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 August 2018[update] it includes about 80 MPs from either the Labour Party or from Change UK - The Independent Group, or who sit as independents.
|Purpose||Promotes support for a strong bilateral relationship between Britain and Israel|
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.
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.
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.
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
- Dari Taylor
- Gary Titley
- Glenis Willmott, Vice Chair of LFI
- Lord Winston
- Iain Wright, former Chair of LFI (2006)
- Lord Young of Norwood Green
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- Official website
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- Speech by Gordon Brown to the LFI Annual Reception, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 25 September 2007