Claim: Israel Lobby Funded Half Of Keir Starmer’s Cabinet

Pro-Israel lobbyists have donated to 13 out of Labour’s 25 cabinet members since they were first elected to parliament,  John McEvoy from Declassified reveals.

The list of recipients includes prime minister Keir Starmer, his deputy Angela Rayner,  chancellor Rachel Reeves, foreign secretary David Lammy and home secretary Yvette Cooper.

Jonathan Reynolds, who will oversee arms exports to Israel as UK trade secretary, is another beneficiary, alongside Labour’s election mastermind Pat McFadden, whose responsibilities now include national security.

Some of the donations were provided by Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), a lobby group which takes MPs on “fact-finding” missions to the region.

Reeves, McFadden, Reynolds and technology secretary Peter Kyle were recently listed as vice-chairs of LFI.

Other major funders include pro-Israel businessmen Gary Lubner, Trevor Chinn, and Stuart Roden.

The total value of the donations amounts to over £600,000.

Labour Friends of Israel 

LFI does not disclose its funders, but was revealed during an undercover Al Jazeera documentary in 2017 to have close relations with the Israeli embassy in London.

The organisation’s parliamentary officer, Michael Rubin, was secretly filmed saying LFI and the Israeli embassy “work really closely together, but a lot of it is behind the scenes”.

Joan Ryan, a former Labour MP and LFI chair, was also filmed discussing a potential £1m payment with an Israeli embassy official.

Seven members of Starmer’s cabinet have accepted LFI funding to visit Israel, including Reeves, Lammy, and health secretary Wes Streeting.

While Starmer has not received funding from LFI, he has addressed a number of the organisation’s events.

In a keynote speech to its annual lunch in November 2021, he repeated the racist and colonial adage that Israel was founded by “social democrats who made the desert flower”.

In October 2023, Starmer said that LFI was “an invaluable source of energy and ideas for me and my team”.

His health chief Streeting meets regularly with LFI inside Westminster, according to Middle East Eye.

Israel lobby organisations have also funded advisers to Starmer’s cabinet team.

The European Leadership Network (ELNET), a lobby group which aims to strengthen ties between Israel and Europe, has paid for Streeting and Bridget Phillipson’s parliamentary staffers to visit Israel.

A parliamentary adviser who went on the delegation told openDemocracy: “there was a clear and obvious agenda to make sure people had a pro-Israel stance going into government”.

The staffer added that, after returning from the trip, a senior figure at the Israeli embassy asked: “Did you enjoy the trip we sent you on?”

ELNET’s funders include the American billionaire Bernie Marcus, who is a supporter of Donald Trump and a major donor to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Pro-Israel businessmen

Nine members of Starmer’s top team have accepted funding from pro-Israel business figures.

One of the key donors is Trevor Chinn, a British multi-millionaire who has spent decades working in the motor industry, chairing such organisations as the AA, the RAC, and Kwikfit.

Chinn is a longstanding pro-Israel lobbyist. Since the 1980s, he has funded LFI and Conservative Friends of Israel.

Recently declassified files reveal how Chinn repeatedly lobbied John Major’s government on its policy towards Israel during the early 1990s.

“He can be quite a tough protagonist of the Israeli cause and is by no means a dove”, one Foreign Office official wrote about Chinn in November 1991.

“My own feeling is that he is not very subtly tuned into the Israeli political scene, although he meets a number of leaders through his fund-raising activities”, the diplomat continued, indicating a close relationship between Chinn and the Israeli state.

Chinn’s father, Rosser Chinn, was the president of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in Britain.

“My own feeling is that he is not very subtly tuned into the Israeli political scene”

The JNF is a quasi-governmental organisation which has supported illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine, and was described by historian Ilan Pappé as a “colonialist agency of ethnic cleansing”.

Chinn provided £50,000 towards Starmer’s campaign to become Labour leader in 2020.

He has also donated to Reeves, Rayner, Lammy, Streeting, Phillipson, and Lisa Nandy, the former chair of Labour Friends of Palestine and now culture secretary.

Other beneficiaries include work and pensions secretary Liz Kendall and environment secretary Steve Reed. The total value of these donations from Chinn is over £180,000.

Another significant funder is Gary Lubner, a former policeman in apartheid South Africa and major donor to the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA).

Lubner has given around £6m to the Labour party since Starmer became leader, including £900,000 towards its election war chest. Some £350,000 of Lubner’s donations were directed to the offices of Lammy, Reeves, and Cooper.

A third pro-Israel tycoon, former hedge fund manager Stuart Roden, has donated over £1m to Labour since 2023, with £80,000 supporting the office costs of Phillipson and Nandy.

Attorney general

One of Starmer’s surprise new appointments is Richard Hermer, a barrister who will sit in the cabinet as attorney general.

Whereas Starmer argued that Israel had “that right” to cut off water and power to Gaza, Hermer was among a group of prominent Jewish lawyers who wrote a letter in October 2023 urging Israel to remember its “international obligations”.

The letter noted how “collective punishment is prohibited by the laws of war”, while “international law requires combatants to ensure minimum destruction to civilian life and infrastructure”.

He also told LBC that “it is almost impossible to conceive of how a siege that deprives a civilian population of the basic necessities of life… is in compliance with international law”.

Before that, Hermer had highlighted how the Conservative government’s anti-boycott bill was “in certain respects inconsistent with our obligations under international law”.

“Had this bill been in force during the 1980s, this would have been very likely deemed unlawful and no exemption granted in light of the position of the then prime minister that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist and the apartheid regime was an ally,” he said in July 2023.

Hermer takes up the role in place of Emily Thornberry, the former shadow attorney general who publicly defended Starmer’s position on the siege of Gaza.

Source: Israel lobby funded half of Keir Starmer’s cabinet (declassifieduk.org) 

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