Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre

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The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre or BICOM is a lobby and political action group for the benefit of Israel. The lobby group is bankrolled by its Chairman Poju Zabludowicz[1]. According to the Jewish Chronicle, it has been 'reinvigorated' under the leadership of Lorna Fitzsimons.[2] Its primary activity is to provide daily and weekly briefings on media coverage of Israel -- including MEMRI publications. BICOM plans to concentrate on long-term measures to cultivate relationships and influence decision-makers and media leaders in Europe. BICOM is associated with AIPAC and former Director Daniel Shek stated: "AIPAC is assisting BICOM with developing grassroots networks in Britain and with organizing pro-Israel events similar to AIPAC’s conference, but on a much smaller scale." Furthermore, "There is stronger motivation now than ever for communities to stand up for Israel and stand up for their own,” Shek said. "We want to invest today in things that will matter in five to 10 years."[3]

BICOM's chief executive, until July 2006, was Danny Shek, a high-level official of the Israeli foreign ministry on a two year leave of absence. He was previously the chief spokesman and director of the press division of Israel’s foreign ministry.[4] He left to become the Israeli ambassador to France.[5]

Criticisms

Paul Usiskin, chairman of Peace Now UK, who organized the participation of the "Zionists for Peace" stated:

"BICOM is an agency that promotes Israel right or wrong"[6]

Tim Llewellyn, a former BBC correspondent and Middle East expert had this to say about BICOM:

Organizations such as the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) have hundreds of thousands of pounds at their disposal, much of it coming directly from the United States, which sends a third of its whole, global foreign aid budget to Israel's six million citizens (the real figure, including loan guarantees, tax breaks for charities and defence deals, could be as high as $10,000m annually, a sum which puts well into perspective last year's USAID contribution of $8,800,000 to India's population of 1,100m. Or, well over $1,500 per capita for Israelis, about $8.00 for an Indian)[7]
This great flow of funds bypasses most ordinary Israeli citizens and poor and needy Jews in Israel and elsewhere and goes straight to the projection of Zionist causes and colonialism wherever it might be needed. These funds prop up, here in the United Kingdom, not just BICOM, but organizations such as Labour Friends of Israel, close to the heart of Tony Blair, the Jewish Agency (whose raison de vivre is to get as many Jews as possible to go to Israel), the World Zionist Organisation, Paoli Zion, a Labour Party affiliate, the Council of Christians and Jews, which keeps the Church of England leadership at Lambeth Palace in close self-restraint about Israel's crimes against Christians and Christian institutions.[8]

More Labour links

In August 2007 the Jewish Chronicle reported:

Paul Simpson... has swapped his job as Labour’s head of corporate communications to join the reinvigorated Israel lobbyist Bicom as head of field operations. He will be a pivotal figure in the coming months, for it will fall to him to motivate and mobilise grass-roots support for Israel. His first task will be to take on the threat of an academic boycott posed by the University and College Union. The appointment is quite a coup for Bicom and speaks volumes for the persuasive powers of the organisation’s chief executive, former Labour MP Lorna Fitzsimons, and the largesse of its chairman and main funder, Poju Zabludowicz.[9]

'Summer Reception' at the House of Lords

In June 2006, Bicom held a 'summer reception' for 100 guests at the House of Lords. Chairman and 'main donor' Poju Zabludowicz was there to welcome the guests. Zabludowicz is reported to be 'Widely regarded as at the head of an emerging new wave of British-Jewish leaders'. With a personal fortune of an estimated £2billion, he is head of the Tamares investment group ('whose portfolio includes a large slice of downtown Las Vegas'). He also 'recently' donated £15,000 to the David Cameron-led Conservatives[10]. The Jewish Chronicle reports that one of the invited guests said that the 'Guests on September’s US mission, who hope to meet Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, have been asked to pledge a “five-figure sum”'.

Conservative Friends of Israel/BICOM Links

According to Peter Oborne:

Despite the Conservative Friends of Israel and BICOM not formally merging there is a huge amount of co-ordination. Many of BICOM’s key figures also play roles in the CFI: Trevor Pears, Michael Lewis and Poju Zabludowicz are driving forces behind both lobbies. David Cameron also accepted £20,000 from Trevor Pears in his leadership election[11].

Principals

In 2006, Michael Lewis is reported to be depute Chairman. At the time Lewis was also Chairman of UJIA and is described as 'a South African emigré whose business interests run from retail and restaurants to biotechnology'[13].

Gerald Ronson (Community Security Trust chairman) was also on the Board in 2006, alongside Trevor Chinn (UJIA president), Lord Janner, Brian Kerner (former UJIA chairman), Isaac Kaye (who is described as 'a veteran supporter of Israel'), Jonathan Kestenbaum (former UJIA chief executive) and Henry Grunwald (Board of Deputies president)[14].

Supporters of Bicom in 2006 included, Michael Sherwood - co-chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs International (Sherwood took part in Bicom's 'fundraising mission' to Israel the previous year), Ron Beller and Jennifer Moses (husband and wife who also have previous links with Goldman Sachs), Richard Harrington (Conservative Friends of Israel chairman), Edward Atkin and Celia Atkin[16]. According to the report, 'Another name to watch is the vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Committee against Antisemitism, Trevor Pears, whose family foundation has become a major funder of Jewish causes'.

  • Martin Bright – journalist with the New Statesman; traveled to Israel in May 2008. [17]

Strategy of Collaboration to Promote Israel

In 2006, Bicom agreed to lead a 3 year multi million pound 'action plan' in collaboration with existing organisations engaged in pro-Israel advocacy which includes the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community Security Trust and 'all three major political Friends of Israel groups'. Their aim is to promote Israel's image whilst also setting an agenda for the entire pro-Israel community. The strategy includes focusing on 'educating' Britain’s leaders about the importance of the shared values between Israel and Britain (promoting Israel as a 'sister society' to the UK[19]) and to 'change perceptions' about Israel through pomoting a focus on aspects such as environmental issues, hi-tech innovations and medical advances. Also pushing 'soft' stories such as the London woman who “married” a dolphin in Eilat[20]. This project was initially 'conceived with notionally unlimited funding'[21].

The collaborative strategy is describes as to combat a “growing threat” to the Jewish state’s legitimacy[22]. However, as Mearsheimer & Walt have stated, critics of Israel's policies stand accussed of anti-semitism and of 'holding Israel to an unfair standard or questioning its right to exist'. They describe these as 'bogus charges' as 'Western critics of Israel hardly ever question its right to exist: they question its behaviour towards the Palestinians, as do Israelis themselves. Nor is Israel being judged unfairly. Israeli treatment of the Palestinians elicits criticism because it is contrary to widely accepted notions of human rights, to international law and to the principle of national self-determination'[23].

The action plan has received 'strong backing' from Israel’s Foreign Ministry who are also involved in a 'task force' (which includes the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance and Israel’s advertising industry) to “rebrand” Israel. Major PR firms have also been 'invited to take part'. To 'ensure the global reach for the project', the task force is setting up steering committees in Europe, America and Canada[24]

Briefing the BBC

In 2006, Bicom are reported to have 'been allowed unprecedented access to the BBC to brief the corporation’s news staff on the Middle East'[25].

Using Champollion for Public Relations

Lorna Fitzsimmons the Chief Executive of BICOM commissioned Champollion as one of her key campaign strategists and media advisers. Fitzsimmons described the service delivered by Champollion:

“In leading our message development, including through rigorous media training, and in supporting the work of our in-house communications pro,reffessionals, Champollion has shown a thorough knowledge of the policy area and a commitment that is frankly beyond the call of duty.”[26].

Stop the Boycott

BICOM instigated the Stop the Boycott campaign in order to prevent British Universities boycotting Israeli academic institutions. PR firms Champollion and Populus were hired to promote the campaign[27].

Affiliations

AIPAC | Europe Near East Forum (France) | Champollion | Stop the Boycott

Contact, References and Resources

Contact

Website: www.bicom.org.uk/news
Tel: +44 (0)20 7636 5500
Fax: +44 (0)20 7636 5600
Email: info@bicom.org.uk

Resources

References

  1. Peter Oborne & James Jones, Inside Britain's Israel Lobby, 13-November-2009, Accessed 03-January-2009
  2. Trading places, Leader, Jewish Chronicle, 17 August 2007
  3. Denyse Tannenbaum, "European media is questioning Israel’s right to exist", European Jewish Press, 10 March 2006.
  4. European Jewish Press, BICOM chief to become next Israeli ambassador in Paris, European Jewish Press, 2-July-2006, Accessed 17-December-2009
  5. Main Headlines, Israeli Press Review of 30/6/06, European Jewish Congress, 30-June-2006, Accessed 17-December-2009
  6. Charlotte Halle, "Peace Now UK is setting up a rival information service to BICOM", Haaretz, 18 July 2003.
  7. Tim Llewellyn, Publish it not… the Middle East Cover-Up: Foreword", February 2006.
  8. Tim Llewellyn, Publish it not… the Middle East Cover-Up: Foreword", February 2006.
  9. Trading places, Leader, Jewish Chronicle, 17 August 2007
  10. Rocker, S. (2006) 'Bicom: the rich and powerful'. The Jewish Chronicle. 22nd June 2006
  11. Peter Oborne & James Jones, Inside Britain's Israel Lobby, 13-November-2009, Accessed 03-January-2009
  12. Frazer, J. (2006) His mission: to sell Israel’s story to the UK The Jewish Chronicle. 23rd June 2006. Accessed 2nd July 2008
  13. Rocker, S. (2006) 'Bicom: the rich and powerful'. The Jewish Chronicle. 22nd June 2006
  14. Rocker, S. (2006) 'Bicom: the rich and powerful'. The Jewish Chronicle. 22nd June 2006
  15. The Jewish Chronicle JC Power 100: Sacks stays on top, as new names emerge. 9th May 2008. Accessed 16th August 2008
  16. Rocker, S. (2006) 'Bicom: the rich and powerful'. The Jewish Chronicle. 22nd June 2006
  17. Martin Bright, The great betrayal, The New Statesman, 15 May 2008.
  18. Rocker, S. (2006) 'Bicom: the rich and powerful'. The Jewish Chronicle. 22nd June 2006
  19. Frazer, J. (2006) His mission: to sell Israel’s story to the UK The Jewish Chronicle. 23rd June 2006. Accessed 2nd July 2008
  20. Frazer, J. (2006) His mission: to sell Israel’s story to the UK The Jewish Chronicle. 23rd June 2006. Accessed 2nd July 2008
  21. Frazer, J., Josephs, B. & Rocker, S. (2006) Revealed: Israel’s new UK lobby The Jewish Chronicle. 23rd June 2006. Accessed 2nd July 2007
  22. Frazer, J., Josephs, B. & Rocker, S. (2006) Revealed: Israel’s new UK lobby The Jewish Chronicle. 23rd June 2006. Accessed 2nd July 2007
  23. Mearsheimer, J. & Walt, S. (2006) The Israel Lobby London Review of Books. Accessed 8th July 2008
  24. Meanwhile, Israel rebrands The Jewish Chronicle. 23rd June 2006. Accessed 8th July 2008
  25. Millis, J. & Gladstone, B. (2006) Lessons from foreign lobbies williambowles.info. Accessed 8th July 2008
  26. Lorna Fitzsimmons, Our Clients:BICOM, Champollion, Accessed 25-October-2009
  27. Campaign, Voluntary Sector Special - Coalition stops boycott of Israeli universities, PR Week, 23-November-2007, Accessed 17-December-2009