What JStreet is to American Jews, Yachad is to the U.K. Jewish community – a group that purports to support Israel, even though it is a harsh critic of the “occupation” and the right wing polices of the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. But Yachad is no supporter of Israel, says Ari Soffer of BicPac, the political action group of the British Israel Coalition, a grass roots group that seeks to rally Britons behind Israel.
“They not only come out to protest when someone whose politics they disagree with, like Avigdor Lieberman, comes to visit,” he told Arutz Sheva. “They don't come out to support Israeli groups or politicians you would expect a leftist group to agree with. The 'hard' anti-Semitic and anti-Israel groups, like the BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction) groups are there when someone like Tsipi Livni, former head of Kadima, comes to visit, and so is BicPac. But Yachad is nowhere to be seen. That shows what their real attitude to Israel is.”
If Yachad has a lukewarm attitude to someone like Livni, says Soffer, there is no doubt of their attitude to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was visiting London this week. Yachad, says Soffer, not only pushed leftist groups to organize protests against Lieberman when he spoke in the Jewish neighborhood of Hendon – groups associated with Yachad organized an online petition (via Habonim-Dror, one of the groups in the Yachad coalition) against the Jewish National Fund's invitation to Lieberman to speak at the Hendon event.
In the wake of Yachad's anti-Lieberman activity, anti-Israel groups of Palestinian students, Islamists, far left anti-Semites, and Neturei Karta have been “riled up,” and held protests at nearly all the venues where Lieberman appeared, said Soffer, including at the JNF event.
But Soffer and BicPac managed to turn the tables. “We got wind of the demonstration planned by the hate groups and began organizing our people, supporters of Israel in the Jewish and non-Jewish community. In the end, we outflanked them, and got together four or five times more pro-Israel protesters than they were able to muster,” he said. As a result, Soffer expects the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic groups to think twice next time they protest an Israel-oriented event.
But those groups are just acting as one expect in a city that has been called “a hub of a hub of a network to delegitimize Israel.” More troubling are the actions of the leftist Jewish groups, “who think they know better than Israelis what is good for them and are determined to implement their agenda, which is very much the agenda of groups like J Street and the New Israel Fund,” with the aim of forcing Israel to divest itself of Judea and Samaria, and to denude itself of traditional (Orthodox) Jewish lifestyles.
But this time, the leftist Jewish groups, whom Soffer calls “useful idiots” for the anti-Semites - “but maybe some of them are not such idiots, because they seem to know what they are doing,” says Soffer – shot themselves in the foot.
“They made such a fuss over this Lieberman speech, organizing the protests and the petition, that they got the anti-Semitic groups interested and involved. I heard Lieberman speak last year at the JNF event, and there were no protests at all. Why not then and why now? Because of Yachad's agitation, and the British Jewish community has finally seen them for what they are, thanks to our exposing of their agenda. Now we believe the greater British Jewish community is united against them.”
Despite the impression some have of it, BicPac is in no way a right wing organization, says Soffer, and even has many members who identify with the left of center. “We don't believe it's fair for Jews in the Diaspora, who do not have the burdens of living in and defending Israel, to push their ideas for how Israel should be run, certainly not with protests. Our job in the Diaspora is to defend Israel and make sure that it remains free to act as best as it can for its citizens. Israel is a democracy, and if Israelis saw fit to elect Avigdor Lieberman and 15 members of his party to the Knesset, we certainly have no right to protest this and say they made the wrong choice,” Soffer added.
That holds true when the visitor is to the left of the political map. “We were the only ones to come out and defend Tsipi Livni when the anti-Israel groups organized protests against her. In a few weeks the Habimah Theater is coming for a visit, and the anti-Israel groups will be there protesting, as we will be,” says Soffer. “But we don't expect Yachad and the leftist Jewish groups to be there, even though Habimah is certainly not considered a 'right wing' organization. If they are pro-Israel as they claim to be, why won't they join us?”