Yair Lapid

Yair Lapid

by Jenni Frazer

Israel’s former finance minister, Yair Lapid, this week urged the Jewish community in the UK to challenge British media for much of its reporting about Israel.

Speaking to a 450-strong audience at the annual Emunah UK fundraising dinner, Mr Lapid, founder of the centrist Yesh Atid (There is a Future) political party in Israel, advised: “We need to concentrate on the British media – and you, here in the UK, should use your ability to do so. They are way more afraid of public opinion than you may realise”.

An experienced journalist and broadcaster himself before he entered politics, Mr Lapid, interviewed by former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, cited a story in the Independent that “a Palestinian was shot dead in Jerusalem.” The story neglected to say that the man had been shot because he was armed with a knife and was attacking a soldier.  

Such articles needed to be challenged, Mr Lapid said. “Journalists and editors in the UK need to know that they are paying a price for this kind of reporting.” It might be excused as “sloppy” if the sloppiness applied to both sides, he observed, “but, remembering what Joseph Heller wrote in his book Catch 22, ‘just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean nobody’s chasing you’. Such examples are not sloppiness, it’s something else. I would say the Jewish community can do something about this.”

Earlier, Home Secretary Theresa May spoke admiringly of the work done by Emunah, which, she said, was “an amazing charity which does amazing things. From its origins as a group of women volunteers, it has grown to become the third largest charity working with Israeli children and young people… they are truly transforming lives and British Emunah is supporting that work.”

Harking back to Emunah’s founders, Mrs May said it was not hard to draw a parallel between rescue of Jews in the 1930s and the present refugee crisis. She said she was proud to have appointed Watford MP Richard Harrington to the Home Office as minister for Syrian refugees with responsibility for implementing the government’s policy, reiterating her party’s belief that the “best way to help” was within the region. Nevertheless, Mrs May said, the first groups of Syrians had begun to arrive in the UK and Britain would welcome them just as it had welcomed previous waves of immigrants, from Huguenots to Jews to Ugandan Asians.

The Home Secretary noted that “the threat we face from extremism is unprecedented”, and pointed to “a shameful rise in antisemitism.” She said the government needed “to build a broader evidence base for tackling hate crimes”, adding, “in a pluralistic society like ours, there are responsibilities as well as rights.”