How the pro-Israel lobby in Britain benefits from a generous London tycoon
By Rajeev Syal, The Observer, Sunday 4 January 2009
Britain's most active pro-Israeli lobbying organisation - which flies journalists to Israel on fact-finding trips and organises access to senior government figures - has received nearly £1.4m in two years from a billionaire donor whose father made a fortune manufacturing arms in Israel.
The British Israel Communication and Research Centre, known as Bicom, has been one of the most active organisations behind the scenes in the UK during the present Gaza offensive, organising briefings and interview opportunities with senior Israeli spokesmen.
Its biggest funder is Poju Zabludowicz, a London-based tycoon, who has underwritten its campaigning since 2007. The disclosure comes amid an intense struggle in Britain between lobbying organisations working for both sides in the conflict. Foreign affairs specialists say that the injection of funds has ensured that Bicom has become one of the most persistent and slickest media operations in the battle for influence over opinion formers.
Company accounts show that Zabludowicz, whose fortune was founded on the success of his father's arms company, donated £937,995 to Bicom in 2007, around half its total income, and £341,694 in 2006.
Bicom, which claims to be an independent organisation devoted to seeking a more supportive environment for Israel, is at the forefront of the campaign to win over the British media. Foreign reporters are bombarded with press releases and invitations to interview senior Israeli ministers and advisors at top London restaurants. Set up in 2001, it has regularly flown journalists to Tel Aviv. Read more.