“High-level” Israel lobby interference in British politics, says ex-minister

Alan Duncan on a 2012 visit to Gaza. (Shareef Sarhan/UNRWA)

In a new book, Britain’s former deputy foreign minister Alan Duncan accuses the Israel lobby of “disgusting interference in our public life.”

Speaking to the Mail+ website this week Duncan said that lobby group Conservative Friends of Israel “interfere at a high level in British politics in the interest of Israel, on the back of donor power within the UK.”

He told journalist Michael Crick that this is “a sort of buried scandal that has to stop.”

Duncan’s new book In The Thick of It was serialized by the Daily Mail this week. The book comprises his diaries from his time in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Duncan writes that Conservative Friends of Israel successfully vetoed his appointment as Middle East minister in 2016. Then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told him that Conservative Friends of Israel were “going ballistic” at the prospect, Duncan writes.

“It is for no other reason than that I believe in the rights of Palestinians and it’s quite clear that they don’t,” he adds. “They just want to belittle and subjugate the Palestinians.”

Duncan was instead appointed as minister of state for foreign affairs – effectively deputy to the foreign secretary.

Duncan’s diary records that he was offered the role – which “they insist is the most serious portfolio” – because “everyone is very concerned that I might immediately resign and cause a massive stink about this outside interference” by the Israel lobby.

Fear of the lobby

In his interview with Crick, Duncan said Conservative Friends of Israel push “a sort of Netanyahu type view of Israeli politics into our foreign policy.”

“A lot of things do not happen in foreign policy, or a government, for fear of offending this lobby,” he added.

According to Duncan, Conservative Friends of Israel presents the issues it wants to lobby on as “too hot to handle” and as linked to donor money which comes into the Conservative Party.

Duncan was a member of Parliament for 27 years before stepping down ahead of the 2019 general election.

Conservative Friends of Israel has claimed in the past that 80 percent of Conservative MPs are members. Its funding sources are opaque, but are thought to be mostly wealthy pro-Israel businessmen in the UK.

In January 2017 an undercover series filmed by Al Jazeera revealed that Duncan had been on a hit list of British MPs that an Israeli embassy agent wanted to “take down.”

Israeli embassy spy Shai Masot and civil servant Maria Strizzolo were caught on undercover camera conspiring to engineer “a little scandal” for Duncan, who was the first openly gay Conservative MP.

Masot was thrown under the bus by the embassy and sent back to Tel Aviv. Strizzolo quit her government job.

Priti Patel

Later in 2017, then international development minister Priti Patel was forced to quit by Prime Minister Theresa May, after breaking government rules during a “holiday” to Israel.

Ex-minister Alan Duncan’s new book excoriates the current home secretary Priti Patel as “deceitful, morally corrupt” and “despicable” over her 2017 visit to Israel. (Pippa Fowles/No 10 Downing Street)

Patel – who is now back in government as home secretary – held 12 undisclosed meetings with Israeli ministers and business leaders.

Her meetings included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself. Patel had not declared the meetings to British officials or had them minuted in the normal fashion.

According to UK government rules, ministerial meetings discussing official business should be attended and recorded by civil servants – whose role is to serve the government in a nonpartisan fashion.

After initially lying about the affair, Patel later admitted her actions “fell below the standards of transparency and openness” expected of ministers.

In his diaries recounting his view of the 2017 incident, Duncan accuses “Priti Horrendous” of being “deceitful, morally corrupt” and “quite despicable.”

“She has engaged offline with a foreign government over issues of policy,” he writes. “It is contemptible.”

Patel’s meetings were arranged by Stuart Polak, a leading Conservative Friends of Israel lobbyist.

The BBC reported at the time that “some ministers and MPs accused Ms. Patel of trying to win favor with wealthy pro-Israeli Conservative donors who could fund a potential future leadership campaign.”

In his book Duncan describes Polak as “the principal pro-Israel donor lobbyist in the UK.”

It is Polak that Duncan excoriates for vetoing his appointment to the Middle East desk, along with fellow lobbyist and Conservative politician Eric Pickles: “Clearly Pickles and Polak have been lobbying against me. This is the most disgusting interference in our public life.”




This is the problem for the totalitarian mentality, which is that of Judaic fundamentalists: it needs only one person to break ranks and the entire circus is exposed. Duncan is an honest man, to a degree. He isn't honest when it comes to Tory policy in general, but when the nastiness is directed at him, when's he's a target because he's gay and is willing to be moderately critical of the Israeli State, then he finds enough honesty, and courage to say what no one else in the Tory Party will utter. Of course, this sheds a bright light on events in the Labour Party. If a man of the Right, who veers a few metres from official Tory policy, has to be "taken down" by the Israelis, then what wonder Corbyn engenders wild hysteria among the followers of Herzl? What Ducan has revealed about his own case makes it beyond belief that the claims of "institutional anti-Semitism" in Labour were not motivated in the same way. Here is a leading Tory pointing out that the Israeli lobby has the power to influence government policy, that is, to suborn democracy. Who can now not agree with Corbyn that the claims of anti-Semitism in Labour have been exaggerated? Yet Corbyn is denied the whip by a leader who kisses the backside of the B o D, prostrates himself before a corrupt and vicious Israeli machine which lies, cheats, threatens, manipulates and cares nothing for democracy or due process. Duncan is right: this right-wing Israeli lobby working at heart of our democracy is a mess and a scandal. It needs to be shut down. The B o D needs to be put in its place ie as body which represents hardly anyone. The CST needs to be exposed as a front for spying on British citizens. The whole shabby, despicable show needs to be derailed and above all, Starmer needs to shamed into admitting he has sided with malicious bullies. Duncan may be a Tory but his stance on Palestinian rights puts the dismal Labour leadership to shame. Free Palestine.


Just wished to say how well that all read, Duncan. The level of myopia within the parties in Britain for Israeli abuses world wide is astounding and can
only suggest a secretive, Western 'agenda' regarding the Middle-East.



Conservative "Friends of Israel", Donor Lobbyists ? Brown Envelopes galore. Conservative Bribery and Corruption. What does Israel get out of it ? Sniper Rifles for killing and maiming Palestinian Children.
The real purpose of Israeli Bribes to the Conservatives like Boris and Friends is to make sure that They stay "On Message" with America`s Ally in the Middle East ,and it`s Nazi Agenda.


Sorry to hear what has happened to Alan Duncan, I empathize!

I am afraid there is "much of a muchness" when it comes to both Conservative and Labour Friends of (Apartheid) Israel. They are both implicated in smearing or cancelling out the voices of those who stand up for the rights of Palestinians.

I recently emailed Dame Diana Johnson (Friends of Israel) to highlight the medical apartheid treatment of Palestinian haemophiliacs (whom I have interviewed) and my concerns over use of Pegasus Israeli spyware regarding campaigners and NGOs. I was accused of "anti -semitic conspiracy theories" which I strongly deny! Hardly a conspiracy theory when apartheid Israel is well documented by Amnesty, B'Tselem, Harvard and others and a legal case is now being launched re use of Pegasus.

Johnson seems determined to also cancel me out of my own 3 decade campaign history regarding the Contaminated Blood scandal. She and other Friends of Israel sat on my awarded research for years... (now being used by UK's biggest ever Public Inquiry, the Infected Blood Inquiry)... and surprise, surprise, Johnson was recently made a Dame... for her work on Contaminated Blood!

It seems I am an inconvenient person to be exposing the wrongdoing of governments particularly given my campaigning in other important areas such as Palestinian rights, writing on Gaza and Elbit protests plus a supporter of BDS.

So in 2017, enter a new campaigner of Jewish heritage to rehash my research changing the dates of discovery and plagiarising my work. A campaigner new on the scene suddenly supported by a major PR company. Now I am cancelled out by national media (though local are very good with me). I pulled out of Telegraph podcast after being interviewed by wife of pro Zionist journalist Jonathan Freedland due to this paper missing out 2 decades of key evidence from their version of our history! (I feel more by design than accident.) Who can trust Friends of Israel and mainstream media these days?

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).