Steven Jaffe, co-chair of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, accused Israel boycott members of anti-Semitism on May 22, 2012 in the Belfast Telegraph. Jaffe was reacting to columnist Eamonn McCann’s praise for Irish trade unions calls to boycott Israeli goods. McCann had boldly pleaded with his readers to see the Israel boycott as kosher.
Jaffe called the Irish boycott movement about as kosher as a bacon sandwich. Anti-racism, feminism and human rights are sacrificed on the altar of expediency. Boycotters, like Eamonn McCann, think that it is Israel itself which is illegitimate and have little truck for a 'two-state' solution; of an Israel and Palestine living side-by-side.
Jaffe reminded boycott members that they may not appreciate being labeled anti-Semites, but, in fact, the boycott is highly discriminatory. What state, Jaffe asked, is targeted for a boycott other than Israel? Which people are rebuffed the right to seek self-determination besides Israelis, he asked.
Never mind the moral bankruptcy which lies behind this boycott. Is the strategy (launched in 2002) actually working? Which nation has more companies on the NASDAQ than any country in the world (outside North America and China)? Whose hi-tech economy grew by more than 5% last year? Whose trade with the UK in 2011 reached £4bn?
Yes, we're talking about Eamonn McCann's "failed Zionist entity". Forget boycotting oranges. Boycotting Israeli goods is a much more serious business than that. In the end, Jaffe called for a meeting to seek reconciliation in the Middle East and move towards peace.
Steven Jaffe is co-chair of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel (NIFI). NIFI has been described by the Jewish Chronicle as “one of the fastest growing and most successful Israel advocacy groups in the UK.” Jaffe was brought up in Belfast’s small Jewish community, educated as a lawyer, and presently lives in North West London with his wife and three children.
Steven Jaffe represents the Belfast Jewish community on the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The Board was founded in 1760 and is the main representative body of British Jews with approximately 265 Deputies representing 138 synagogues and 34 communal organizations; from youth movements, to social welfare charities and regional councils.
Jaffe also works as a consultant to the Board of Deputies to support grassroots Israel advocacy in the UK. He passionately believes that Jews, Christians and others need to stand close together to promote Israel’s case reasonably and fairly to the people of the UK.
Jaffe gave a presentation on December 23 to 29, 2011 about his work with the Board regarding regional community engagement with Israel (Project Speak Out) at the conference of Limmud: dedicated to Jewish learning in all its variety.
Entitling his talk “Defending Israel beyond the M25” he told the positive story of what is happening for Israel across the country, from Leeds Lobby Network down to the Bournemouth Israel group; from 600 people gathering in Cardiff for a tribute to Israel to over 500 supporters enrolled in Northern Ireland Friends of Israel.
Steven Jaffe partnered with Terry McCorran, a trade union branch secretary from Northern Ireland, to establish the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel (NIFI). The association is dedicated to fostering better relations between Northern Ireland and the State of Israel and presenting Israel’s case reasonably and fairly to the people of Northern Ireland and arguing Israel’s case in the local media.
More than 3,500 people have attended NIFI events and there are more than 500 people on its mailing list. NIFI combines the support of political leaders representing rival parties with a strong grassroots following including Jews, Christians, and secular people.
The Northern Ireland Friends of Israel was launched in Belfast on March 12, 2009 at the Great Hall, Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland government, with addresses from trade unionists, politicians and community leaders. More than 200 people attended, including Northern Ireland government ministers, British MPs, and members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Also in attendance were members of the Belfast Jewish community and representatives of Christian groups.
Veteran unionist Rev. Ian Paisley spoke of the similarities between the struggles of Israel and of Northern Ireland against terrorism, prayed for peace in Jerusalem He is a British MP and a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and a former Northern Ireland cabinet member.
Jaffe explained the need for NIFI as a counter to an upswing in anti-Israel activity in Northern Ireland. "Three local authorities passed resolutions boycotting Israel, as did the Irish Congress of Trade Unions." Since the 1970s, the IRA has supported the Palestinians, "both regarding themselves as freedom fighters."
Despite this, "Northern Ireland is a very Bible-orientated community. There are more pilgrim tours from Northern Ireland than from any other part of the UK. The people here feel a very strong connection to Israel."
(Picture above is of Terry McCorran on left presenting the Belfast plaque to Salan Halvey of Sderot municipality in Israel)
Protestant trade unionist Terry McCorran co-organized the event. He is a Unison branch secretary from Northern Ireland - The Public Service Union- and active with Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI). McCorran was inspired to help Israel after speaking with an Israeli trade unionist at a trade union's congress at which it was decided to boycott the Jewish state.
Jaffe said. "Good news about Israel in the UK should be broadcast as widely as the bad. The great news here in Northern Ireland is that we have launched a group of friends of Israel, which combines grassroots commitment with the support of political leaders."
The activities of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel since its formation have included:
Attendance at Israel/Northern Ireland football match played in Belfast on August 12, 2009
Just about 100 NIFI supporters joined visiting Israel fans to provide a warm and cheering audience at the international football match between Israel and Northern Ireland. The final score was a draw 1-1.
(Picture above is of the Northern Ireland international squad signed shirt)
This was followed by an NIFI Football auction in which NIFI raised over £1,000 in an auction of signed football shirts from leading Premiership clubs in aid of cross community football in Northern Ireland and Israel. Charities chosen were Soccer for Peace (Israel) and IFA endorsed cross community schemes in Northern Ireland.
Cartoons in Conflict – from Israel to Belfast on 12th January 2011
Over 70 people attended NIFI’s reception to welcome an international exhibition of cartoons on the Arab Israel dispute – including the Minister of Culture, Nelson McCausland MLA, MEP Diane Dodds and the Dean of Belfast Cathedral Houston McKelvey. The cartoons are by professional cartoonists from around the world and depict different viewpoints and perspectives.
The exhibition was assembled by Parents’ Circle, a group which brings together over 500 Jewish and Arab families who have lost loved ones in the conflict. The Israel-based group gifted the cartoons to Community Dialogue, an organization which is engaged in reconciliation work in Northern Ireland.
NIFI President Gerald Steinberg presided and Katy Radford MBE of Jews Schmooze (the cultural arm of the Belfast Jewish community) also spoke. Jim O’Neill of Community Dialogue explained the background to the exhibition which is being used in Northern Ireland to prompt questions and discussion regarding conflict at home.
Dean of Belfast Cathedral (and self-confessed cartoon buff), Houston McKelvey spoke warmly of his relationship with the Jewish community and his concern for the state of Israel. He used the phrase the “Narrow Ground” to describe Israel’s situation, and spoke of the human suffering, as well as the wry humor, displayed by the cartoons.
Meeting with the Ambassador of Israel, HE Ron Prosor on Thursday 14 April, 2011
300 people attended a meeting with the Ambassador of Israel, HE Ron Prosor, at the Stormont Hotel, on Thursday 14 April, 2011. The previous day, 80 people attended the Ambassador’s briefing at an afternoon event in Coleraine, organized by NIFI and hosted at the offices of Coleraine Borough Council.
Visit of Alon Roth-Snir, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UK, on December 15, 2011
Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UK met with elected representatives and community leaders during his visit to Northern Ireland. Steven Jaffe, co chair of NIFI, said: “It was a great pleasure to help arrange and come over with Alon for this visit. We were particularly pleased to co host the evening event with the East Belfast Mission , which has repeatedly shown its commitment to inclusivity and dialogue.
At a Q and A session attended by over 80, Alon took questions from members of the main political parties as well as NGO leaders at an event chaired by Rev Gary Mason, superintendant of the Mission.
Alon said that as an Israeli engaged in the peace process in the Middle East he felt all parties there had much to learn from people in Northern Ireland regarding community reconciliation.
Tribute for Israel at Ulster Hall on March 12, 2012
Steven Jaffe represented NIFI on 12 March, 2012 at a tribute to Israel: “A Taste of Tabernacles. Israel: a light to the nations – in Music and Words.” Over 750 attended the event at the Ulster Hall, organized by International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, and probably the largest demonstration in support of Israel ever held in Northern Ireland.
Speeches were given by Jeffrey Donaldson MP and David Parsons of ICEJ Jerusalem office. Entertainment by Serguei Popov, acclaimed violinist from Finland, and Shalom dance team. An ICEJ event in Coleraine the following day brought to near 1,000 the numbers attending the demos for Israel over the two days.