About 10 days ago, BICOM (the British Israel Communications and Research Centre), the leading agency fighting anti-Israel bias in UK media, announced that continuing financial difficulties had led to the departure of its chief executive and the “scaling back” of its activities.
I put up a brief Facebook post about this which drew praise for individuals and small organisations doing similar work on behalf of Israel – including on social media – without BICOM’s resources or staff or payment, obviously.
The organisations and individuals fighting the good fight have a superb track record for getting results, particularly – as was frequently mentioned – for getting apologies, corrections and retractions. Gratifying as they are, apologies, corrections, etc don’t solve the problem because, as an editor of mine wisely observed, it is impossible to “un-ring a bell.” Thus, once the offending statement/idea is out there, apologies, etc are only valuable if they are given air-time and prominence equal to the original assertion. And even then…
A lot of the time, the organisations and individuals feel they are playing whack-a-mole, forced to combat a new threat the instant an earlier one is neutralised, and never getting to the root or heart of the bias provoking it.
We could also ask whether such vital activities should be left to volunteers, no matter how committed and competent. Surely, we know that anti-Zionism has such profound ramifications for the UK Jewish community that combating it should be undertaken by a well-resourced; professional, dedicated organisation specifically designed for the role.
Whether that well-resourced; professional, dedicated organisation is something entirely new or is a resuscitated, fully-funded, fit-for-purpose BICOM, such an organisation is essential for our community. Without it, we will be back almost where we were 40 years ago. Then, faced with a sophisticated and well-funded anti-Israel campaign using the Palestinians as its focus, our community responded by setting up a severely under-funded Bipac (British Israel Public Affairs Committee). I have already written about the early years of Bipac, the failure to resource it, and its impact (or lack thereof) so I won’t repeat myself. However, given the repercussions for the UK Jewish community of that failure, surely it is inconceivable that we are about to make the same mistake again. Such breathtaking short-sightedness will make life more difficult for future generations of UK Jews, especially Jewish students at many British universities. And this time we will not even have the excuse that we don’t fully understand the threat we face.
Not everyone believes the UK Jewish community should spend cash on combating anti-Zionism. One Facebook friend believes that anglo-Jewry should concentrate its limited resources on its own welfare needs. I would argue that – as proved by events in the past 4 years – fighting anti-Israel bias serves our community’s interests. Indeed, I believe it is as vital for our community’s well-being and security as care homes, synagogues and schools.
The UK Jewish community is small, shrinking and was made to feel extremely vulnerable during the 4 years of Labour antisemitism. As we know, anti-Zionism was the principal driver of that antisemitism, thus proving a clear link between the way Israel is perceived and the well-being of Anglo-Jewry.
If, as a community, we let the lies and libels continue to multiply, to be embellished and to be disseminated by, among others, the BBC – which regularly acts like a spokesperson for the Palestinians and Hamas – hostility to Israel will continue to grow unchecked.
And while anti-Zionism is not comfortable, anti-Zionism slips easily – as we have seen – into antisemitism which makes life really uncomfortable for all UK Jews.
Such deep-seated bias can only be eradicated by a professional organisation that is properly funded, staffed and resourced. If we as a community fail to invest in an organisation to effectively combat anti-Israel bias; if we fail to get a firm grip on anti-Zionism, I have not the slightest doubt it will come back to bite us. And bite not only us but our children and our children’s children.