The Israel Allies Foundation (IAF) hosted its annual Chairman’s Conference at the Mamilla hotel in Jerusalem this week, bringing 27 Members of Parliament together from 15 countries, who toured Israel and signed a declaration of support for the state. A portion of that resolution, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, condemned the anti-Semitic misrepresentation of Israel as an “occupier.”
One of the promoters of the declaration, Israeli MK Gila Gamliel, spoke of the vicious BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement that is trying to hurt Israel economically. She said it slowly targets the Jewish State and only encourages violence and hatred. Gamliel sees it as a boost for terrorism.
The declaration mentions that BDS promotes discriminatory activities against Israel. In order to stop BDS in America, the IAF has targeted state legislatures. Daniel Williams, Executive Director of the IAF, explains:
“Its absolute historic. We passed the first anti-BDS bill on a state level in South Carolina.”
Williams says there are a lot of businesses in South Carolina that do business with Israeli companies. There are also South Carolina businesses that partner with companies from other nations. The aim of the legislation was to clamp down on South Carolina’s participation in the BDS movement.
“What we did was we passed a bill that essentially makes it illegal to do business with the state of South Carolina and participate in the boycott movement… Why would South Carolina prejudice against Israel as a Jewish State and cost their own companies and their own people this economic loss to those businesses?”
So far, 24 other state legislatures in America have followed that piece of legislation. Now, multiple countries around the world are looking at that same body of legislation, with similar words that can be used in the legislatures of their nations.
Williams continues, “We think that we have tilted the whole battle in the United States, one of the biggest economies in the world… We have essentially defeated BDS, in terms of financially, in the U.S. Now, we have to finish that battle. We have 10 more states lined up right this minute. We hope to get that passed. We’ll probably get that passed in most of the states, because it really becomes an economic issue.”
The IAF continues to look at the language of legislation in state houses in America, determining what the words in the laws support. If there are unfair words against Israel, the IAF looks to develop new legislation that will deal with this kind of bias.
Williams gives an example: “Right now, we are wanting to look at the word ‘anti-Semitism’, and make sure that it is, from a state level, understood as to what is ‘anti-Semitism’. We are using the State Department’s definition. You realize that is not law. That’s State Department policy, but it’s not legislation. It’s not standing law.”
The IAF is a policy organization that continues to use a faith-based approach, seeking people to work with that have a biblical world view. IAF develops pro-Israel relationships; finds out what the needs are; equips lawmakers; and develops a legislative track that supports Israel in the international arena.
There are now IAF caucuses in 36 countries. Over a thousand parliamentarians are in the IAF network, worldwide. The organization gives politicians expert, high level information, from a legal standpoint according to international law. They look into the laws of nations and assess how they can re-inforce legislation that either exists or needs to exist in order to help Israel.
One of the strongest areas has been a developing voting bloc in the “new” Europe, which Williams says used to be known as Eastern European countries.
“They tend to have a greater number of Evangelical Christians in them who tend to be bible believers; who tend to be people who would have a biblical world view as opposed to a worldly biblical view. We are having great success in that particular region in the world; that is becoming a voting block; that is beginning to put pressure on what we hope to be legislation in the future.”
Legislation on a parliamentary level is complicated and takes time. But, the IAF is building a coalition in Europe that they believe will be successful.
Latin America is another place where the IAF has advanced over the last year. According to Williams, “We have developing caucuses in seven countries. One of the real stars has been Guatemala.”
He explains that there had been a caucus in Guatemala that had gone silent. The leadership needed to change. He was at that first meeting when the caucus was launched a few years ago. And, then he came to the re-launching of the caucus in the spring of this year. Since then, there has been favorable action.
“We started with 28 signatures on a pro-Israel resolution that went to the entire Parliament.”
Before the IAF was established, Williams says there was almost no pro-Israel representation in Latin America. Now, the IAF has developing caucuses in Guatemala and Costa Rico; and, is in the early stages in Nicaragua (a country that, until recently, was anti-Israel).
At the Jerusalem Chairman’s Conference, many of the parliamentarians were eager to speak of their efforts on behalf of the state of Israel.
Australian MP Stuart Robert is a Federal member for Fadden in the Australian Parliament, and the Chairman of the Australian Christian Allies Caucus.
He told this writer, “This is a working caucus. This is not about words. It’s not about support. It’s about action. So, it’s about moving motions on floors of Parliament. It’s about passing legislation. It’s about insuring that BDS is illegal. It’s about insuring that our parliaments and our governments, when they vote in the UN, that they vote in support of Israel.”
According to Robert, on the anniversary of the Zionist Federation in Australia, the IAF moved a substantial motion on the floor of Parliament that was unanimously accepted; that condemned the BDS movement; and, that reaffirmed Israel and its 3,000 year connection to the Holy Land, including Jerusalem as its capital.
“These are substantial motions that the entire Parliament gets to debate and vote on and work through.”
Each of the members of the IAF are responsible for their own countries, their own caucuses, and what they do in their own parliaments. They learn from each other, encourage and support one another.
This week, Robert met with Tzipi Hotovely, the Israeli Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. Robert will be meeting with other Israeli Foreign Ministry officials while he is in Israel.
“One of the things I did as the Chairman of Treaties was to actually bring into force the latest treaty action between Australia and Israel on technology and technology exchange; to report back on how innovation hubs are going. So, all the time we are getting greater and stronger cooperation between our two countries.”
Also present at the IAF Jerusalem Chairman’s Conference was Moshe Bachar, former Israeli Ambassador to Guatemala. Bachar had ambassadorial responsibilities in Honduras and El Salvador, as well. His post began in 2013 and at that time, Bachar met many Evangelical Christian leaders in Guatemala. They worked together and posted large Israeli flags throughout the cities of Guatemala.
In the beginning of his term as ambassador, Bachar found that the politics of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Guatemala was not favorable towards Israel. It took time for change to happen. The faith-based relationships he developed helped improved Guatemala’s support for Israel.
Serving as Israeli Ambassador in Latin America for four years, Bachar brought four presidents to Israel. On November 28, 2016, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales arrived in the land. The very next day, November 29th, there was a vote in the UN regarding three Arab-Palestinian resolutions. Bachar recalled what happened with Morales and Guatemala from that time forward.
“He gave an order, immediately, to vote against the resolution in the UN. From that time, they started to vote against the Arab resolutions, and sometimes they abstained. It was a big change.”
The decision made by Morales was symbolic because November 29, 1947 was an historic day for the Jewish People. It was the day that the UN General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution that adopted the partition plan for what was then called “Mandatory Palestine”.
A lot of effort goes into building relationships between Israel and other nations. For example, in October 2015, the President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, came to Israel after having been in the land years before (in 1991, to complete a young leadership course in the Foreign Ministry). Immediately, Ambassador Bachar and President Hernandez started to talk and prepare projects. A year later, Hernandez visited Israel, again, to show his appreciation for Israel’s work in Honduras with a warm greeting extended to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to Bachar, “He arrived in Israel to say thank you, and to sign a contract that was very special for Central America.” The contract dealt with security and intelligence cooperation along with other areas of mutual interests.
For Israeli diplomats, as well as for the IAF, exposure to global Christian leaders is a strategic focus. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) and Bridges for Peace are two Christian organizations that have partnered with the IAF (along with the Jewish organization, World Jewish Congress).
On the eve of October 9, 2017, Josh Reinstein, President of the Israel Allies Foundation, brought the 27 parliamentarians from the Jerusalem Chairman’s Conference to the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles. Reinstein spoke to more than 6,000 Christian pilgrims who were in attendance.
“Unfortunately, around the world today, there are many who don’t understand what is going on in Israel…. Universal bodies in the UN condemn Israel almost every week.”
Reinstein went on to identify the ‘watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem’, those who pray for Israel. “These are the people who come up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.”
He also shared his remarks about those visiting pilgrims who believe in the Bible and turn it into action by getting involved on a practical level.
“It’s the people who vote for the legislatures that stand with Israel like never before. There are brave men and women here who have brought thousands to the streets in support of Jerusalem.”
Reinstein singled out the parliamentarians, stating that those who got legislation passed in parliaments around the world had courage and stood up and did what was right. They were men and women who were committed, on a faith level, to support Israel. They were willing to lead the war against de-legitimization of Israel… one of the most important weapons in the diplomatic arsenal, according to Reinstein.
Australian MP Robert confirmed that special kind of pro-Israel support to this writer: “We are not fair weather friends. We are not here to do tough talking and no action. We are here to walk side by side. To learn from each other. To borrow legislation from each other. To borrow words. To hear how others have done things to support Israel and take it back to our countries and do the same thing.”