The former Communities and Local Government Secretary told over 1,000 people gathered in Manchester’s Palace Theatre that he had “been a member of the House of Commons for about 25 years… [and] a friend of Israel even longer”.
In his keynote address, he said: “We will speak out against injustice and we will defend democracy”, condemning the so-called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and those who seek to delegitimise the Jewish State.
The MP for Brentwood and Ongar said that if the BDS movement is successful, the first victim will be the NHS – one in six NHS prescriptions are provided by Israeli pharmaceutical companies.
Sir Eric underlined that hatemongers “must never be allowed to think that their chants and their violence can drown out the legitimacy of the freedom of Israel”.
He referred to a 2008 poll undertaken by Harvard University which found that “77% of Israeli Arabs preferred living in Israel to any other country in the world” before praising coexistence efforts, declaring that “we must celebrate, rather than seek to stamp out” initiatives that bring Israelis and Palestinians together.
Sir Eric was appointed as the UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues in September 2015, and also works as the Government’s Anti-Corruption Champion.
He has been the Parliamentary Chairman of CFI since May 2015, following the General Election.