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We want an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict


In the light of the recent attack on Northern Ireland Friends of Israel by Amnesty International and Amnesty's subsequent apology (Write Back, January 11), we would like readers to know what we actually stand for and what we have achieved since our launch in March 2009.

NIFI has attracted more than 600 people to our first three meetings and more than 10,000 visits to our website. We have hosted the Israeli ambassadors to the UK and the Republic in Northern Ireland, and ensured that Israel's case has been put reasonably and fairly right across the political and religious divide.

Boycotting and vilification of Israel is not the way forward. Instead, NIFI advocates positive engagement with all those seeking a just and permanent resolution to the Arab Israel conflict.

We advocate strengthening political, cultural and economic ties between Northern Ireland and Israel to foster a better understanding between the peoples of both countries.

Many people in Northern Ireland, including politicians, trade unionists, churchmen and ordinary members of the public, want to make a meaningful contribution towards peace in the Middle East. That requires listening to Israel's point of view.

Megaphone denunciations of the only democratic state in the region, coupled with a complete whitewash of Hamas, Hezbolla and Iran, all of which wish to destroy Israel, is neither credible nor helpful.

We believe that reconciliation projects in the Middle East have a lot to learn from our experience here in Northern Ireland, and vice-versa. We have raised funds for Soccer for Peace, which brings together Jewish and Arab children through a shared love of sport.

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For Amnesty International to accuse us in the terms that it did demonstrates that a charity should not be making hasty and intemperate pronouncements which, when challenged, it is unable to substantiate.

Sadly, it is all too typical of Amnesty's interventions so far as Israel is concerned. An organisation promoting human rights for all should not be seeking to be at the cutting edge of those who, for political reasons, attack Israel at every turn.

We welcome Amnesty's apology and hope that it will consider its future pronouncements on the Middle East with greater care than it has done to date.

For more information about NIFI, and for details of our future activities, readers can visit our website - www.nifi.org.uk

TERRY McCORRAN (Belfast) and STEVEN JAFFE (London)

Co-chairs, Northern Ireland Friends of Israel