Zionists visit 'hostile' UK Muslim neighborhood

Luton has seen numerous clashes between far-right, Islamist protesters. So what did residents think of a pro-Israel stall?

Ari Soffer,

Israel Advocacy Movement activists in Luton
Israel Advocacy Movement activists in Luton
Israel Advocacy Movement

Bury Park in Luton is often viewed as a hotbed of Islamist extremism in the UK, and perhaps with good cause. Numerous terror suspects have come from the town, which has also seen clashes between far-right demonstrators and Muslim locals.

So it might not seem like the wisest site for Zionist activists to set up a pro-Israel stall. But that's exactly what they did.

The three activists from the Israel Advocacy Movement (IAM)) - two Jews and one Muslim - who visited Bury Park recently said they did it because they believed Israel's case can be made effectively anywhere, but also to prove a point to pro-Israel activists: there is no reason to fear showing Israeli pride.

While all of those the group spoke to shared many misconceptions and outright falsehoods about the State of Israel, the vast majority were surprisingly willing to engage. Many even expressed appreciation to the group for dispelling the myths they held about the Jewish state.

Arutz Sheva spoke to Israel Advocacy Movement founder Joseph Cohen, who led the initiative, and asked him why his group picked such an unlikely venue for their stall.

"Every British neighborhood with a majority Muslim population is almost certainly hostile towards Israel," Cohen explained. "Nothing is done to challenge the constant disinformation and anti-Israel propaganda that’s propagated in these communities.

"The media tells us that these are no-go areas for Jews, so we avoid them and the anti-Israel sentiment is left to fester. Having watched videos of riots in Bury Park provoked by far right activists, we decided it was the perfect neighborhood to show that Zionists can promote Israel anywhere in the UK without the fear of violence.

"When we arrived there the levels of ignorance (not hatred) truly shocked us, there were so many people that had been spoon-fed lie after lie.

"Unsurprisingly our message of peace and love for Israel was met with kindness, curiosity and surprise from the local community. In fact the community was so taken aback that they’ve invited us back to discuss things further.

"There are many communities throughout Britain that have been denied the truth for generations, the only chance we have for turning the tide is if we overcome our fear and connect with the very communities where the hatred is left to fester.

"We would encourage British Zionists to reach out to their neighbors, wherever they are, and spread the truth about Israel."

I noticed you spent most of your time there responding to various lies propagated about Israel - from accusations of "apartheid" to the very right of the State of Israel to exist. Of course it is important to dispel lies, but don't you think pro-Israel activists should focus on proactively spreading their own message, instead of constantly reacting to the other side?

"The message that we need to push is wholly dependent on the audience we’re addressing.

"The British Muslim community is fed grotesque lie after lie about Israel, so when advocating within this community it is essential these lies are corrected.

"However, when addressing the wider British public there is a horrible tendency for advocates of Israel to exclusively defend Israel, without ever highlighting the historical and current atrocities perpetrated against us. Frustratingly this means the British public only ever hears horrific lies from the BDS camp and pathetic 'oh no we’re not' cries from our camp.

"Much more should be done to inform the British public that Israel has been the victim of harrowing aggression for over a century."




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