Clegg’s former adviser named head of Israel lobby group

28th Aug 2015

Elham Asaad Buaras

Nick Clegg’s former Head Of Communications has been named Chief Executive of the country’s leading Israel lobby group on July 15.

James Sorene will head Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM) after 15 years in senior positions in Whitehall, he also previously headed of public affairs at the Israeli embassy in London.

Sorene, 41, said: “Israel faces serious challenges, many of which are at the centre of foreign and security policy here in the UK.”

According to a Spinwatch study by UK-based academics and journalists, BICOM owes its existence to the Israeli arms trade.

The report, titled The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre: Giving peace a chance? states that BICOM’s principal donor is Poju Zabludowicz, the son of Finnish arms magnet Shlomo Zabludowicz.

Shlomo made his fortune selling weapons to repressive regimes around the world. In the 1980s his son diversified the business into property.

BICOM itself was born out of a war much closer to Israel, the Second Intifada.

Days following the mass uprising of Palestinians against Israeli occupation in 2000, leading UK businessmen raised £250,000 for the creation of a pro-Israel lobby group. Poju Zabludowicz was the first major donor.

In 2011 an email from BICOM’s then Director, Lorna Fitzsimons, intended for donors was accidentally sent to its media database showed how the lobby group ensured how the most favourable pro-Israeli line.

The email read: “Throughout the weekend, BICOM staff were in contact with a whole host of BBC and Sky news desks and journalists, ensuring that the most objectively favourable line was taken, and offering talking heads, relevant to the stories unfolding.”

She added: “BICOM has one of BBC News’ key anchors on a bespoke delegation. When planning her very first trip to the region, Sophie Long got in touch with BICOM to see if we could help her out with meeting in the region. Sophie is now spending three days of her trip with BICOM Israel, taking a tour around the Old City, meeting [Israeli government spokesman] Mark Regev…as well as visiting Ramallah and Sderot.”

Most embarrassing, however, was the revelation that Fitzsimons had “briefed Jonathan Ford, the Financial Times leader writer for his upcoming leading article” in the paper.

She noted BICOM had “regular contact with the Editor at Large of Prospect Magazine, David Goodhart, helping to inform him about the forthcoming UN vote on Palestinian statehood.”

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