Labour Friends of Israel
Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) is a Westminster based pro-Israel lobby group working within the British Labour Party which exercises significant influence over UK/Middle East policy. It is considered one of the most prestigious groupings in the party and is seen as a stepping stone to ministerial ranks by Labour MPs.
LFI boasts some of the wealthiest supporters of the party, and some of its most generous donors, such as Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Michael Levy, Sir Trevor Chinn and Sir Emmanuel Kaye. Two of its leading members, Michael Levy, and David Abrahams, have been embroiled in major scandals involving the New Labour government in recent years. 
LFI's director since September 2020 is Michael Rubin.
LFI wields considerable influence in Westminster and is also consulted routinely by the Foreign Office and Downing Street on matters relating to the Middle East. Tony Blair was known to consult its members over Middle East policy.  LFI also has Tory and Liberal Democrat sister organisations.
While Labour originally carried a reputation for having more voices sympathetic to the Palestinians - especially during the Thatcher years - the New Labour government of Tony Blair reversed this orientation. Although one of Tony Blair's first acts after becoming an MP in 1983 was joining LFI, the relationship truly developed in the early 90s, when as Shadow Home Secretary, Tony Blair met Michael Levy at a private meeting at the latter's house. Michael Abraham Levy is a former chairman of the Jewish Care Community Foundation, a member of the Jewish Agency World Board of Governors, and a trustee of the Holocaust Educational Trust. According to Andrew Porter of The Business, Levy expressed his willingness 'to raise large sums of money for the party' which led to a 'tacit understanding that Labour would never again, while Blair was leader, be anti-Israel' . The partnership proceeded as Levy started inviting potential donors for tennis at his palatial home where Tony Blair would join them for a set or two. Levy would then proceed to ask the guests for donations after Blair had left. The genius of Levy's fundraising strategy ensured that most of Labour's election funds came from private sources, rather than its traditional source - the trade unions, thereby weakening their say over policy.
Levy's investment eventually paid off, with Blair's ascencion to power. The reward was not long in coming as Levy was ennobled and subsequently retained as a 'special envoy' to the Middle East, leading predictably to the development of a strong pro-Israel line . Given the fact that Levy has both a business and a house in Israel and his son Daniel used to work for Yossi Beilin - the former Justice Minister of Israel - speaks of a serious conflict of interest, especially when he is the man assigned by Blair to negotiate impartially with Palestinians and Israelis. The fact that Levy acted as a fundraiser for former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak casts further doubt on his capacity for impartiality. According to Neil Sammonds of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in 2002, four of the previous five ministers with Responsibility for the Middle East had been active members of LFI. 
Cash and Dishonour
While Michael Levy was subsequently arrested and disgraced in what has come to be known as the 'cash-for-honours' scandal, his Israel connection was for the most part politely excluded. (This, however, did not deter some from proclaiming Levy a victim of anti-Semitism). The case was soon followed by another revelation that David Abrahams, a Labour Friends of Israel financier who has become the third largest donor to the party since Gordon Brown's ascencion, has donated more than £600,000 since 2003 illegaly through proxies. The subsequent scandal has swiftly spread to many leading figures in the Labour Party. Abrahams, a strong supporter of Israel, told The Jewish Chronicle that he donated cash secretly 'so as to avoid accusations of his being part of a “Jewish conspiracy”'. Labour Friends of Israel was implicated in yet another scandal when it was revealed that Cabinet Minister Peter Hain had also been the beneficiary of illegal funds siphoned through proxies. The funders Willie Nagel, a diamond tycoon, and Isaac Kaye, a South African born supporter of the erstwhile Apartheid regime, are both tied to the LFI.
2000 to 2015
In 2003, LFI described itself as "a Westminster based lobby group working within the British Labour Party to promote the State of Israel". It has been described as "less unquestioning in its support of the Israeli government than the Conservative Friends of Israel". Between 2001 and 2009, LFI sponsored more than 60 MPs to visit Israel, more than any other group.
In 2010, Jennifer Gerber, previously director of Progress and before that, special advisor to Andy Burnham, was appointed director.
In 2011, LFI adopted a new strategy of becoming a wider membership organisation and of operating under the slogan "Working Towards a Two-State Solution".
In 2011, John Woodcock was appointed chair, followed in May 2013 by Dame Anne McGuire and, in 2015, Joan Ryan.
In 2014, Adrian Cohen, a corporate lawyer, the chair of the London Jewish Forum, a trustee of the Jewish Leadership Council and a deputy of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, was appointed Lay Chair.
With the election to the leadership of the Labour Party, in September 2015, of Jeremy Corbyn, who has a history of support for Palestinians, the relationship between the LFI and the party leadership deteriorated.
LFI had been depleted of Parliamentary supporters who lost their seats at the 2015 General Election. In 2016, LFI announced it had trebled its number of Parliamentary supporters, stating that 65 MPs had pledged to back the group, at a time when many MPs rebelled against the leadership of the party. LFI re-branded itself as "Labour Friends of Israel: For Israel, For Palestine, For Peace", created a Young LFI group, and stated it would support the Alliance for Middle East Peace’s international fund.
In early 2017, Al Jazeera released a four-part documentary entitled "The Lobby", which investigated aspects of the Israel lobby in the United Kingdom, particularly relating to the Labour Party. A member of Israeli embassy staff, Shai Masot, was recorded "plotting" to take down British MPs who favour recognition of a Palestinian state; links to the Labour Friends of Israel were put under the spotlight, including a reference to the availability of £1m from the Israeli government.
In March 2018, supporters of LFI, along with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, took part in a protest critical of the Corbyn leadership, stating that antisemitism was present in the Labour Party.
In February 2019, after having lost a vote of no confidence by her local constituency Labour Party, Joan Ryan resigned from the Labour Party to join the recently formed The Independent Group but retained her position as Chair of LFI. She became Honorary President in August 2019 and Dame Louise Ellman succeeded her as Parliamentary Chair. In October 2019, Ellman resigned from the Labour Party. Neither stood for reelection in the UK/2019 General Election. However, despite resigning from the Labour Party, they remained members of LFI.
As of July 2020, around a quarter of the Parliamentary Labour Party and a third of the shadow cabinet were members of the group. In September 2020, Jennifer Gerber stepped down as director and was replaced by Michael Rubin.
Change of tune on Israel
On 12 March 2023, The Observer published this letter from LFI director Michael Rubin who suggested that in trying to emasculate the judiciary and by allying himself with the far right, the Israeli Prime Minister had alienated the people:
- We stand united against Netanyahu
- Simon Schama is right – the actions of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government since taking office are deeply disturbing and must be strongly opposed (“Simon Schama urges UK Jews to condemn Israel’s ‘horrifying’ shift to far right”, News). Our support for Israel is firmly rooted in our progressive values and the Jewish state’s place as a beacon of democracy, the rule of law and minority rights in the Middle East.
- It is also clear that Netanyahu’s self-serving efforts to debilitate the judiciary and the repellent actions of his far-right allies do not command the support of the Israeli people, who have shown the strength of their opposition in demonstrations now entering their 10th week.
- An estimated 250,000 Israelis took to the streets to oppose the government’s judicial reforms. Given the size of the population, this is roughly equivalent to 1.9 million Britons joining the protests – a figure far in excess of any in our history. Those of us who care for Israeli democracy stand four-square behind the opposition to Netanyahu both on the streets and in the Knesset.
- Michael Rubin, director,
- Labour Friends of Israel
- London WC1
20 of the 70 of the members already have pages here:
|Hilary Benn||Warmongering son of the great peace and social justice activist Tony Benn, proving that the apple sometimes land far from the tree.|
|Tony Blair||Remarkably popular at the time, Tony Blair was a UK prime minister, now infamous for lying the UK into invading Iraq, notwithstanding massive opposition. He is currently sought for War crimes by many people.|
|Gordon Brown||UK deep state functionary. Prime Minister from 2007-2010. WHO ambassador for Global Health Financing from 2021|
|Yvette Cooper||Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee|
|Angela Eagle||UK Labour Party MP|
|Maria Eagle||British Labour MP who held several ministerial appointments in Tony Blair's government|
|Kevan Jones||Labour defence politician with safe establishment views|
|Liz Kendall||Blairite Labour party leadership contender|
|David Lammy||English Labour Party politician, WEF/GLT/2002, publicly apologised for nominating Jeremy Corbyn for Labor leader|
|Lucy Powell||Labour MP, frontbencher under Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer. "Social media anti-vax misinformation is a matter of life or death"|
|Rachel Reeves||Rachel Reeves coined the term 'Securonomics'<a href="#cite_note-1"></a>|
|Document:A Moment in History||blog post||26 June 2019||Craig Murray||It is ESSENTIAL that every Labour Party member reading this blog acts NOW to try to get rid of those dreadful Blairite MPs. If you do not act, the historic moment will be missed and the chance to move England and Wales away from neoliberalism may be permanently surrendered.|
|Document:Anti-semitism is cover for a much deeper divide in Britain's Labour party||Article||20 February 2019||Jonathan Cook||Paradoxically, the Labour breakaway group may have inadvertently exposed the weakness of its hand. The eight MPs have indicated that they will not run in by-elections, and for good reason: it is highly unlikely they would stand a chance of winning in any of their current constituencies outside the Labour Party.|
|Document:Gaza massacre should be a turning point for British Jews||blog post||16 May 2018||Aron Keller||The 2018 Gaza Massacre represents a turning point which eliminates any existing moral ambiguity around Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. The sheer scale of the bloodshed makes the cognitive dissonance required for any decent individual to absolve Israel of culpability too difficult to sustain.|
|Document:Labour's next leader has already betrayed the left||blog post||21 February 2020||Jonathan Cook||The next Leader of the Labour Party is already a prisoner to the "institutional antisemitism" narrative. That means their hands are chained not only to support for Israel, but to the reactionary politics in which Israel as a Jewish state makes sense – a worldview that embraces its style of ethnic, chauvinist, militaristic, segregationist politics.|
|Document:The Stomach-Churning Victim Blaming by “Labour Friends of Israel”||blog post||14 May 2018||Craig Murray||Craig Murray: "I do not know what institutional ties the “Labour Friends of Israel” has to the Labour Party, but whatever they are they should be cut off immediately."|
|Document:The witchfinders are now ready to burn Corbyn||Blog post||28 February 2019||Jonathan Cook||Jeremy Corbyn’s allies are being picked off one by one, from grassroots activists like Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth to higher-placed supporters like Chris Williamson and Seumas Milne. Soon Corbyn will stand alone, exposed before the inquisition that has been prepared for him.|
- ↑ "Welcome to Labour Friends of Israel"
- ↑ Andrew Pierce, “Blair's chance to raise cash for Pounds 1m refund”, The Times, 18 November 1997
- ↑ Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, The shadowy role of Labour Friends of Israel, The Independent, 3 December 2007
- ↑ "Labour Friends of Israel director to step down"
- ↑ David Cracknell, “Byers plots a comeback with pro-Israel pressure group”, Sunday Times, 4 August 2002
- ↑ Peter McKay, “How Tony has let us all down”, Daily Mail, 20 March 2000
- ↑ Andrew Porter, The Business, 30 June 2002
- ↑ Michael White, “Downing St denies pressure to gag Robinson”, The Guardian, October 21, 1999
- ↑ Paul Eastham, “Tories want answers over ‘Cash Passport to Downing Street’”, The Daily Mail, March 30, 1998; Iain MacWhirter, “Blair Gambles Party Cash”, The Scotsman, November 18, 1997
- ↑ Kevin Maguire and Ewen MacAskill , Fundraiser's role as envoy under attack, The Guardian, 1 October, 2001
- ↑ John Pilger, Blair's meeting with Arafat served to disguise his support for Sharon and the Zionist project, New Statesman, 14 January, 2002
- ↑ Neil Sammonds, British culpability and the shadow of Canary Wharf, ZNet,April 10, 2002
- ↑ Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Is Levy a victim of racism?, The Independent, 11 March 2007
- ↑ Chris Hastings and Andrew Alderson, David Abrahams' glory days as Blair ally, The Daily Telegraph, 3 December 2007
- ↑ Leon Symons and the JC Reporting Team, David Abrahams gave in secret ‘to quell conspiracy fears’, Jewish Chronicle, 7 December 2007; Haroon Siddique, Jewish Chronicle defends its coverage of David Abrahams, The Guardian, 7 December 2007
- ↑ Bernard Josephs, Labour donor calls Hain row ‘rubbish’, The Jewish Chronicle, 18 January 2008; Speech by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw at the Labour Friends of Israel Annual Lunch, 13 March 2002
- ↑ "Pro-Israel lobby group bankrolling Tories, film claims"
- ↑ "MPs ﬂock to support Labour Israel group"
- ↑ "The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel"
- ↑ "Those of us who care for Israeli democracy unite against Benjamin Netanyahu"