Gidon, Natan, Richard –Again thank you so much for your interventions here at the closing moments of our conference. As Natan sits down I think it is time to pause and reflect on another prisoner who languishes in a Hamas place of detention. It is our hope that by the time we meet again Gilad Shalit will be a free man.
This session has been a splendid end to a splendid day.
Before formally closing the conference I would like to pay tribute to some very special people who not only made today happen, but who tirelessly work on a daily basis to defend Israel’s standing in this country. For them Israel activism is not just a one day conference – it is their life.
Firstly, Poju Zabludowitz, the founding chairman of BICOM. Almost 10 years ago Poju had a vision of a new era in Israel advocacy for the UK. He took the fledgling crisis room created in response to the outbreak of the second Intifada and turned it into the renowned and respected organisation that BICOM is today.
Edward Mizrachi, who working together with David Menton took responsibility for ensuring that this conference was able to happen. He cut through the scepticism, ignored those who said that it will never happen and got the job done.
David Menton – the very essence of not only an able Right Hand Man but one who shows determination and leadership when it is most needed.
Andrew Gilbert – ever ebuliant and committed who took on the task of recruitment of our youth and as I look around this room it is clear how hugely successful his efforts were.
Lorna Fitzsimons, whose brainchild was this Conference and worked tirelessly to deliver it together with a coalition drawn from all parts of the pro-Israel community.
And to all parts of that coalition itself, including all one thousand plus of you– drawn from all segments of our community and indeed the non – Jewish community too, coming together united in our support for Israel to celebrate, to engage, to grapple and to learn.
To begin a journey that will last long beyond today. A collective journey that I am excited to be a part of. A journey that we will look back on with pride, and remember that it started with our presence here today.
Here today once and for all:
Showing we care;
Showing we are committed;
Showing that we are not afraid to speak out;
And nailing the lie that Israel has no friends beyond the Jewish community.
We welcome the huge number of non-Jewish friends who have joined us today.
Now, we are not monolithic, here in this room today. We all relate to Israel in our own distinct ways and we all have our own issues.
But whether Jew or non-Jew, religious or secular, left or right – we here today send out a powerful message of unity and beliefs:
WE BELIEVE that the Jewish people have a right to a homeland.
WE BELIEVE that this homeland is the State of Israel, in the historic land of the Jewish People, the land Jews pray towards daily and longed to return to for two thousand years.
We BELIEVE in peace. We hope for peace – we long for peace.
We BELIEVE that peace will come with security for all of Israel’s citizens, and prosperity for all the peoples of the region, but recognise that Israel has suffered too many false dawns to easily take risks with its security.
WE BELIEVE that the Palestinian people have an equal right to self determination in a Land they can call their own.
Most of all,
Proudest of all,
Loudest of all,
WE BELIEVE IN ISRAEL – a Jewish State, a Democratic State!
In these beliefs we are united.
Today we have shown that we can come together - young and old, from different political and religious backgrounds. We are strengthened in our diversity not divided by it. And determined each in our own way, to help build a better future.
And that is why today is so important – the port of embarkation on our collective journey, and the trailblazer that will show us the way.
Community leaders, me included, need to learn the lessons of today – they will be our roadmap for the journey ahead. A journey to build a movement. A journey of engagement.
We have learnt that we should never be afraid of holding public meetings to affirm our belief in Israel and the quest for peace. This gathering has proved that we underestimate ourselves and our friends at our peril and that by having courage to stand up proudly we will discover who our friends are and gain many new ones as well.
We have also learnt our diversity is our real strength. Now is the time for us all to reach out and influence.
The world has changed; Israel is no longer the biggest story in the Middle East, and people who have closed their ears to us may be ready to start listening again.
This means we need to tell our story, Israel’s story. We need to engage across the United Kingdom.
As we have clearly learned from the polling data commissioned for this event it’s not enough to simply argue that Hamas or Iran is bad; we also need to know and communicate that which is positive about Israel and be frank and open about its challenges. If we did this we would no longer be telling and talking at people who stand outside our world - we should rather be engaging and inviting them into our world.
As so many experts have taught us today that really effective advocacy is not just about presenting problems - it’s about being the people who present solutions, who understand the importance of building relationships and whose support for Israel is not at the expense of the needs of the Palestinian People.
This conference has been about positive engagement.
A few years ago the simple notion of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state would have been entirely uncontroversial. Today, that is sadly no longer true. We must build a movement that reasserts that simple truth.
This starts with our Government.
It’s legitimate to challenge British policymakers when we think they have got it wrong, but we should at the same time offer constructive suggestions for what should be done.
Our Government should affirm that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people, a Jewish state, a Democratic State. That should be a baseline across British politics for serious engagement with these issues. The opposition parties, and others involved in public life must accept this and champion it as well.
On Palestinian unity - we all know and understand that sustainable peace must draw in the largest possible support base across the Palestinian people - but our Government must hold any new Palestinian Unity Government to exactly the same standards we hold ourselves.
A Unity Palestinian Government must eschew violence and recognise Israel. Simply put any Unity Palestinian Government must affirm the quartet’s principles. That is the stated position of our Government and it must back up this position with action. Hamas must not get a free pass into power.
There has been much talk about September, and the UN. Whatever happens in September at the UN General Assembly cannot and must not prejudice a negotiated peace. Two paths lie before the international community; the path of negotiation leading, we hope, to peace and security. The path of unilateralism leading only to more conflict and despair. We need to ensure that our Government puts negotiation first. That is the only way to achieve lasting peace with two States for two Peoples.
But this can only happen if we all act. You all have a toolkit on your seat that we will update regularly with useful skills and information enabling you to stay engaged.
Write to your MP. Ask for their support. Ask them to write to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary or their party leader to get them to make a statement supporting Israel as a Jewish State. Ask them to lobby their colleagues in parliament and offer them your help. Keep in touch and develop a relationship with your MP let them know what is important to you as their constituent and that you support them when they support you.
Take the arguments out to your workplace, your book club, your professional association, your trade union, your online forum, Facebook, twitter and anywhere else and be confident and proud.
You are not alone – just look around the room today.
This isn’t about our enemies and what they say. It is about us and what we do. If we act we will determine the future if we don’t we will leave the field for our enemies and the enemies of peace.
Build a network that can out-organise, out-convince and expose those strong anti-Israel networks.
Now is the time for another voice – your voice. Our voice.
We start a journey and a movement today.
A national electronic network is being created. We have appointed a grassroots development officer to help you. There will be a follow-up conference in Manchester in November – there will be 6 regional events led by the Embassy and there will be another conference like this to mark the next stage on our journey, to inspire our continued engagement, to galvanise our movement and above all to challenge us all. Today is about each of us as individuals. It is also about the collective future of our movement. A future that is in our hands.
We have to change, all of us – we have to act, each and every one of us. We can’t leave it to chance and we can’t presume others will – Now it’s up to us.
I am delighted that the Israeli Government has been represented here today at such a senior level. It too must play its part, by visiting, listening, and engaging with us. We are your partners in this struggle. The assault upon Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish State as a Democratic State is an attack on us as well as you. We must work together to oppose it. When Israel’s Leaders visit they should never miss an opportunity to be present in this Community.
We understand why, in the face of this struggle Israelis feel alone. But you are not alone. We all stand with you in the quest for peace and a just outcome.
Israel’s leaders, too, must grab chances for peace with both hands. We may think that these chances are even more elusive than they were only a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, advocacy for Israel is most effective when Israel itself takes the momentum, and is seen to set the pace and deliver the creativity in the search for peace. The evidence is clear.
Begin and Sinai,
Peres and Oslo,
Barak at Camp David,
Bibi at Wye River
And Rabin who made the ultimate sacrifice for peace.
This is the narrative that we must work together to promote. This is the story that will remind the British people that the People of Israel, despite all they have endured, have always had:
The courage to take risks for peace,
The courage to work with the Palestinian people to achieve a meaningful and just future,
And the courage, to repeatedly say "od la avdah tikvatenu – never give up hope"
Friends, the journey has begun. Before you go I ask you to pledge that you will sign up at least 10 of your friends to join you on this great journey. If we can achieve that simple task we will have 15,000 more activists to join us the next time we meet.
Now, go home safely,
But above all take responsibility and ACT.
Act to secure the future,