDS campaign against Israel and to urge them to oppose any calls to boycott Israel in any form; and the need to force the Palestinian Authority to stop its state sponsored incitement against Israelis and Jews. We also supported a third issue, that was to highlight the plight of Christian minorities in Arab countries.

While private meetings with Members of Parliament were taking place, the main group were based in two committee rooms. When I write about the ‘main group’ what I need to highlight is that the popularity of the event meant that we had to take a second committee room in order to accommodate all of those who joined us on the day. We are delighted to say that we managed to fill both rooms to capacity and with standing room only!

Throughout the afternoon, the two groups were fortunate enough to be able to hear from a number of MPs and one Peer. Invited to speak for just a few minutes, Members ended up speaking for an average of 15 minutes before fielding a fair number of questions. Some speakers were even cut short in order to be able to accommodate the queue of MPs waiting to address the room! Even after finishing, the MP was then approached to speak in the ‘other’ room. It is great credit to both the work ethic of the MPs and the reputations of the ZF and the CFI that every request to speak twice was met with a positive response. I would like to record my personal thanks here to all the MPs who gave up their time to address us on the day.

With the MPs speaking with no prior agenda, the question of the Iranian Threat proved to be an issue that united virtually all of them. The British Government has lead the way in standing up to Iran on this matter and the message from the MPs was that it will continue to do so. The other consensual issue that came through was that it is vitally important for individual members of the public to develop relationships with their Member of Parliament. Don’t be shy is the message! An MP is there to represent their constituents and also to hear and understand about the matter that are important to them. So by keeping in touch with an MP on matters relating to Israel will keep them informed and highlight that there is support for Israel within their constituency. The strength of the Palestinian Lobby was mentioned and those attending the day were urged to work to balance their effectiveness by developing relationships with their MPs. Sending them an article here and a comment there can go a long way. Don’t be a constant pest or nag, but don’t be afraid to make your voice heard when you have something important to relay. If you do not know how to contact your MP, please follow this link and you will find all the necessary contact details for all the MPs in Parliament. ClickHere

Without wishing to promote any particular MP it is important that some of their messages are relayed in this report. For example, Nigel Dodds (DUP) said that it was important that the Party leaders spoke up for Israel, not just the individual Members. Andrew Percy (Con) said it was fair for the Foreign Office to criticise Israel where and when necessary but that it must be even handed with its criticism of both sides of the conflict. Luciana Berger (Lab) talked about her involvement with the International Committee of Jewish Parliamentarians and their efforts to work in coordination with each other. And somewhat poignantly, David Burrowes (Con) reminded us of Canon Andrew White’s statement that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians can feel safe.

The morning training session took place at the Emmanuel Centre, a few minutes walks from the House of Commons, where we were addressed by Harvey Rose, Chairman of the Zionist Federation, Vivian Wineman, President of the Board of Deputies, and Alon Roth-Snir, the Deputy Ambassador of Israel. The day was chaired by Professor Eric Moonman, President of the ZF, and Geoffrey Smith, former UK Director of the CFI. Thanks must also go to Robin Benson, Head of Communications at CFI, for all his hard work in helping organise the Lobby Day with us.

Although there were a few negatives on the day in that the group was so large that we could not all fit into one committee room, and more people would have liked to have had the chance to meet with their MP face to face, the overriding sense was that the day had been a great success and helped to renew and encourage those attending. It can be quite demoralising sometimes when faced with what appears to be a tidal wave of anti-Israel sentiment, so it was good to be surrounded by so many people who share the same love and support for Israel and to hear that Members of Parliament not only share this view, but are also prepared to stand up and state that publicly. We look forward to an even bigger and better Lobby Day next year, but will continue to support and work for the benefit of Israel every day…with your help.

Here is a link to a report of the day that appeared in ‘The Jerusalem Post’. ClickHere