[Boycott - Zionist Lobby]
Boycott battle to cost £1m a year
Bernard Josephs, The Jewish Chronicle
19 July 2007
Alarm bells over a serious financial shortfall threatening to undermine the battle against the anti-Israel boycott campaign have been sounded in a letter to leaders of Bicom, Britain’s major pro-Israel lobbying group, by one of its top benefactors.
The message, from businessman Poju Zabludowicz, was seen by the JC after a senior communal source said that countering burgeoning boycott moves, particularly in British and Irish trade unions, would cost the community a “ballpark figure” of £1 million a year above normal costs.
In his warning to Bicom’s executive, Mr Zabludowicz, its chairman, said he was ready to underwrite a fighting fund, estimated at £300,000, to help cover operations over the next three months. This would effectively more than double his donation to the organisation, on the front-line of the fight.
His communication contained thinly veiled criticism of other communal organisations, which, he suggested, were more interested in being involved in the strategy of the anti-boycott battle rather than raising funds.
He wrote that following discussions with another top philanthropist and businessman, Gerald Ronson, it was decided that, although community- wide consultation was important, “we cannot afford to wait for a community- wide decision on... strategy. If we expect our professionals, under the leadership of Lorna [Fitzsimons, Bicom’s chief executive] and Jeremy Newmark [chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council], to fight this campaign successfully, we need to proceed with funding now.
“We anticipate this will cost an additional £300,000 from July to September, all of which I will underwrite.”
Mr Zabludowicz said that he would take responsibility for overseeing the campaign budget, along with Bicom’s treasurer, David Green. “We face an extremely difficult test with this boycott, professional and lay leaders alike, and we need the support of everybody to make sure we can win the debate.”
Bicom vice-chairman Brian Kerner told the JC that the need to fund the anti-boycott campaign had come at a time when raising money was particularly difficult. This had resulted in “a major problem, and we did not want to wait until September to deal with it”.
A meeting was due to take place last night between Bicom, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, at which a strategy would be finalised.
Recent inquiries by the JC found that organisations fronting what looks destined to be a drawn-out campaign against the boycotts, and lobbying for Israel, have total yearly budgets of between £2 million and £2.5m. However, this includes running costs.
Bicom had a budget of £1.2m last year and Conservative Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Israel have estimated budgets of between £500,000 and £350,000. Figures revealed this week showed that the Board of Deputies had a surplus of £122,000 last year.
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