The Israel lobby group BICOM is organizing a five-day “social media delegation” of UK bloggers to “to Israel and the Palestinian Authority” starting on Sunday.
In the email sent earlier this month, Jonathan Hodari, a BICOM press officier, wrote about “the importance of the social media in the changes now happening in the Middle East,” and boasted about what he said were BICOM’s “unique links to key figures in the Israeli government, as well as senior figures in the Palestinian Authority, we will spend time in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah.”
There is no mention of who exactly these Israeli and Palestinain “senior figures” are.
The email pasted below was sent to me by a source who prefers to remain anonymous. The source described the original recipient as “a very-well known centre-left blogger”. The source also tells me other bloggers, mostly on the centre-left received the same invite.
I contacted BICOM to ask about the delegation. Their director of communcations was extremely evasive, and said someone would call me back later (no one did). He did not deny the existence of the social media delegation. Pressed, he seemed to be saying it was against BICOM policy to give out such information on its delegations before they happen.
BICOM is well-known for taking politicians and other influential figures on propaganda tours to occupied Palestine to meet Israeli figures. In 2009 BICOM paid for Adam Werritty (the disgraced advisor of former British minister Liam Fox) to attend an Israeli conference to speak about Iran.
From: Jonathan Hodari <JonathanH@bicom.org.uk>
Subject: BICOM Social Media Delegation
I hope you are well.
I am writing on behalf of the CEO for the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), Lorna Fitzsimons. As you may know, for a decade BICOM have taken traditional print and broadcast journalists out to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Due to the ever growing importance of bloggers and media we would like to invite you on to our very first social media delegation from the 26th of February to the 1st of March.
Journalists from across the political spectrum and all titles recommend their colleagues to come on our delegations from the Sun to the Independent, from the Mirror to the FT, as one said ‘because they aren’t PR trips’. We pride ourselves on ensuring you see things as they are on all sides. We always go to the West Bank to hear from Palestinian politicians as well as wider civil society.
Given the importance of the social media in the changes now happening in the Middle East it will be exciting to look one year on from the start of the Arab Spring. After a summer of social protest in Israel catalysed by the increasing inter-connectivity of the region, we will be looking to visit those bloggers and social leaders who have thrust socio-economic issues into the limelight in Israeli politics like never before.
This year will be a pivotal year in the Middle East. With the Iranian question growing ever bigger, the talk about talks between Israeli and the PA and of course the wider Arab Spring, it is hard to know which topic to focus on. With our unique links to key figures in the Israeli government, as well as senior figures in the Palestinian Authority, we will spend time in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah.
I do hope you can come. If you have any questions please to ask.