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 was 'reinvigorated' under the leadership of former Labour MP 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]

Contents

History

Foundation - October 2000

BICOM was founded as "a crisis PR 'nerve centre' in response to the ongoing Middle East crisis" in October 2000[6] The relevant crisis at this period was the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada in the wake of Ariel Sharon's September 2000 visit to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount.[7] According to PR Week:

The Cross Community Emergency Co-ordination Group (ECG) represents a rare unification between the UK's Jewish organisations. It has set up a communications wing, BICOM, the British Israel Communications Office. Undisclosed donations have been made from community benefactors to hire professional public affairs PROs to 'address the media balance', and keep the UK's Jewish community 'informed at this difficult time'.[8]

Key figures in BICOM at the time included:

False start

According to PR Week, the newly formed organisation was 'wound down' in late 2000. It was later relaunched in autumn 2001 after securing more funding.[10] In the intervening period it was incorporated (on April 24 2001)[11] and was still in contact with the media. In March 2001, The Guardian reported:

Unhappiness with press coverage prompted the formation of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, to try to redress the balance.
Its spokesman, Brian Kerner, a conservative in British politics but liberal left in the Israeli context, said: "My own opinion has changed totally. I have gone from being leftwing to supporting a rightwing government.
"Barak offered everything and got a kick in the head for doing so. By offering so much, it encouraged violence.
"The Palestinians respond to strength rather than anything perceived as weakness. The government now is totally united and I think they [the Palestinians] respect it and, frankly, that is very sad.
"[Sharon] has not put a foot wrong so far. There has been restraint. I find it odd that I am now supporting a man a few months ago I would not have considered."[12]

Relaunch - Autumn 2001

BICOM was "revived through extra funds from Jewish community groups, as a rebuttal and research group", in the autumn of 2001, PR Week reported.

Former BBC editor Mark Berg was appointed as Director in September 2001. Lee Petar was appointed Director of Strategic Communications under Berg the following month, with a brief to "co-ordinate BICOM's long-term PR strategy, handle press briefings and oversee media training".[10]

In the New Statesman in January 2002, Dennis Sewell suggested that the support of Shlomo Zabludowicz, undermined BICOM's credibility.[13]

The truth is that the 'Zionist lobby' does exist, but is a clueless bunch. After all, how media-savvy can such lobbyists really be if they allow their operations to be greased by the profits made from Shlomo Zabludowicz's mortars and bombs? Could any funding arrangement be better contrived to confirm left-liberal prejudices about Israel?[14]

Six months after the relaunch, in April 2002, PR Week reported:

anyone expecting instant results from BICOM's early work will be disappointed. So reticent is BICOM about its progress on PR goals, that Petar would only say: 'We are here for the long-term, there are no easy fixes.'
The past six months have been spent building an infrastructure of research and rebuttal, issuing daily round-ups of stories and instigating a visitor programme. Apart from a planned website, the public face of BICOM seems to have been fairly limited.[15]

In the wake of Operation Defensive Shield, BICOM's director of communications, Nick Conway said in June 2002: "In general, the British press, never an entirely comfortable read for supporters of Israel, has in the last few months become increasingly hostile".[16]

Mark Berg stepped down as executive director in September 2002, and was replaced by Lee Petar on an interim basis.[17]

Hiring US pollsters - 2002

In October 2002, BICOM hired US pollster Stanley Greenberg in a bid to change British media attitudes to Israel:

Bicom, the London-based, Zionist communications and PR agency, has hired him to counter the British media's unsympathetic attitude toward Israel. According to a "focus group" meeting held earlier this year by Frank Luntz (the Republican pollster), British professionals and academics are particularly hostile to Israeli policies. Bicom has called in Greenberg to determine just how serious the anti-Israeli bias is in this country. The poll will be followed up, according to Lee Petar, acting director of Bicom, by a media campaign whose "first targets" will be the British professional classes.[18]

In August 2005, Lee Petar stepped down as BICOM's Director of Communications to join lobbying firm Good Relations Political. He was replaced by Ruth Smeeth, previously of Sodexho, who joined BICOM as Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns, with an added brief "to strengthen the group's relations with the 'Foreign Office, party leaders, think-tanks and academia' according to Daniel Shek. Former Good Relations Political associate Director Ben Novick joined BICOM as Director of Media Relations at the same time.[19]

According to the Jerusalem Report, BICOM was one of a number of groups which rejected proposals by a group of young British advertising executives for a high-profile pro-Israel publicity campaign in 2005.[20]

While not disputing the existence of media bias, they argue that StandUp4Israel's tactics would both be painfully expensive and actually serve to alienate British public opinion. "Only pariah states advertise their wares," asserts Brian Kerner, president of the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA), a national pro-Israel charity, and the Cross Community Coordination Group, a body representing over 70 Anglo-Israel organizations that was formed at the start of the intifada. He says StandUp4Israel quoted him a cost-only figure of GBP 750,000 ($ 1.38 million) for the initial campaign, "and I don't know where they thought we would raise those funds."[21]

During the Mohammed Cartoons controversy of 2006, the Daily Mail reported:

A spokesman for the Britain-Israel Communication and Research Centre said last night: 'We agree with Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, that any kind of cartoon that is derogatory to a race or group in a stereotypical way is unacceptable.
'I am sure that he is not being exclusive and that he hopes newspapers across the Middle East take heed of his words and stop the publication of anti-Semitic cartoons and articles which are extremely prevalent across the region.'[22]

Summer Reception at the House of Lords - 2006

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[23]. 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”'.

Strategy to Promote Israel - 2006

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[24]) 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[25]. This project was initially 'conceived with notionally unlimited funding'[26].

The collaborative strategy is described as to combatting a “growing threat” to the Jewish state’s legitimacy[27]. However, as Mearsheimer and Walt have argued, critics of Israel's policies stand accused 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'[28].

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[29]

2006 Lebanon War

Following a series of terrorist arrests in the UK which coincided with the 2006 Lebanon War, BICOM criticised suggestions that terrorism in the UK was linked to the conflict in the Middle East. The Jerusalem Post reported:

Ben Novick director of media relations for the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Center said such views "feed into public opinion and violence on the street." He charged that such connections would be wrong because the plot had been being planned for months while Israel had only been fighting in Lebanon for the past few weeks.[30]

Following an open letter from British Muslim leaders which charged that the Iraq War and attacks on civilians in the Middle East were strengthening extremists, the Jerusalem Post" reported:

But Ben Novick director of media relations for the Britain- Israel Communications and Research Center called the links made by the letter "dangerous and wrong also pointing to the timing of the rise of extremism and the history of British foreign policy.
Novick added that while he had been concerned that the connection between foreign policy and terror at home would be made and that it might wash with the media he said he had been relieved by the reaction.
We're very happy that the response from most of the media and the establishment including the government has been favorable." He described that response as confronting the issue "head-on" and standing "resolute" against the view. [31]

During August 2006, a BICOM representative accompanied the newly-appointed Israeli ambassador to Italy, Gideon Meir to a meeting at a synagogue in Stanmore, London, at which the ambassador described the Palestinian administration, run by Hamas, as terrorists and said: "They use their civilians as human shields. They do not care about human lives, but we do."[32]

Fitzsimons Appointment - October 2006

In October 2006, BICOM appointed the former Labour MP for Rochdale, Lorna Fitzsimons, as CEO after Danny Shek left to become Israeli ambassador to France.[33]

In a Guardian article marking her appointment, Fitzsimons wrote:

Since 2000, nine fatalities have been caused by Qassam missiles.
Some media have reported the panic these missiles have caused but they downplay the impact because of the small scale of fatalities compared with those on the Palestinian side. My husband, a British soldier, is currently serving a tour of duty in Iraq. His unit has come under mortar fire nearly every night for the past six months. Not many service personnel have been killed by these missiles but every soldier fears that the next one might have his or her name on it. Do you think that a child, a parent or a grandmother in one of the towns bordering Gaza thinks there have been "only" nine fatalities? Can you imagine what that does to a civilian population?[34]

Stop the Boycott - June 2007

Following the decision in May 2007 by the University and College Union to support an academic boycott of Israel, a coalition of UK Jewish community organizations launched a campaign to overturn the decision, the Jerusalem Post reported:

Following the decision last month by Britain's University and College Union to support an academic boycott of Israel, a coalition of UK Jewish community organizations has launched a campaign to overturn the decision.
Under the umbrella of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Center, and the Fair Play Campaign Group, set up by the Board of Deputies of British Jews last year to combat anti-Israel boycotts, the effort will be coordinated with both Jewish and non-Jewish trade union members and academics, the Israeli Embassy, and Israel advocacy and community organizations.[35]

BICOM chief Executive Lorna Fitzsimons served as co-director of the Stop the Boycott campaign along with Jeremy Newmark of the Fair Play Campaign Group.[36]

BICOM urged staff and students opposed to the boycott to register at a website, www.stoptheboycott.org. It said it was engaging with a number of high-profile academics "who are not only anti-boycott but are also pro-Israel", the Times Higher Education Supplement reported.[37] A petition against the boycott signed by nearly 300 academics appeared in the Times and the Guardian on 13 June 2007.[38]

The campaign also commissioned a Populus poll which claimed that "Eighty-six percent of key British business cultural and political leaders oppose an academic boycott of Israel".[39]

By 29 June 2007, 102 MPs had signed up to an early day motion calling the boycott 'repugnant'.[40]

PR firms Champollion and Populus were hired to promote the campaign[41].

London-based journalist Miriam Shaviv claimed that British organisations only mobilised against the boycott after it was attacked by the Anti-Defamation League and other US-based organisations.[42]

Simpson appointment

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.[43]

2008 Herzliya visit

BICOM hosted a delegation of senior British journalists in Israel in January 2008. Participants included senior editorial staff from the BBC, Sky, The Times, the Guardian, the Independent and the Sun. The visit encompassed the Eighth Herzliya Conference and a visit to the southern Israeli town of Sderot, the Jerusalem Post reported:

"For the first time ever, we will be taking this group to Sderot to show them just what Israelis have to endure every single day," Fitzsimons said. "Hopefully they will see and really comprehend just how grave the threat coming from Gaza is - a threat that unfortunately often doesn't get taken seriously enough here in the UK."[44]

Israel Office

By mid-2007 BICOM had established an office in Israel and appointed Jonathan Cummings, a former research fellow at the Portland Trust as director and Richard Pater, who previously worked in the foreign press department in the Israeli government press office, as public affairs manager/deputy director.[45][46]

Former CEO Lorna Fitzsimons wrote upon her departure from BICOM in 2012:

Five years ago none of the British pro-Israel advocacy organisations had a presence in Israel and we weren't really on the Israeli government's map. Bicom now has an office there allowing us to provide a seamless service for journalists and sister organisations in the region. We are regularly brought into discussions by governments in the UK and Israel as trusted experts.[47]

Gaza crisis

Seumas Milne criticised Israeli policy towards Gaza in March 2008.[48] Fitzsimons responded in a letter to the paper:

According to Seumas Milne (To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense, March 5) Israel's occupation is the root of all evil. The answer, he suggests, "could not be more obvious". If Israel withdrew from the Palestinian territories and negotiated a just settlement for the Palestinian refugees, rockets would stop falling on Israelis and, presumably, peace would break out.
It is precisely this obvious route that Israel is pursuing. Israel began to withdraw from the Palestinian territories 15 years ago. Nearly three years ago it left Gaza unilaterally, without precondition. Having evacuated Gaza, Israel's concerns are primarily for the safety of its own citizens. However, it has not interrupted the flow of humanitarian supplies through Israel into Gaza, nor access to Israeli hospitals for Gazans in need of healthcare.[49]

In response to a Guardian comment by Jimmy Carter, Fitzsimons wrote in May 2008:

Jimmy Carter (Comment, May 8) is right to highlight the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But it is unfair to hold Israel primarily responsible. Israel renounced all claims on Gaza nearly three years ago, when it unilaterally withdrew all its settlements and military forces. The subsequent election of Hamas may have been free and fair, but democracy and terrorism are incompatible. By refusing to renounce violence and recognise Israel, Hamas is forcing the innocent Palestinians to suffer.[50]

2008 polling

In response to a BBC poll showing that negative views of Israel had declined globally from 57 per cent to 52 per cent, Fitzsimons stated:

"BICOM's polling in the UK suggests that people often think of Israel in a negative capacity, as it is often referred to among the 'bad boys' in the region, such as Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas. When Israel is referred to next to countries that people 'perceive' to be moderate, such as Jordan and Syria, they think better of Israel.
"This BBC poll shows that viewers don't really understand the core issues within the Middle East conflict, even after watching BBC coverage. Israel has a big challenge. People have such a limited time to digest news - never mind foreign news - that they build up perceptions based on a snapshot. When Israel is only referred to in terms of conflict, this only exacerbates the problem."[51]

Leaked Email - 2011

In September 2011 Bicom's CEO Lorna Fitzsimons sent an email intended for Bicom's donors to its media lists. The email details Bicom's operations that week in response to anti-Israel protests in Egypt. It boasted that Bicom had 'generated extremely favourable responses' in the UK media, referring to 'contact with a whole host of BBC and SKY news desks and journalists, ensuring that the most objectively favourable line was taken'. It also mentioned contact with the Financial Times leader writer Jonathan Ford and 'regular contact with the Editor at Large of Prospect Magazine, David Goodhart'. [52]

Activities

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'. [53] In a September 2011 email, intended for BICOM's donors, but sent in error to its media lists, BICOM CEO Lorna Fitzsimons stated:

Throughout the weekend, BICOM staff were in contact with a whole host of BBC and SKY news desks and journalists, ensuring that the most objectively favourable line was taken, and offering talking heads, relevant to the stories unfolding. BICOM's Senior Analyst Dr. Noam Leshem, briefed the BBC World News Editorial Board on Saturday afternoon regarding the fall-out from the Israel Egyptian Embassy siege.

BICOM has one of BBC News' key anchors on a bespoke delegation. When planning her very first trip to the region, Sophie Long got in touch with BICOM to see if we could help her out with meeting in the region. Sophie is now spending three days of her trip with BICOM Israel, taking a tour around the Old City, meeting Mark Regev and Dr. Alex Yacobsen, as well as visiting Ramallah and Sderot. [54]

Arguing for Israel in the media

Independent letters

On 8 September 2006, the Independent carried a leading article by Patrick Cockburn on Gaza.[55] BICOM chief executive Daniel Shek subsequently wrote to the paper stating:

It is a shame that, at a time when there appears to be a glimmer of hope with a possible meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, The Independent focused on such negativity and in such a one-sided manner ("A people betrayed by the world", 8 September).
Israel withdrew from the whole of Gaza last summer.
It was a bold and brave step that aimed to move the peace process forward. Rather than seizing the opportunity to rebuild their economy and society, the Palestinians in return increased missile attacks from Gaza, voted in a terrorist organisation that refuses to accept Israel's right to exist, and crossed the border into sovereign Israeli territory, killed Israeli soldiers and captured Corporal Shalit and took him to Gaza. These are the events that have helped to plunge the territory into despair.[56]

On 3 October 2006, the Independent carried a leader criticising international pressure on the Palestinian Authority following a Hamas election victory the previous January.[57]

In response, BICOM's Ben Novick wrote:

It would be hypocritical for any democracy or any liberal newspaper to talk about the importance of democracy and then call for concessions towards a terrorist organisation that flouts international law. As with the expectation in Northern Ireland that Sinn Fein would abandon violence before the political process took over, Hamas must play by the same rules. We must not allow Hamas to make a mockery of true democracy.[58]

Guardian letter

In February 2007, Fitzsimons wrote to the Guardian:

At the age of 16 I closed my Barclays savings account in opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa, a regime which appalled me at every level. I could never countenance working to promote a country that I thought was akin to that regime, and find it offensive that the suffering of black South Africans could be equated to the current predicament of the Palestinians (Occupied Gaza like apartheid South Africa, says UN report, February 23). Israel is not an apartheid state.[59]

Eilat bombing

Following a suicide bombing in Eilat in January 2007, the Independent reported:

Lorna Fitzsimons, the former Labour MP who heads the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom) and is on holiday in Eilat, strongly condemned the bombing at a time when Israel had been "moving in the right direction" by transferring tax revenues to Mr Abbas. She added: "The Palestinians need to cease terror and agree to recognise Israel's right to exist. This is a real setback for those of us who believe in Israel's right to live in peace and security next to a Palestinian state." She said that security in Eilat had been tangibly tightened since the blast.[60]

Fitzsimons on Iran

In February 2007, Fitzsimons told Australia's ABC that Iran was on the verge of manufacturing highly enriched uranium:

That is the key watershed. There is no return from that point. In other words, you can't get the genie back in the bottle.
I don't think that you can stop it. You might be able to disrupt it, and that's the difference, and it's looking at how far you can go down the line, where you lose the ability to disrupt it.[61]

Crisis Management: Operation Cast Lead and the Flotilla

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle at the time of her resignation, Lorna Fitzsimons wrote that under her leadership BICOM had established 'a well-developed and practiced crisis management system and protocol run jointly with the JLC' Jewish Leadership Council, which it used, as she puts it 'to great effect in response to Operation Cast Lead, in 2010 as the first Flotilla hit the headlines, as well as last year during the Palestinian bid for UN membership'.[62]

  • Martin Bright – journalist with the New Statesman; travelled to Israel in May 2008. [63]

Wafa Fahoum in Britain

In early 2008, BICOM hosted a visit to Britain by Wafa Fahoum, an Israeli Arab woman who campaigned about treatment of Arab citizens by security guards and later provided training to security staff.[65]

We Believe In Israel Conference

On May 15 2011, BICOM organised the first 'We Believe In Israel' conference, which was 'supported by 26 community organisations and attended by 1500 delegates' and was described as the largest Israel advocacy gathering to take place in the UK.

Plans for a second conference on April 29 2012 were shelved, reportedly for "strategic" reasons rather than to lack of funds. According to the Jewish Chronicle organizers wanted Luke Akehurst, appointed director of We Believe in Israel in August 2011[66], to focus on "staging smaller events in regional communities" throughout the year.[67]

Another conference is set to take place in 2013.[68]

PR Firms and Conservative Friends of Israel

Champollion Public Relations

Lorna Fitzsimons the Chief Executive of BICOM commissioned Champollion as one of her key campaign strategists and media advisers. Fitzsimons 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 professionals, Champollion has shown a thorough knowledge of the policy area and a commitment that is frankly beyond the call of duty.”[69].

Halpern Cowan

BICOM alo hired the digital agency Halpern Cowan at some point between summer 2006 and mid-2008. According to a former Senior Account Director's LinkedIn profile, the agency worked on BICOM's website, 'eDM' (electronic direct marketing), and SEO (search engine optimisation).[70] They also hired a freelancer to design the wesbite of the Stop the Boycott campaign[71] (which BICOM worked on with the Fair Play Campaign Group). His CV, downloadable on his website, states that the site received over 15,000 hits in one week.[72]

Links to Conservative Friends of Israel

According to Peter Oborne:

Despite the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) 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[73].

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"[74]

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)[75]
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.[76]

People

In 2002 BICOM employed five people and by April 2003 its accounts record that there were six employees.[77]. When Lorna Fitzsimons joined as CEO in September 2006 there were 11 members of staff.[78] According to the Observer newspaper, by 2009 it employed 'more than 20 people'[79] but even in 2012 it did not list its staff members on its website.A fairly small organisation, BICOM has structurally reorganised itself as staff have come and gone, with job titles adjusted to suit staff turnover.

The very first executive director, Mark Berg - who was also appointed as a company director, unlike subsequent CEOs - left after less than a year resigning in June 2002 ‘to pursue his career in a different direction’.[80] While in the intervening period Lee Petar served as acting director, a headhunting firm sought suitable candidates[81] but Daniel Shek proved a controversial choice. His appointment was opposed by both the Labour Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Israel as well as some members of the BICOM board who favoured the appointment of a British director. The crucial backing of Poju Zabludowicz and Brian Kerner[82], as well as an unnamed member of Bicom’s board who reportedly threatened to resign if his appointment was not approved[83] led to his appointment.

Its longest serving CEO, Lorna Fitzsimons, was appointed in October 2006. Four of BICOM's eleven staff members (Novick, Smeeth, Durkin, Timothy), left to join other organisations within months. According to blogger Guido Fawkes, Gabriel Milland was Head of Media at BICOM for just six weeks in 2010, while Lib Dem Ed Fordham worked there for only a month.[84]

A number of BICOM staff have come from, or gone on to work for, other organisations promoting Israel (Scott, Overlander, Sennitt, Greene, Novick) and/or have links to the Labour Party (Kehoe, Novick, Greene, Akehurst, Sennitt). Two of its fellows, Michael Herzog and Dr. Tal Becker, are also fellows of the AIPAC think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in the USA. Becker is a former adviser to Tzipi Livni and Herzog leads the anti-delegitimisation work of the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem-based think tank established by the Jewish Agency.

Company Directors August 2012

Former Directors

Staff in August 2012

Staff in March 2013

The following people were listed on BICOM's website in March 2013 as its staff members:

Staff in November 2014

The following people were listed on BICOM's website in November 2014 as its staff members:

Israel Office staff

Former Senior Staff

Other Former Staff

Board - circa 2006

In 2006, Michael Lewis is reported to be deputy 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'[157].

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)[158].

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[160]. 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'.

Affiliations

Contact

Website: http://www.bicom.org.uk/
Tel: +44 (0)20 7636 5500
Fax: +44 (0)20 7636 5600
Email: info@bicom.org.uk
Address: 32-36 Great Portland Street
London
W1W 8QX

(previous registered address: 15 Cavendish Square, London W1G 9DB)

Publications

Fathom journal

In 2012 BICOM launched a quarterly journal called Fathom with the tag line 'for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region'. Available as an iPhone / iPad app or a PDF file, it has featured articles by Yisrael Medad of the settlement organisation the Yesha Council, Benedetta Berti of the Institute for National Security Studies, Shlomo Avinieri, Liam Byrne, a Labour Party MP and BICOM's Alan Johnson and an interview with Emanuele Ottolenghi of the Transatlantic Institute.

Resources, articles, notes

Resources

Articles

Reports

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. Peter Simpson, UK'S JEWS SET UP CRISIS PR 'NERVE CENTRE', PR Week, 27 October 2000.
  7. Al-Aqsa Intifada timeline, BBC News, 29 September 2004.
  8. Peter Simpson, UK'S JEWS SET UP CRISIS PR 'NERVE CENTRE', PR Week, 27 October 2000.
  9. Peter Simpson, UK'S JEWS SET UP CRISIS PR 'NERVE CENTRE', PR Week, 27 October 2000.
  10. 10.0 10.1 WSW CONSULTANT TO RUN PR STRATEGY FOR JEWISH GROUP, PR Week, 26 October 2001.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 BRITAIN ISRAEL COMMUNICATIONS & RESEARCH CENTRE, Levelbusiness, accessed 12 January 2011.
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  13. *Dennis Sewell, A kosher conspiracy?, New Statesman, 14 January 2002.
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