Labour Friends of Israel

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Group.png Labour Friends of Israel   Powerbase Sourcewatch WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
FounderDoug Hoyle
SloganWorking Towards a Two-State Solution
Interest ofLuke Akehurst, Keir Starmer
Membership• Steve McCabe
• Rosie Cooper
• Chris Evans
• Sharon Hodgson
• Diana Johnson
• Peter Kyle
• Pat McFadden
• Conor McGinn
• Catherine McKinnell
• Rachel Reeves
• John Spellar
• Meta Ramsay
• Jonathan Reynolds
• Mike Amesbury
• Fleur Anderson
• Hilary Benn
• Nick Brown
• Chris Bryant
• Liam Byrne
• Neil Coyle
• Feryal Clark
• Yvette Cooper
• Jon Cruddas
• Janet Daby
• Wayne David
• Angela Eagle
• Maria Eagle
• Chris Elmore
• Florence Eshalomi
• Barry Gardiner
• Preet Gill
• Mary Glindon
• Lilian Greenwood
• Nia Griffith
• Andrew Gwynne
• Carolyn Harris
• Fabian Hamilton
• Margaret Hodge
• George Howarth
• Lindsay Hoyle
• Dan Jarvis
• Darren Jones
• Kevan Jones
• Mike Kane
• Liz Kendall
• David Lammy
• Kim Leadbeater
• Chris Matheson
• Siobhain McDonagh
• Stephen Morgan
• Alex Norris
• Taiwo Owatemi
• Toby Perkins
• Jess Phillips
• Bridget Phillipson
• Lucy Powell
• Virendra Sharma
• Barry Sheerman
• Jeff Smith
• Karin Smyth
• Keir Starmer
• Wes Streeting
• Graham Stringer
• Gareth Thomas
• Emily Thornberry
• Karl Turner
• Derek Twigg
• Christian Wakeford
• Rosie Winterton
• Tony Blair
• Gordon Brown

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.[1]

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.[2] Two of its leading members, Michael Levy, and David Abrahams, have been embroiled in major scandals involving the New Labour government in recent years. [3]

LFI's director since September 2020 is Michael Rubin.[4]


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. [5] 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. [6]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' [7]. 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.[8] 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.[9]

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 [10]. 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.[11] 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. [12]

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)[13]. 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.[14] 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”'.[15] 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.[16]

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".[17] 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.

2016 onwards

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.[18]

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.[19]

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]


Known members

23 of the 71 of the members already have pages here:

Hilary BennWarmongering son of the great peace and social justice activist Tony Benn, proving that the apple sometimes land far from the tree.
Tony BlairRemarkably 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 BrownUK deep state functionary. Prime Minister from 2007-2010. WHO ambassador for Global Health Financing from 2021
Chris BryantPrivate school-educated Labour MP for Rhondda
Liam Byrne
Rosie CooperFormer Labour MP
Yvette CooperChair of the Home Affairs Select Committee
Angela EagleUK Labour Party MP
Maria EagleBritish Labour MP who held several ministerial appointments in Tony Blair's government
Barry GardinerShadow International Trade Secretary under Jeremy Corbyn
Margaret Hodge
George Howarth
Lindsay Hoyle
Darren Jones
Kevan JonesLabour defence politician with safe establishment views
Liz KendallBlairite Labour party leadership contender in 2015, Member of Parliament for Leicester West
David LammyEnglish Labour Party politician, WEF/GLT/2002, publicly apologised for nominating Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader
Kim Leadbeater
Lucy PowellLabour MP, frontbencher under Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer. "Social media anti-vax misinformation is a matter of life or death"
Rachel ReevesRachel Reeves coined the term 'Securonomics'<a href="#cite_note-1">[1]</a>
Virendra Sharma
Keir StarmerA suspected deep state operative, who as Director of Public Prosecutions failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile but pressed on with charges against Julian Assange.
Emily Thornberry


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  1. "Welcome to Labour Friends of Israel"
  2. Andrew Pierce, “Blair's chance to raise cash for Pounds 1m refund”, The Times, 18 November 1997
  3. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, The shadowy role of Labour Friends of Israel, The Independent, 3 December 2007
  4. "Labour Friends of Israel director to step down"
  5. David Cracknell, “Byers plots a comeback with pro-Israel pressure group”, Sunday Times, 4 August 2002
  6. Peter McKay, “How Tony has let us all down”, Daily Mail, 20 March 2000
  7. Andrew Porter, The Business, 30 June 2002
  8. Michael White, “Downing St denies pressure to gag Robinson”, The Guardian, October 21, 1999
  9. 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
  10. Kevin Maguire and Ewen MacAskill , Fundraiser's role as envoy under attack, The Guardian, 1 October, 2001
  11. John Pilger, Blair's meeting with Arafat served to disguise his support for Sharon and the Zionist project, New Statesman, 14 January, 2002
  12. Neil Sammonds, British culpability and the shadow of Canary Wharf, ZNet,April 10, 2002
  13. Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Is Levy a victim of racism?, The Independent, 11 March 2007
  14. Chris Hastings and Andrew Alderson, David Abrahams' glory days as Blair ally, The Daily Telegraph, 3 December 2007
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. "Pro-Israel lobby group bankrolling Tories, film claims"
  18. "MPs flock to support Labour Israel group"
  19. "The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel"
  20. "Those of us who care for Israeli democracy unite against Benjamin Netanyahu"