In recent years, concerns have been raised about the influence of pro-Israel lobby groups on the UK Parliament’s stance regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An investigation has revealed that the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), a prominent pro-Israel Tory lobby group, has been actively working to promote a pro-Israel stance in Westminster. This article delves into the details of their efforts, which include taking British MPs on numerous free trips and funding overseas visits, with a focus on promoting the Israeli perspective on the Palestinian issue.
A Closer Look at CFI’s Influence
Over the past decade, CFI has embarked on an unprecedented charm offensive, taking British Members of Parliament (MPs) on a staggering 155 free trips. These trips serve as a means to promote the interests of Israel within the UK Parliament and emphasize a pro-Israel stance on issues such as Jewish illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). CFI’s influence is further underscored by records revealing that they have paid for more overseas trips for MPs than any other donor. The total value of these trips, funded fully or partially by CFI, amounts to a substantial £367,000 since 2012.
Part of a Broader Trend
CFI’s efforts are not isolated; they are part of a larger trend where various donors have collectively spent approximately £8 million to take MPs abroad. These trips often include wining and dining with foreign diplomats and dignitaries, further solidifying the connections between the donors and the MPs. In total, over 3,100 all-expenses-paid trips have been accepted by 713 current or former MPs.
MPs and Visits to Israel
As the most frequent donor, CFI has consistently sponsored MPs to visit Israel and the OPT. Their mission, as stated on their website, is to “ensure that Israel’s case is fairly represented in Parliament.” They have been described as “the most well-connected and probably the best funded of all Westminster lobbying groups.” In practice, this means actively supporting a pro-Israel stance in matters concerning the Palestinians.
In 2017, Lord Polak, the honorary president of CFI, personally arranged a series of meetings for Priti Patel, the then-government’s international development secretary. These meetings included one with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, Patel’s failure to inform the prime minister about these trips ultimately led to her resignation.
This year alone, CFI financed three delegations of MPs to visit Israel, with 24 Conservative MPs declaring these visits in the registers of interests. These visits are considered an integral part of CFI’s work, aiming to provide Conservative MPs with an opportunity to “see the facts on the ground in the region.”
The Labour Friends of Israel
While CFI is known for its strong influence within the Conservative Party, a similar lobby group, the Labour Friends of Israel, has also played a significant role in shaping the perspectives of MPs. Over the past decade, they have funded 62 trips to Israel for MPs, either in whole or in part.
The Human Rights Perspective
It is important to note that while lobby groups like CFI actively support a pro-Israel stance, human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have characterized Israel’s policies as oppressive. They have labeled Israel an apartheid regime due to its treatment of Palestinian people, including the “massive and cruel” seizures of their homes and land and the construction of illegal settlements in the OPT. Moreover, the escalating violence in the West Bank and international condemnation for Israeli police actions against Palestinian civilians underscores the ongoing challenges in the region.
The influence of pro-Israel lobby groups like the Conservative Friends of Israel on the UK Parliament’s stance regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a matter of growing concern. With their significant financial contributions and overseas trips for MPs, these groups actively promote a pro-Israel perspective, even as human rights organizations continue to raise serious concerns about the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As the debate over UK policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues, it is essential to consider the various factors and interests at play in shaping the nation’s stance on this complex issue.