Supporters desert Labour Friends of Israel

Labour MPs Catherine West and Tulip Siddiq.

Updated since publication.

Two parliamentary supporters of Labour Friends of Israel have distanced themselves from the group – an Israeli embassy front – as outrage has grown over its support for the massacre of dozens of protesters in Gaza on Monday.

Writing on Twitter, LFI had blamed the Israeli massacre on Palestinian political and resistance group Hamas.

At her request, member of Parliament Catherine West’s name was removed from the group’s list of supporters overnight on Wednesday.

West has issued a statement condemning the massacre.

And in an email seen by The Electronic Intifada, Tulip Siddiq, another Labour MP, told a constituent questioning her support for the group that she had never “signed up to be a member” in the first place and would “check this with the organization.”

She reiterated this claim in a local Labour Party meeting Wednesday night, according to an activist who was present.

At the time this article was published, Siddiq was still listed on their site as a supporter. But the day after, Siddiq’s name was removed from LFI’s list of supporters.

Labour Friends of Israel, West and Siddiq did not reply to emails requesting comment. Siddiq’s office did not answer a call. West’s office declined to comment.

On Thursday night, Labour Friends of Israel told Labour news site The Skwawkbox that their article following up on this story was “incorrect.”

LFI provided a screenshot of a 2017 email from one of Siddiq’s staffers saying that they had “just spoken with Tulip and she’s fine to have her name added as a supporter.” Siddiq responded in a comment to the news site that “in light of recent events, I’ve asked LFI to remove my name as a supporter.”

The email was redacted by The Skwawkbox, but The Electronic Intifada understands it was sent by Jay Stoll, Siddiq’s senior assistant and a former officer for anti-Palestinian lobby group, the Jewish Leadership Council.

The Skwawkbox reported earlier on Thursday that West had written to LFI “to suspend my membership.”

The LFI tweet was so widely repudiated by Labour Party activists that the next day the group deleted it and replaced it with a vaguer statement condemning Hamas and the “cycle of violence.”

More than 60 Palestinians were fatally shot in Gaza by Israeli snipers on Monday, including seven children.

The protests were held on the eve of Nakba Day, and were part of weeks of protests calling for an end to the siege of Gaza and the return of Palestinian refugees to lands and homes from which Israel expelled and excludes them because they are not Jewish.

Monday’s massacre coincided with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, which Palestinians and much of the world strongly oppose as a violation of international law.

Despite West previously stating that she was “proud to be a member of Labour Friends of Israel,” unlike its sister organization in the ruling Conservative Party, LFI has no membership sign-up scheme – although it does solicit donations.

Instead it lists Labour lawmakers as “supporters.” The process by which it does this is unclear. Labour Friends of Israel has no official status within Labour as a formal affiliate.

Outrage

But as extensively reported by The Electronic Intifada, LFI is actually a well-funded front organization for the Israeli embassy.

Michael Rubin, the group’s parliamentary officer, admitted to an undercover reporter in 2016 that LFI is at least partly funded by the embassy and “we do work really, really closely together.”

Explaining that a lot of that work was “behind the scenes,” Rubin asserted that “publicly we just try to keep the LFI as a separate identity to the embassy.”

The group has played a central role in the propaganda campaign to smear the Labour Party under left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn as “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

LFI’s chairperson Joan Ryan even went so far as to fabricate an allegation of anti-Semitism in order to smear a Labour Party activist who questioned the group’s approach towards Israel’s settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

One of LFI’s highest-ranking “supporters” is Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow foreign minister.

But the massacre was too much for her to support, and she issued the party’s statement condemning it “unreservedly.”

Although she called for holding “the Netanyahu government to account for their actions,” the statement stopped short of any concrete measures which would do that.

Separately, party leader Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement pledging that “Labour is committed to reviewing UK arms sales to Israel while these violations continue.”

Last year Thornberry gave a speech to Labour Friends of Israel in which she condemned attempts to hold Israel to account with boycotts as “bigotry.”

The speech echoed many other common Israeli government talking points, including the racist anti-Palestinian myth that nothing existed in Palestine before Israel was founded apart from “deserts.”

Other lawmakers listed as “supporters” of LFI have come under fire.

Barry Gardiner, another Labour shadow minister, criticized Israel’s “brutal” actions on Twitter. Many of the replies are by his supporters calling for him to distance himself from LFI.

Israel’s actions make it so toxic now that even many “good friends of Israel” – as one prominent activist on the hard right of Labour put it on Thursday – have little choice but to publicly distance themselves.

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I have this info from an ex labour MP. He went to a drinks party in the Commons. It turned out it was hosted by this lot. Next thing he knew, his name was added to the list of LFI just for showing up for a drink without any 'positive action' on his part.

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That being the case, it's high time that people listed as supporters of this fifth column for apartheid publicly disavow any further association with them. In every constituency, party members should demand a severing of all ties with LFI on the part of Labour MPs and candidates.

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Tulip Siddiq is a liar and a supporter of repression and corruption in Bangladesh

She is a fully signed up Zionist who is too cowardly to defend their present position - don't be fooled

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In that your supporters and our group share many goals in common, those sympathetic with these views and work may wish to check out our group - The Doubting Thomases is a secular non-partisan organization concerned with social justice, ecology and human rights. Our goal is to inform people of the facts behind media headlines where possible and when such facts are unclear - to encourage questioning popular narratives spun to justify war, oppression and the rule of corporatacracy. To combine our efforts with other like-minded groups and those who share similar concerns - you are invited to check out our facebook site to view articles we post daily.

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Tarek Loubani, Canadian physician in Gaza stated - there have been enough investigations (they have piles of them). What is needed is to rebuild Gaza's infrastructure. The only problem - if countries were to support such a project - no sooner would it be rebuilt - the Israelis would destroy with one of their typical recurring massacres. As Norman Finkelstein pointed out - the Israeli assaults and numbers killed in previous massacres were much larger, but because the March of Return is more visible Israel cannot as effectively fall back on its usual propaganda tactics even though it continues to do so and most Americans and many Canadians continue to fall for the gags. On the other hand more North Americans appear to be catching on to the fact that they have been totally brainwashed by mainstream media which continues to sing the same songs they always have.

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What does it say about THEM? The fact they *were* LFI in the first place? Do they not have eyes, ears (two brain cells between them) to recognise every human rights abuse possible, inflicted on the Palestinians for decades at the hands of a brutal *regime*? Where were they during Op Cast Lead? 'Pillar of (so called) Defence, & every other sick name they conjure up, in their delusional Chosen People' drivel? Anyone else would be sectioned for their OWN safety, let alone anyone else. Truth is, writings on the wall for Rogue State 'IsraFAIL'. These two hypocrites are 'hopping on the right side of history' while they can. Unfortunately for them, *Never Forget* is a two way street. We won't.

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The LFI website still lists John Woodcock as one of the LFI officers, despite the fact that Woodcock is no longer a Labour MP, after having the whip withdrawn in April 2018.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.