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How ‘Israel’ lobby contributes to oppression of Palestinians

People have little idea really of the extent of the activity that is conducted in the UK to support the oppression of the Palestinians.


David Miller / Al-Mayadeen


Now if you include all of the organisations mentioned here together, just thinking about the UK, we’re probably talking about around 3,000 organisations.

Some time ago, I wrote an article on the Zionist movement in which I attempted to count up how many formally Zionist organisations there are in the UK. I started with the “National Institutions” four groups which form the organisational backbone of the Zionist movement, which are all based in Jerusalem/Al-Quds in the same building which they call the National Institutions House.

Each of these four groups has offices in the UK (the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organisation (WZO)) or affiliated/member organisations: The United Jewish “Israel” Appeal (for fundraising), the Jewish National Fund (for acquiring land on which to settle Jews) and the Zionist Federation, which collects together the formal members of the Zionist movement. It’s one of thirty-one national Zionist federations from Australia, India, and Russia to Uruguay and Venezuela.

So that’s the four national institutions based in the UK. Then there are 36 members of the Zionist Federation. You can then add the memberships of those organisations themselves and others that are directly affiliated with the WZO. A whole range of different organizations up and down the UK. That comes to a total of at least 220 formally Zionist organisations in this country, and there are certainly others not included in that total, such as schools that self-identify as Zionist, such as this one. So when I talk about the ‘formal’ Zionist movement I’m talking about every organization that has a formal relationship with the World Zionist Organization. So for example, the Union of Jewish Students is an affiliate of the World Union of Jewish Students, which is directly affiliated with the World Zionist Organization and thus is a formally Zionist organization. If you look at their constitution you can confirm that’s the case.

The Israeli lobby, or the ‘informal’ Zionist movement

However, when people talk about the ‘Israel lobby’, they don’t really or usually mean this wider thing called the Zionist movement. What they tend to mean is obvious lobby groups which lobby for pro-“Israel” politics. In the UK, they probably mean Labour Friends of “Israel”, Conservative Friends of “Israel”, maybe BICOM [Britain “Israel” Communications and Research Centre], the PR agency for “Israel”, and a number of other organisations, including maybe pro-“Israel” think tanks and policy groups. If you look at the path-breaking 2007 book on the “Israel” lobby by American ‘realist’ academics (as opposed to neoconservatives) John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, they took a similar approach to the “Israel” lobby. They looked at the lobby groups such as AIPAC for example, (the America “Israel” Public Affairs Committee), which is not a formal part of the Zionist Movement, it’s a separate “Israel” lobby group.

They also talked about the pro-“Israel” think tanks like, in the US, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs or the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies or the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. These are probably better known as ‘Israel lobby groups’.

By contrast, their book only has one index entry for the United Jewish Communities, which was the largest fundraising group for “Israel” (though it has since changed its name to the Jewish Federations of North America), which is central to the formal Zionist movement. It’s the equivalent of the UJIA in the UK. Furthermore, it has no index entries for the JNF USA, or for the American Zionist Movement, both of which are part of the backbone of the Zionist movement in the US, being directly connected to the WZO.

So, they focus on what we might call the informal Zionist movement. These are pro-Zionist groups but they’re not formally affiliated to the World Zionist Organization and I think it’s important to be precise about this. It’s not just any organisation that one personally determines is Zionist because of a prior theoretical scheme or biased interpretation.

No, if you want to know if a group is Zionist you look and see if it says it is Zionist first of all.

And then you look and see what its policies are.  So there are these informal Zionist organisations in this country.

Like, for example, the Community Security Trust (CST), an organisation set up in 1994 and which claims not to be Zionist in the sense it was set up to ‘defend Jews against anti-Semitism’ but of course the way in which CST operates is that it blurs together anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. For it, the major instances of antisemitism in this country come from the left – from anti-Zionists. And of course, it has historically and continues to work closely with the Israeli occupation.

The wider constituency of the informal Zionist movement

So, there is a formal Zionist movement and an informal Zionist movement. But if you were serious about looking at the pro-“Israel” community, or the informal Zionist movement more broadly, you have to look at all the other organisations, which themselves are organized and have memberships. So the most obvious one that has membership is the Zionist Federation, which I mentioned in the formal movement. But then of course there are other pro-Israel groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews which became Zionist in the 1940s roughly and which remains strongly Zionist. Although it has a formal democratic structure, it’s an organisation that has currently 202 members. It is very much signed up to working very closely with the Israeli occupation as it says in its Trustees’ Annual Reports. The one from 2021, for example, reports its very close relationship with the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, with the IOF’s spokesperson’s office, and the government more generally.

The JLC, the Jewish Leadership Council, is ostensibly just a Jewish communal organisation, but of course, its constitution and its statement of aims have clear pro-Israel policies. Another 36 members. Then there are 26 UK members in the Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers. There is obviously some overlap, but when we put all these organisations together we see the much wider constituency of the informal Zionist movement of perhaps 400 organisations.

If you add in all the other groups that are not members of these groupings but are plainly dedicated to the cause of Israel such as the political party groups like Labour and Conservative Friends of Israel or the pro-Israel and Islamophobic think tanks like Policy Exchange, Civitas and the Henry Jackson Society, we get to perhaps 500 groups.

The ‘charity’ sector that supports movement activities

Also in the informal Zionist movement, I would say, are those institutions which provide the funds for all the other institutions we’ve been talking about. And the way to look at that is to look at charities. Perhaps one way of thinking about this is to think about all the charities that are engaged in relation to Zionism or activities in Israel. I would divide these into roughly two.

First are those foundations that provide money. Second the recipients of other Zionist organisations to do stuff, whether it’s in the UK or in Palestine. I would call the former Zionist ‘i foundations’. They are mostly set up by individuals or family members to disburse the proceeds of their business activities. Some of them, including the biggest ones, only give money to a few Zionist causes. Others, it is almost their entire mission to give to Zionist causes. The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, for example, was set up by Lord Sainsbury, and hardly gives any money to Zionist causes, though Lord Sainsbury is reported to be a significant supporter of Labour Friends of “Israel”.

The Rothschild Foundation, associated with the Rothschild family is amongst the largest donors but gives hardly any money to Zionist causes. There is another family foundation called the Eranda Rothschild Foundation which gives a lot of money to Zionist causes (such as Friends of the “Israel Defense Forces”, the Henry Jackson Society,  and the settlement-supporting Jerusalem Foundation).

There are also other organisations like The Gerald and Gail Ronson Family Foundation – Gerald Ronson is the Guinness fraudster who runs the Community Security Trust – which gives mostly to Zionist causes  (from the Board of Deputies to the Union of Jewish Students, the Jewish National Fund and also the settlement supporting Jerusalem Foundation and the UK Friends of the “IDF”).

I’m currently in the middle of some research on this but I’ve got one hundred and seventy Zionist family foundation charities, some of them with budgets for 2021 of £50,000, £100,000 or £200,000. Others have budgets of over £10 million. There are more than 55 with charitable donations of over £1 million in 2021. And that is another key part of the Zionist movement – the money to do activities. Some of the activities are in the UK and some of them are in Palestine, and in a way, there is a two-step process. Some of the money goes to other charities in the UK which typically have titles in Hebrew or English, and typically the ones in English say something like: ‘The British Friends of…X project in Palestine or “Israel 48”. The money comes from these foundations, goes to these other charities and they then disperse it either in this country or in Palestine.

In the US. Friends of the “IDF” is a massive charity which spends millions of dollars supporting the “IDF” every year. The UK version of that is the tongue-twisting organisation: The UK Friends of the Association for the Wellbeing of “Israel’s” Soldiers. It sends thousands to the IDF every year.

Sponsoring the oppression of the Palestinians

The area which is perhaps the most controversial is the way in which the Zionist movement is day by day sponsoring the oppression of the Palestinians by sending money to charities in Palestine or this country [the UK] who support activities in the settlements.

So there is an organisation called UK Friends of the City of David, which directly sponsors digging under Al Aqsa mosque and settlements around that part of Al-Quds, and is financially supported by the Eranda Rothschild Foundation amongst many others, something we had already reported on in Palestine Declassified, and there are hundreds of other charities like that, some of them sponsoring Yeshivas in the settlements in the West Bank, some of them sponsoring work among the disadvantaged.

There are millions of pounds every year from the UK alone, going to support activities in the settlements, including house demolitions, building new settlements, education, healthcare, archaeological digs, etc… to colonise Palestinian land. That is a key way in which the Zionist movement in this country, and indeed in other countries, is directly subsidizing the horrors that we see every day on television in Palestine.

Boundary cases

Of course, there are boundary cases which involve Zionist activists working with people who are non-Zionist. There is a huge variety of such groups which are secretive and intransparent about their motives and activities.  In general, they will claim not to be Zionist or will dissemble and obfuscate about their purpose or agenda. Zionist-initiated or infiltrated Interfaith groups are one obvious example and those claiming to foster dialogue but which are largely in hoc to or pursuing covert Zionist objectives.  We have examined a fair number of these groups on Palestine Declassified and I have written about them elsewhere such as OneVoice/Solutions Not SidesThe Forum for Discussion of Israel and PalestineNisa-NashimForward Thinking, and Children of Peace. However, it would take too much space to examine them all here.  We will need to return to this in a future article.

Lastly, it is important to mention those groups  – largely ultra-orthodox Jewish groups – which have a history of what is called “anti-Zionism”, but which have either made their peace with Zionism or with the IDF. Most of these groups are also been practically involved in settlements and thus the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

One of the leading authorities on these movements, Harry Rabinowicz, summarised this nicely in his book A World Apart: The Story of Chasidim in Britain, by saying that such groups did not “support Zionism” but they were “passionate lovers of Zion”, which in practice meant supporting settlement in Palestine and in most cases making their peace with the Zionist state, though one of the largest groups, the Satmar is one partial exception.

Thus, any account of the practical means by which ethnic cleansing and ongoing settlements and expropriations is achieved needs to take account of these effective Zionist fellow travellers. In fact, significant numbers of the largest family foundations giving money – sometimes in the millions to settlements in Palestine – come from these Hasidic movements. I give some examples here with the 2021 total of charitable giving (not all directed to the settlements) in brackets afterwards:  The Helping Foundation (£19,057,819), A W Charitable Trust (£13,940,268), Keren Association Limited (£12,179,152), The Raphael Freshwater Memorial Association (£10,296,000), Shlomo Memorial Fund Limited (£8,670,111), The Kasner Charitable Trust (£5,524,687).

These are not insignificant sums of money – about £70 million in one year in total – and all of these charities are in the top twenty Zionist family foundations ranked by charitable spending in 2021. This is a huge topic and I will need to discuss this further in future.

That’s what the Zionist movement is.

So, I would say that all these organisations are also a part of the Zionist movement. One very rough indicator is that if you search for the term “Israel” in the English register of charities, you get 1,786 results. There are 2,620 with the term “Jewish” in their name or charitable objects though of course not all of these will be Zionist.

Now if you include all of those organisations above together, just thinking about the UK, probably we’re talking about around 3,000 organisations.

They don’t all support activities in the West Bank, some give money to “Israel 48” and many to Zionist activities in the UK, as well as to non-Zionist causes. There’s all sorts of different things that they do, but that is a lot of organisations, and people have little idea really of the extent of the activity that is conducted in the UK to support the oppression of the Palestinians. That, it seems to me, is what the Zionist movement is – it’s a collection of organisations which work together to pursue Zionism, which by necessity must contribute to the oppression of the Palestinians.

 *Article originally published in Al-Mayadeen. The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen,[or The Prisma] but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

 (Photos: Pixabay)

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