UK-Arab group criticised for Israel ‘primary focus’

UK-Arab group criticised for Israel ‘primary focus’

CAABU denied Israel was its key concern, despite 164 out of a 262 tweets this year being about the state

A London-based group working to advance Arab-British relations has been criticised for a disproportionate focus on Israel through its social media output.

Caabu, which promotes Palestinian rights and charts its “hard work countering the Israel lobby,” has been forced to defend its priorities after it was revealed that almost two thirds of its tweets in 2016 have been about the Jewish state.

The group, which took 55 MPs to the Palestinian territories during the last parliament, denied that Israel was its “primary focus” despite 164 tweets out of a total of 262 this year being about the state.

Sir Eric Pickles, chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said: “For an organisation committed to educating parliamentarians about the whole Middle East, it’s a pity that it appears to have forgotten that there is such a diverse and complex range of countries beyond Israel.”

Caabu director Chris Doyle hit back at what he called a “cheap smear,” adding: “Eric Pickles has had absolutely no dealings with us and simply does not know what he’s talking about… He should look at our website.”

The group’s website details links to Palestinian groups such as such as Al Haq, Addameer, DCI-Palestine and Medical Aid for Palestinians, and in online teaching resource notes that Hamas “performs much-needed social functions such as building schools and hospitals, and supports families in need”.

Defending Caabu, Doyle said: “Our work as a whole is not summed up by our Twitter feed. We probably spend more time on Syria than anything else. We have a small team, focusing on conflict zones like Yemen and Libya, the issue with refugees… We don’t pretend to cover all of the Middle East – we can’t.”

He added: “Tweets don’t necessarily reflect the work we’re doing. It’s much harder to take a specific position in places where the situation is so fluid, and where there is a lack of access, although we take a very strong line on things like the barrel-bombing of civilians in Syria, which is probably the primary concern at the moment… It would be wrong to make deductions about our priorities based on Twitter.”

He said the stability of the situation in Israel and Palestine, where the same leaders have been in place for years, meant it was often easier to report from there and to take a position.

He added: “We’re perfectly at ease with the issues we raise with regards Israel, which are perfectly valid. We make no apologies for that. The conflict is serious, one of many that need to be resolved, but there are some people who would like it to be forgotten, yet we know it can spark wider conflict, as we saw in Gaza in 2014.”

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