Labour Friends of Israel
Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) is a group in the Parliament of the United Kingdom that promotes support for a strong bilateral relationship between Britain and Israel, and seeks to strengthen ties between the British Labour Party and the Israeli Labor Party. LFI supports a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, with Israel recognised and secure within its borders, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. As of May 2019[update] it includes about 80 MPs from either the Labour Party or from Change UK, or who sit as independents.
|Purpose||Promotes support for a strong bilateral relationship between Britain and Israel|
|Dame Louise Ellman|
LFI was founded in 1957 at the Labour Party Conference, and has developed into one of the larger special interest groups in the party, drawing wide support from Members of Parliament and Government Ministers. Labour Friends of Israel has a large membership, organised into local branches. Seeking to strengthen the bond between the Labour Party and the Israeli Labor Party, it organises meetings of senior figures in both the UK and Israel.
New Labour-era and height of prominence
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 2011, LFI adopted a new strategy of becoming a wider membership organisation and operating under the slogan "Working Towards a Two-State Solution". In 2010, Jennifer Gerber, previously director of Progress, was appointed director, and in 2011 John Woodcock was appointed chair. Dame Anne McGuire succeeded Woodcock as chair in May 2013. In 2015, Joan Ryan became Chair.
Corbyn-era and divisions within party
With the ascent to the leadership of the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn, who has a history of support for Palestinians, the relationship between the LFI and the party leadership became more complicated. In 2015, Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield North, succeeded McGuire, becoming the new chair. Members of LFI, along with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, have taken part in protests critical of the Corbyn leadership, stating that antisemitism is present in the Labour Party under his tenure.
LFI had been depleted of Parliamentary supporters who had lost their seats at the 2015 general election. In 2016 LFI announced it had trebled its number of Parliamentary supporters, at a time when many moderate MPs rebelled against the leadership of the party, stating that 65 MPs had pledged to back the group. 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 looked at the Israel lobby in the United Kingdom and the Labour Party especially. 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 February 2019, 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. Its Lay Chair is 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.
The charitable Yigal Allon Educational Trust, founded in 1985 by former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Ian Mikardo MP, Lord Glenamara and others, has supported Labour Friends of Israel. Labour Friends of Israel is a distinct organisation to the Jewish Labour Movement, the affiliated socialist society and successor to the UK's Poale Zion.
Members of LFI
As of August 2018, around 80 MPs and 20 members of the House of Lords were supporters. In alphabetical order, former and current members of Labour Friends of Israel include:
- David Abrahams, former Treasurer
- Lord Archer of Sandwell
- Sir Stuart Bell
- Luciana Berger, former Director of LFI
- Tony Blair, former Prime Minister
- David Blunkett, former Home Secretary
- Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister
- Chris Bryant and former Minister for Europe
- Stephen Byers, former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
- Wayne David
- Andrew Dismore 
- Michael Dugher
- Louise Ellman, Vice Chair of LFI 
- Derek Foster
- Lord Foulkes
- Mike Gapes, former Vice Chair of LFI (2004)
- Barry Gardiner, former Vice-Chair of LFI
- Anthony Greenwood, first Chair of LFI (1957)
- Andrew Gwynne, Chair of LFI (2010)
- Fabian Hamilton
- Baroness Hayman
- Margaret Hodge
- Joan Humble
- Barbara Keeley
- Jane Kennedy, Chair of LFI (2007)
- Ivan Lewis, former Vice-Chair of LFI 
- Lord Macdonald of Tradeston
- Denis MacShane
- Michael McCann, Vice-Chair of LFI
- Anne McGuire, Chair of LFI (2013)
- Jonathan Mendelsohn, former Chair of LFI (2002)
- Alun Michael, former Leader of the Welsh Labour Party
- Andrew Miller
- Jim Murphy, former Chair of LFI (2001), former Secretary of State for Scotland 
- Dan Norris
- Nick Palmer
- Jess Phillips
- James Purnell, former Chair of LFI, former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 
- Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale
- John Reid, former Home Secretary (2007)
- Rachel Reeves
- Terry Rooney
- Joan Ryan, Chair of LFI
- Dari Taylor
- Gary Titley
- Glenis Willmott, Vice Chair of LFI
- Lord Winston
- Iain Wright, former Chair of LFI (2006)
- Lord Young of Norwood Green
- Harpin, Lee (7 August 2019). "Dame Louise Ellman becomes new Labour Friends of Israel chair". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
- Oborne, Peter and Jones, James (16 November 2009). "Friends in high places". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 January 2010.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Labour Friends of Israel (8 December 2008). "Labour Friends of Israel – 50 Years".
- "Labour Friends Of Israel website – about us". 1 August 2003. Archived from the original on 1 August 2003. Retrieved 10 December 2008.
- Black, Ian (16 November 2009). "Pro-Israel lobby group bankrolling Tories, film claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
- Marcus Dysch (7 September 2010). "New strategy for Labour Friends of Israel". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
- Bright, Martin (13 January 2011). "Israel friends change tack and relaunch". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
- Dysch, Marcus (19 October 2011). "Labour Friends go to Israel". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
- "Stirling MP Anne McGuire to chair Labour Friends of Israel". The Jewish Chronicle. 9 May 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
- Harpin, Lee (7 August 2019). "Dame Louise Ellman becomes new Labour Friends of Israel chair". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
- Marcus Dysch (10 August 2015). "Don't vote for Jeremy Corbyn, urges new Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
- "U.K Labour Party pro-Israel Group Triples Support Ahead of Relaunch". Haaretz. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
- Dysch, Marcus (22 September 2016). "MPs ﬂock to support Labour Israel group". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
- "The Lobby". Al Jazeera. January 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Ewen MacAskill (8 January 2017). "Israeli diplomat who plotted against MPs also set up political groups". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Justin Cohen (21 March 2017). "Labour dismiss complaint against Joan Ryan MP over Al Jazeera series". Jewish News. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- "Adrian Cohen". Jewish Leadership Council. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
- "Yigal Allon Educational Trust". Stone Ashdown Trust. Archived from the original on 9 November 2009. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
- Charity Commission. Yigal Allon Educational Trust, registered charity no. 327009.
- "LFI Supporters In Parliament". Labour Friends of Israel. Labour Friends of Israel. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
- Symons, Leon; et al. "David Abrahams gave in secret 'to quell conspiracy fears'". The Jewish Chronicle. Archived from the original on 9 December 2007.
- "Who We Are". Labour Friends of Israel. Archived from the original on 27 July 2008.
- Bell, Stuart (30 January 2008). "Sir Stuart Bell MP, Biography". Archived from the original on 30 January 2008.
- "Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson could run for parliament in Liverpool". Liverpool Echo. 5 February 2010. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
- Assaf Uni, Finance scandal has local community worried, Haaretz, 10 December 2007.
- Temko, Ned, Behind-the-scenes group's unerring knack of backing the right man, The Guardian, 2 December 2007.
- Brown, Gordon (25 September 2007). "Speech by Gordon Brown to the LFI Annual Reception". Labour Friends of Israel. Archived from the original on 19 December 2007.
- Wright, Oliver (10 October 2010). "Anger grows within Labour over forced Palestinian vote". The Independent. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- Gapes, Mike (4 July 2001). "House of Commons Hansard Debates". House of Commons, UK.
- H. M. Cabinet Office (2003). "Speaker Biographies, Ivan Lewis MP".
- Dysch, Marcus (25 February 2015). "Labour MP Michael McCann calls for total Hamas ban". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
- Hope, Christopher (9 February 2007). "Jon Mendelsohn profile: a real Mr Fix-It". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
- Mulholland, Hélène (3 October 2008). "Profile – Jim Murphy". The Guardian.
- "Five days in Israel – James Purnell MP, chairman of Labour Friends of Israel, visits a kibbutz, meets Ehud Barak and attends a peace conference in Tel Aviv". The Guardian. 12 December 2002.
- Kite, Melissa and Hennessy, Patrick (5 January 2005). "David Blunkett to return to the Cabinet in major reshuffle". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 23 November 2007.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Official website
- "General Election – 1 May 1997". Labour Friends of Israel. 1997. Archived from the original on 29 January 1999.
- Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (2 November 2005). "United Kingdom and Israel Share the Same Democratic Values". Labour Friends of Israel event speech. Archived from the original on 28 December 2005.
- Blair, Tony (26 September 2006). "Speech by PM Tony Blair to LFI Annual Reception". Labour Friends of Israel. Archived from the original on 11 July 2007.
- Speech by Gordon Brown to the LFI Annual Reception, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 25 September 2007