Thursday, 26 April 2018

Israel Group

Members of the Israel Group took part in the Israel Lobby Day jointly organised by the Zionist Federation and the Christian Friends of Israel, which this year placed particular emphasis on celebrating the most important seventy contributions to the world since the declaration of Israel’s independence seventy years ago. In the morning there was a briefing session, which included an address by video link from Israel by an IDF Intelligence Officer. He gave a report on the current threats to Israel, including 120,000 Hezbollah rockets and the corrosive influence of Iran throughout the Middle East. He also focused on the ongoing medical help Israel was offering to Syrians, and how this had helped 4,000 Syrians over the last 3-4 years and was ongoing. The treatment was not just offered close to the border, but Syrians were taken to hospitals within Israel, sometimes for long-term treatment. When they returned to Syria, they were assisted with ongoing medication and supplies.

In the afternoon we moved to the House of Commons where we lobbied our respective MP's. Barry Kafka and Peter Leslie lobbied Theresa Villiers MP. She is an active supporter of Israel and we thanked her for the work she had done in bringing to the Government's attention the fact that Hezbollah, a terrorist organisation, had been allowed to fly its flag at demonstrations. We also reminded her that, today, Israel is all too often thought of in terms of conflict with the Palestinians. Whilst it was, of course, a conflict which we all hoped would be resolved peacefully in the future, we should also recognise all that Israel and its citizens - Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, Bedouin and other religions - had achieved in such a relatively short period of time in the fields of agriculture, medicine, science, technology and culture, not forgetting peace agreements with two former enemies, Egypt and Jordan.

Barry Kafka and Eric Bradman, SPS’s Board of Deputies Delegates, also met with Enfield, Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous, after making an initial contact at the recent Holocaust Memorial Ceremony at Dugdale Centre, in Enfield. Our representatives presented Mr Charalambous with a booklet highlighting 70 achievements of the Israeli State in its 70 years. Perhaps the most interesting points were that Israel had taken in by far the largest amount of Immigrants of all the world’s countries, percentage wise, and was the only country where trees had increased in numbers since World War 2. Mr Charalambous, whilst being evenhanded, expressed strong support for Israel being able to exist without constant threat. He also supported the Jewish Community in the U.K. and vowed to speak out against AntiSemitism wherever he came across it. He listened keenly to the points which were made and also volunteered to attend any meeting we requested and to be available for any Community Events to which he was invited. He would shortly be attending a Saturday morning service at SPS.

During the afternoon we listened to a number of speeches from sympathetic MPs and members of the House of Lords from all political parties, including our local MP Theresia Villiers. 

Peter Leslie (Chair of Israel Group)

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