Israel, Zionism and the Media

Tag: The Big tent for Israel

“Life is a lot happier when you don’t hate as much”

Thus said Kasim “Kaz” Hafeez in the final session of the Politics thread at the Big Tent For Israel in Manchester on November 27th.

Kaz was part of a panel discussing “How to change the narrative in the Muslim community”.

He told an enraptured audience how he had very nearly ended up in a Jihadi training camp; how he was brought up to hate Israel and Jews.

Kaz, whose website, attempts to describe the current anti-Israel and antisemitic trends of Islam in the UK and abroad and put the record straight, made a huge impression on several hundred people, mostly Jewish, assembled in the International Suite of the Piccadilly Hotel in central Manchester.

Even though I knew his story, I was moved to simultaneous tears and laughter as Kaz told us how he is a Zionist and has the Israeli flag on his desk at work.

Tears, because the idea of any non-Jew, let alone a Muslim, proudly declaring himself a Zionist and lover of Israel is profoundly moving. We, the Jewish people, are so inured to hate and being despised that when we find we are not alone, that we have friends, that is worth a few tears of pride and relief.

Laughter, because the idea of a proud, practising Muslim displaying the Israeli flag at work is very amusing.

Then Kaz came out with the quote of the year: “Life is a lot happier when you don’t hate as much”.

Everything is contained in that one phrase; life, love, happiness, toleration, respect.

This perfectly describes the solution to what troubles so much of the world today.

Hate. Unthinking, bigoted, hatred fuels the world’s ills.

Such is the hatred much of the Arab and Muslim world feels, especially for Jews. It is this hatred which drives Islamists to acts of violence, not just against Jews, but against other Muslims, Christians and Hindus.

Are they happy in their hate? I doubt it. How can you be happy to hate?

Hatred is not confined to Muslims. Yet it is Islamist terror and intolerance that characterises the beginning of the 21st century.

Kaz made me cry because he offers hope. He offers hope  that Muslims and Jews, Israel and Palestine, can put aside hate and learn tolerance and respect.

It gives me the hope that, in this country, Kaz and those like him, such as Hasan Afzal, can have some influence in their community to stop the hate and lies and half-truths.

If Kaz can do a 180 degree turn, surely many more can manage 90?

How did Kaz learn to be happier? He read, he studied and he had the strength of character and moral courage to go see for himself. He had the honesty to see that everything he had been taught was wrong.

I said to another Muslim at the conference: “We don’t expect Muslims to be Zionists, we just want a fair hearing”. Not the most profound statement I’ve ever made, but it’s true.

Cut the hate and have an honest discussion. Criticise, don’t demonise. Tolerate don’t delegitmise.

It was a great conference and I heard many wonderful things, but Kaz’s simple, heartfelt, unprepared statement will always be the memory and the inspiration I carry from the conference. All the hours, all the hard work, all the arguments and stress were worth it to hear that one axiomatic utterance –

“Life is a lot happier when you don’t hate as much”



Big Tent for Israel – A Day to Remember

The Big Tent for Israel conference at the Mercure Piccadilly hotel in Manchester city centre on Sunday November 27th was an outstanding success for the organisers, the Manchester Jewish community and the inspiration behind the conference, Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag of the Whitefield Hebrew Congregation.

More than 700 people came from throughout the country to the event aimed at encouraging  grass-roots advocacy and activism to counter the delegitimisation of the State of Israel in the UK.

The Reut Institute in Tel Aviv has identified five streams of delegitimisation in public life: politics, media, churches, academia and trades unions.

The conference invited speakers, experts and trainers from the UK, Israel and the United States to facilitate discussion, learning and workshops in these five spheres.

The keynote speaker at the opening plenary was Israel’s Ambassador  H.E. Daniel Taub who thrilled the audience in a packed International Suite with a stirring speech outlining Israel’s many successes and achievements and castigating the lies of its detractors.

Well-known speakers at the many sessions included Douglas Murray and Lorna Fitzsimons of BICOM who delivered a rousing keynote finale in the closing Plenary telling the delegates that each and every one of them can, and should, contribute to advocacy.

Other speakers included Eran Shayshon of the Reut Institute, Yakov Triptou of Israeli Trades Unions organisation, Histadrut.  Bishop Dr Doye Agama, Revd Steve Williams and the Revd Alan Morris were just three of many leading Christian supporters of Israel.

The Muslim community was also represented by two outstanding speakers: Mohammed Amin of the The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester and Kasim Hafeez. Kasim amazed and moved the audience with the story of his journey from anti-Semite to Zionist.

Other outstanding contributors were professor of international law, Prof. Ronnie Sabel of the Hebrew University, Marcus Sheff of The Israel Project, Andrew White of Beyond Images and Stuart Palmer –  an expert in Social Media.

The presence and participation of the British Jewish leadership organisations gave a huge boost and endorsement to the conference. These included Vivian Wineman and Jon Benjamin from the Board of Deputies, Jeremy Newmark from the Jewish Leadership Council and Harvey Rose of the Zionist Federation. A video message from Mick Davis, head of the UJIA and the JLC was well received.

Local community leaders also featured prominently: Lucille Cohen of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region , Joy Wolfe MBE of Stand With Us UK, David Arnold of the Council of Christians and Jews and Doreen Gerson of Trade Union Friends of Israel all of whom were organisers of the event along with myself and Benjy Black.

There were also student and youth sessions and a special reception for students provided by the Israeli Embassy.

The event was a triumph for Debbie Marks of Qube Events who made all the arrangements for the venue and whose efforts brought great praise from the organisers and delegates.

The CST provided an amazing security regime and ensured the safety of everyone.

Reaction and feedback from the event has been very positive, and the organisers hope to use the conference to support grassroots activism in the community.

Some pictures have been posted here

Big Tent announces Big Hitters

You’ll forgive me for flying the flag for The Big Tent For Israel but as I am involved you may want to see the latest Press Release below:


Manchester’s Big Tent for Israel event, due to take place on Sunday November 27th, has received a real boost with the news that Israel’s new Ambassador, Daniel Taub, will be the main keynote speaker. “This is a real coup for us” said the event’s initiator, Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag, “and we are confident his presence will attract many new participants”. Since taking up his post in September, Ambassador Taub has made a massive impact wherever he has been and his participation in the conference is destined to be no exception.

The Big Tent is now really taking off, with registrations growing daily, and an impressive list of confirmed speakers including Eran Shayshon of the Reut Institute, Itamar Marcus of Palestine Media Watch, Yakov Triptou, Histadrut Chairman – Chief of Staff, Lorna Fitzsimons, CEO of BICOM, Simon Plosker of Honest reporting, Adam Levick of CIF Watch, Andrew White of Beyond Images and Shimon Cohen, The PR Office.

Also confirmed is Marcus Sheff of the Israel Project, top advocacy trainers, a strong representation of Christian supporters of Israel including well known activist Dr Denis MacEoin, MPs, trade unionists, academics, student leaders and media personalities.

“Our aim is to make the Big Tent a massive springboard to mobilise many more grass roots activists who are willing to take on the challenge of reversing the trend of deligitimisation of Israel and to ensure Israel’s image is honestly and positively projected to the many people who have been exposed to anti Israel propaganda and media bias” said Rabbi Guttentag.

The event has the backing of many major community organisations including the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Zionist Federation, Manchester Zionist Central Council, Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region, UJIA, StandWithUs UK and the political Friends of Israel Groups, as well as many Christian groups who so loyally stand up for Israel

Urging people to sign up and support the conference, Joy Wolfe, chairman of StandWithUs UK and Life president of Manchester Zionist Central Council and co president of the Zionist Federation said, “An amazing group of presenters has been lined up and the Big Tent is now on track to be one of the most outstanding Zionist events Manchester has ever staged. We are honoured that the Israel Ambassador has agreed to deliver the keynote address and that so many top personalities have signalled their intent to be a part of this exciting conference. In my view, it has all the ingredients to turn out to be an ‘I was there’ experience, definitely an event not to be missed”

Online registration is open on the event website, reserve your place today. Free attendance at the conference for ages 11+, 6th formers and Students.

I understand Douglas Murray will also be speaking.