Português (Brasil)
Get Involved


How Israel Funds UK Parliamentary Staff

How Israel Funds UK Parliamentary Staff
Israel is quietly financing assistants of British MPs, Declassified has found.

Israel has paid for at least a dozen UK parliamentary staff to visit the country on special delegations in the last five years.

A further 18 staffers have accepted funding or hospitality from pro-Israel lobby organisations in Britain such as Labour Friends of Israel and We Believe in Israel.

Several worked for MPs in Keir Starmer’s front bench team, including shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting and shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson.

Our investigation found how the Israeli embassy in London, its ministry of foreign affairs and associated lobby groups seek to influence not only MPs but also their assistants.

Declassified previously revealed that one in four British MPs in the last parliament accepted funding from pro-Israel lobby groups or individuals.

Direct funding from Israel

The Israeli embassy in London funded ten staff members of Tory MPs to visit Israel on a Young Conservative Political Leaders delegation in 2022.

They worked for such MPs as Stephen Crabb, Nicola Richards and Bob Blackman – all of whom are closely associated with Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI).

One of the staffers, Simon Phipps, is now a Conservative candidate for Birmingham Selly Oak.

The trip involved meeting with “government officials and businesses in Israel as part of UK delegation”.

The visit was declared in an obscure parliamentary database called the Register of Interests of Members’ Secretaries and Research Assistants.

It contains little information about what the staffers did in Israel or who they met. All data prior to 2018 has been destroyed in line with official regulations.

Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs also paid for the parliamentary staff of two Labour politicians to visit the region in 2018.

They worked for Labour’s then deputy leader Tom Watson and shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith.

Israel lobby funding

A further 13 Labour parliamentary staff went on a trip to Israel last July.

They visited Israel’s foreign ministry and received a briefing from the Israeli military “on the country’s security challenges”.

Delegates included Streeting’s staffer Anna Wilson and Phillipson’s aide Thomas Crick.

Streeting is facing a strong challenge in his constituency of Ilford North from independent candidate Leanne Mohamad over his Israel lobby links.

The delegation was “the first of its kind” and designed to “strengthen relations between the UK Labour Party and Israel”.

The trip was organised by the European Leadership Network (ELNET), which was created to “counter the widespread criticism of Israel in Europe”.

Its British branch is led by former Labour MP Joan Ryan who chaired Labour Friends of Israel (LFI).

An undercover investigation revealed Ryan discussing a £1 million payment from Israel with an Israeli diplomat.

ELNET also funded Dov Forman, a staffer for Tory MP Robert Jenrick, to go on a “solidarity trip” to Israel amid the genocidal war on Gaza.

Another funder is We Believe in Israel, which was until recently directed by arch Israel lobbyist Luke Akehurst.

His organisation co-funded Eda Cazimoglu, one of Reeves’ staffers, to visit Israel on “an educational trip” in 2022 alongside LFI.

There are even connections between staffers and the lobby groups.

Thomas Murray, who worked under former Labour MP Steve McCabe, moonlighted as LFI’s parliamentary affairs manager.

And CFI’s executive director, James Gurd, worked for former Tory MP Andrew Percy.

Special advisers

Israel lobby organisations have also sought to gain backdoor influence by funding, meeting, and providing hospitality to ministers’ special advisers, known as SPADs.

Special advisers are exempt from the Civil Service Code’s requirement of political impartiality.

Governmental departments are therefore required to publish the gifts and hospitality that they receive.

Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden accepted funding from CFI when he was David Cameron’s SPAD in 2014.

Dowden was a prospective parliamentary candidate for Hertsmere at that time.

CFI paid for a special adviser to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude to travel to Israel that same year, while in 2015 another four Downing Street special advisers received hospitality from CFI.

The group has continued to lobby SPADs in the prime minister’s and deputy PM’s office, as well as the leader of the House of Lords.

Former British ambassador Craig Murray, who is the Workers party candidate for Blackburn, told Declassified that if elected his first speech in parliament would “call out the power of the Israeli lobby”.

He vowed to name “every single member of that parliament who has received money from the Israeli lobby”.