British lawyers group’s tour plans prompt angry reaction

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British lawyers group’s tour plans prompt angry reaction

Yachad's Israel tours aim to provide participants with a greater understanding of the Israeli-Palestine conflict
Yachad’s Israel tours aim to provide participants with a greater understanding of the Israeli-Palestine conflict

Criticism has emerged after a British lawyers’ group set up to fight for Israel waded into a political debate between British Jewish groups. At its latest meeting, UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) slammed the “distorted anti-Israel impression” given on Yachad’s Israel tours and vowed to set up its own.

UKLFI chairman Jonathan Turner asked the Board to approve his plans for a legal tour of Israel “run by the Zionist Federation with UKLFI participation”. Turner was previously head of the ZF’s legal group.

Notes from the most recent meeting said the tours would “provide a balanced picture of the legal side of Israel’s civil administration of Judea and Samaria: to counteract the distorted, anti-Israel impression reported by some people taking the equivalent tours run by Yachad”.

UKLFI’s criticism of Yachad follows an acrimonious community split last year, when the Zionist Federation denied membership to Yachad, with no explanation.

However, in a sign of differing opinions within the group, a senior Patron of UKLFI this week appeared to contradict Turner’s rationale, instead defending the value of Yachad’s tours.

Lord Pannick QC, one of the country’s top barristers, said: “I regard Yachad’s legal tours as making a valuable contribution to knowledge and debate on difficult and troubling questions concerning justice in the occupied territories.”

A senior patron of UKLFI has come out in support of Yachad's tours
A senior patron of UKLFI has come out in support of Yachad’s tours

Yachad’s Hannah Weisfeld said: “It’s a shame that rather than engaging with our participants and asking them questions about the broad range of experiences they had, UKLFI feels they have to create a direct challenge to our trip.”

The group, whose members describe themselves as Zionist supporters of a two-state solution, offers tours to East Jerusalem and the West Bank “to provide British Jews with a greater understanding of the conflict and the impact of an ongoing occupation”. It says this allows them “to hear narratives they may not have been previously exposed to”.

Turner’s proposals, which he said were “at a very early stage of development,” would include a trip to the Sodastream plant in the West Bank.

The company was catapulted into the headlines recently after Oxfam criticised actress Scarlett Johansson for advertising the fizzy drinks firm because it has a factory in a Jewish settlement.

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