To Hasan Afzal, the reaction to his new pro-Israel group may demonstrate just why the organization is necessary.

"I've been really overwhelmed just by how shocked people have been that there's been a group called British Muslims for Israel," Afzal said.

That surprise isn't surprising. The debate over Israel and the broader Middle East conflict has become so tense and toxic that a group calling itself British Muslims for Israel inspires a mix of suspicion and fascination. But Afzal's group is real. Formed by young Muslim professionals in Britain in January under the umbrella group Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy, it really took off after Afzal was interviewed by Israel's Channel 10. Their Web site (BritishMuslimsForIsrael.com) received thousands of hits and the group began receiving letters of all kinds, from "thank you for what you said" to "how can we help?" One writer offered to help jazz up their Web site, and several spoke admiringly of the group's bravery.

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