BBUK’s Bureau of International Affairs has been active throughout 2018, a year that has seen continuing antisemitism around the world. Nationalists in Poland have sought to downplay their country’s complicity in the Holocaust while fascists have marched to glorify wartime leaders. An attack in Pittsburgh synagogue left 11 Jews dead in one of the most shocking incidents of violence seen in years. At the UN, the usual orchestrated campaign against Israel has been in full flow while the Jewish state has received negative coverage for its handling of the Hamas orchestrated violence from Gaza.
The Bureau has met dozens of ambassadors and senior diplomats from European, African, Asian and Latin American countries. It was represented in the first of three sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and at the roundtable discussions held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In addition, the Bureau met with senior politicians from all of the UK’s main parties and some NGOs based in London.
During its meetings, Bureau members raised concerns about anti-Israel bias and provided evidence to show why much of the coverage of the Middle East was deeply misguided. Many of these misconceptions focused on the reasons for the breakdown in the peace process, the Jerusalem embassy move, the legality of settlements and the role of the Palestinian Authority in destroying the chances for peace. The Bureau also joined other organisations in criticising Poland’s Holocaust law which proposed to criminalise suggestions that the Polish nation or state were responsible or complicit in Nazi crimes. Following these representations, the Polish government backtracked to make it a civil offence.
The Bureau conducted research on the fate of religious minorities in the Middle East. It surveyed the extreme depths of violence and discrimination that many faith groups were subjected to, among them the Bah’ai, the Copts, the Assyrians and the Ahmadis. It called for recognition of their suffering and for western countries to speak out in their defence. Bureau Director, Jeremy Havardi, also wrote many articles and letters in British papers on antisemitism and Middle East politics.