As a British taxpayer, a Liberal Democrat and a friend of Israel, I am pleased to read reports (http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/58049/uk-envoy-fears-israel-too-divided and http://www.totallyjewish.com/news/national/?content_id=17271) that the UK's Coalition Government "is to put £40,000 into a programme to promote better ties between Jews and Arabs in Israel". Through the UK Task Force on Issues Facing Arab Citizens of Israel (http://www.uktaskforce.org/), this has been established as a key priority for a range of British Jewish and pro-Israeli organisations. The UK has a tradition of an activist foreign policy, which means giving money to NGOs in other countries; other countries are equally entitled to give money to NGOs in this country. Says Jewish News:
The UK's ambassador to Israel has criticised some of the legislation going through the Knesset as discriminatory and warned that it is corroding the country's image.
Addressing the New Israel Fund's annual human rights award dinner, Matthew Gould said: "I find the widening gaps in Israel, between Jew and Arab, the centre and periphery, rich and poor, upsetting."
Gould, who declared himself a "life-long supporter" of the NIF, added: "Israel's image is corroded when legislation goes through the Knesset that appears to be discriminatory. This contradicts the vision of Israel's founders, who believed in Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, but where all citizens are equal."
He added: "This worries me. It affects the peace process. When the talks started, at Madrid 20 years ago, Israel's Arabs were seen as a bridge between the Jewish state and its neighbours. Now, however, they are alienated and feel second class."
Gould announced that the Foreign Office was providing 40,000 pounds in funding to two NIF-supported organisations, Shatil and the Israel-Arab Task Force in Akko and Lod.
The awards dinner raised 140,000 pounds, an almost 30 percent increase on last year's ceremony.
Also addressing the event was outspoken Israeli novelist A. B. Yehoshua. He urged diaspora Jews to take part in helping Israelis work towards peace and social justice.
The danger Israel faced today, he said, was "not military. It's existential and what kind of Israel it will be; whether it's a liberal democracy or a binational state that will slide towards apartheid or religious extremism. We and you are brothers and sisters and you must help us".
The recipient of the human rights award was Barbara Epstein, the director of Community Advocacy, for her outstanding work in the area of social and economic justice.
New York-born Epstein said: "It is a great honour for me to receive this award after 18 years in the field of Social and Economic rights."
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, in a video address, praised Epstein. "Barbara's work...has made an impact throughout the entire city. Usually quiet and behind the scenes, Barbara's influence can be felt wherever there are those in need.
"Barbara chose to help those in need fulfil their rights, that sometimes they are not even aware of, and help people resolve problems they cannot manage on their own."