Labour Friends of Israel hides “supporters” list ahead of election

Three women pose for the camera

Labour lawmaker Jess Phillips posing in 2017 with a member of Israel’s parliament and Labour Friends of Israel’s then chairperson Joan Ryan. (LFI)

Israeli embassy front group Labour Friends of Israel has deleted its public list of “Parliamentary supporters” ahead of the UK’s upcoming general election on 4 July.

The deletion appears to be a way to protect pro-Israel Labour candidates from electorial challengers on their left flank.

But copies of the list made as recently as 5 April are still available on internet archives. You can also read a full copy of the most recent list at the end of this article.

It seems likely that the list will be updated and republished later this year after the election.

Labour Friends of Israel did not respond to a request for comment.

The deletion came to light on Monday when right-wing Labour lawmaker Jess Phillips denied in a posting on X (formerly Twitter) that she was a “member” of the group or had “taken money.”

“I’m not a member of LFI I don’t know what being a member even is,” she wrote. It is unclear whether Phillips is denying having taken money from Labour Friends of Israel or from the Israel lobby generally.

But as X users were quick to point out, Phillips was indeed listed as a parliamentary supporter of Labour Friends of Israel until the list was hidden.

Phillips is facing a challenge in her local Birmingham constituency from Jody McIntyre, a veteran Palestine solidarity activist who even reported from Palestine for The Electronic Intifada 15 years ago.

McIntyre is the candidate for George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain.

It seems likely that Phillips is being deliberately obtuse, in an attempt to escape accountability on a technicality.

While it’s true that Labour Friends of Israel does not have “members” per se, it certainly has a long list of lawmakers who – until very recently – were listed on their website as “LFI Parliamentary supporters.”

“LFI is proud to be supported by Labour parliamentarians in the UK parliament, Scottish parliament, Welsh Senedd and local government who support our values and aims,” the list began.

The list certainly includes Phillips, who appears to have been a supporter of the Israel lobby group for many years.

As recently as October she was described in a Labour Friends of Israel Twitter posting as “LFI parliamentary supporter @jessphillips.” LFI also posted a clip of Phillips in Parliament calling for supporters of Palestinian resistance to face “the full force of the law.”

Phillips was a one of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s most ardent opponents and she did her best to sabotage his leadership from within, even once boasting to Owen Jones that she told Corbyn she would “knife you in the front.’”

She played a big part in fanning the flames of the fake “Labour anti-Semitism” smear campaign, which was designed by Israel and its lobby to remove Corbyn, a Palestine solidarity activist.

In a 2019 interview with Channel 4 News, Phillips claimed that it was “anti-Semitism” when a Young Labour account posted “Palestine Lives” after LFI’s chairperson Joan Ryan quit Labour citing Corbyn’s supposed “demonization and delegitimization” of Israel.

Phillips did not respond to a request for comment asking to clarify whether she was denying taking any donations from LFI or from the Israel lobby in general.

Phillips says she supports a ceasefire in Gaza, but she also says she’s in favor of Israeli military action in Gaza which is “proportionally targeted,” even echoing the typical Israeli propaganda line about its non-existent “right to defend itself.”

Labour’s Gaza problem

In a February byelection, Workers Party leader George Galloway overturned a 9,500 vote Labour majority to win Rochdale, a seat in England’s northwest with a relatively high Muslim population.

Galloway is a veteran Palestine solidarity activist and lawmaker who was kicked out of Labour by then prime minister Tony Blair in 2003 after opposing the invasion of Iraq.

Israel’s genocide in Gaza looks set to remain a major electoral problem for the Labour Party – the UK’s main opposition party, which is widely expected to win the election.

Labour’s leader Keir Starmer has raked in millions in donations for his party from wealthy Israel lobbyist and South African apartheid profiteer Gary Lubner.

When he ran for leader of the party in 2020 Starmer made clear that “I support Zionism without qualification.”

In October, Starmer claimed live on national radio that Israel had the “right” to starve everyone in Gaza – a notorious statement that he has since then desperately tried to walk back, with little success.

Labour Friends of Israel is so unpopular on a grassroots level that it has been unable to sustain a membership structure for decades. On their website there’s no way to apply for membership or pay dues. Instead, LFI declares MPs and other lawmakers as their “supporters,” listing them as such online, and lobbying them to make declarations and speeches.

As I explained in my book Weaponising Anti-Semitism, while LFI claimed to have about 700 members in the early 1970s, there was already an exodus by the end of the decade.

“The decline of LFI’s membership led its director, in an internal report, to write that 1992 ‘came near to seeing the end of LFI as an active body.’”

It was revived by Tony Blair in the 1990s, and (along with the Jewish Labour Movement) was used by the Israeli embassy as a front group to fight Jeremy Corbyn in the late 2010s.

Although unpopular with the electorate, LFI appears to have totally captured the Labour Party.

No less than 17 of Keir Starmer’s 31 shadow cabinet members, the Labour MPs most likely to form the next government if their party wins the election, are on the most recent LFI supporters list.

These include Starmer himself as well as Rachel Reeves, Yvette Cooper and David Lammy – all three potential candidates for the so-called “great offices of state,” finance, home, and foreign offices respectively.


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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).