Training for Grassroots Israel Advocates in the UK
The UK challenge
Britain poses two unique challenges for the Israel advocate.
First, support for Israel is weak. Over the last two decades peak levels of support for the Jewish state in the UK (20%) have been lower than the lowest levels of support in the US (38%).
Second, and even more important, is the general lack of interest in the Middle East. Support for the Jewish state is weak, not due to hostility, but because of indifference. Most of the British public (66% according to a 2014 poll) either take no side between Israel and her enemies or don’t know whose side they should be on.This means that there is not much of a pro-Israel constituency in the UK. Israel’s diplomats therefore have little local support to draw on when trying to influence relations between the two countries. While the leading Jewish organizations succeed in influencing the government well beyond what there limited numbers would imply, their hand would be strengthened with more grassroots support for Israel. On the other hand, there is also no overwhelming and deep-rooted opposition to winning people over.
Now is the time
There was recently an election in the UK (June 8, 2017). Many were shocked at the unexpectedly positive performance of the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. This isn’t the forum to go into a detailed account of this far-left activist (you can get a fair rundown on him here), but what is vital to know is that he is, at the very least, soft on antisemitism. Jew hatred in the Labour Party, transparently disguised as anti-Zionism, has become normalized under his leadership. This is no secret and was widely covered in the British media before the election (here‘s an example). Nonetheless, large numbers of British voters, particularly the young, cast their votes for his party. They did not feel that the hostility to Jews displayed by significant elements of his party should be an impediment to their support. Corbyn lost by a narrow margin, leaving open the real possibility of his party winning the next vote, giving Britain a government that would be both anti-Israel and antisemitic.
Jew hatred is not widespread in the UK, but tolerance of antisemitism is epidemic. Between now and the next election, it is vital to educate British voters on the significance of this vile form of bigotry and why it must be rejected by all.
Some are rising to the challenge
Recent years have seen many local initiatives to create “Friends of Israel” groups (this one and this one are two outstanding examples; search Facebook to find more than a dozen more). Uniting Jews and non-Jews to work within their local communities, these groups are bubbling over with enthusiasm and plans. Drawing on their passion and commitment they have already begun to raise awareness of Israel in communities across the UK. For these groups to move to the next level of success in advocacy, they need to develop and hone their campaigning skills. I want to bring my more than three decades of experience in training advocates of Israel to these organizations.
How your money will be spent
There is solid interest in my training workshops among Friends of Israel groups. I need your help to subsidize a ten-day training tour of the UK. I am aiming to run one to two training sessions a day, mainly for local Friends of Israel groups and also for student supporters of Israel.
If we exceed our fundraising goal, excess funds will be spent on subsidizing training for pro-Israel activists either in the UK or other countries. Similarly, if we don’t make the target, all funds raised will be used to subsidize Israel advocacy training workshops in the UK or other countries, outside the context of a tour.