David Lammy: Friend of Israel

The shadow foreign secretary, who has received funding from the Israel lobby, has consistently failed to criticise Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

25 January 2024

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy. (Photo: Christopher Furlong / Getty)

Over the past three months, David Lammy has consistently refused to condemn or even acknowledge Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.

Since becoming an MP in 2000, the man who would be foreign secretary has accepted donations from the pro-Israel lobby on numerous occasions. The value of these donations is £32,550, Declassified has found.

Lammy is a supporter of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) group, which works to promote the interests of Israel within the Labour Party.

‘It’s not a yes or no’

On 8 October, one day after Hamas militants attacked Israel, Lammy signed a statement on behalf of Labour’s frontbench condemning the group’s actions as “unprovoked”.

When asked by the BBC on 15 October whether he supported Israel’s order for 1.2m civilians in north Gaza to be moved south, Lammy declared: “It’s not a yes or no… I’m hoping one day to be foreign secretary and a chief diplomat, so it’s not a yes or no”.

Lammy was later asked whether the UN human rights commissioner was right in saying the imposition of sieges is prohibited under international humanitarian law. 

He responded: “This is not a moment for me to pass judgement about whether – I’m not here as a lawyer, I’m here as shadow foreign secretary”. 

Lammy was far less reluctant to pronounce on the illegality of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He told parliament in March 2022 he hoped Vladimir Putin would be “held to account” for his “war crimes”. 

He also explicitly condemned how buildings in Ukraine had been “raised to the ground” and “maternity hospitals bombed”.


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At the end of October, Israel bombed the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, killing over 50 civilians. 

Lammy covered for Israel’s actions once again, stating that “it’s wrong to bomb a refugee camp but clearly if there is a military objective it can be legally justifiable. It’s for Israel to explain its actions”.

On 15 November, Lammy abstained on the parliamentary vote calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, and indicated that shadow ministers who voted in favour of the motion would have to resign.

Visit to Israel

Days later, he visited Israel and called for a “longer pause” in the war but not a ceasefire.

In Israel, Lammy met president Isaac Herzog who had made the earlier genocidal declaration that the “entire nation” of Palestine was “responsible” for the actions of Hamas.

Over recent weeks, the Labour party has shifted from calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the war on Gaza to a “sustained ceasefire”.

Speaking to parliament on 8 January, Lammy declared: “We need a humanitarian truce now – not as a short pause but as the first step towards what will stop the killing of innocents”.

However, it is difficult to see how this amounts to a meaningful shift in policy. The Labour leadership has supported Israel throughout its bombing campaign.

The party has not committed to any enforcement mechanisms against Israel, such as an arms embargo, economic sanctions, or backing South Africa’s genocide case at the International Court of Justice. 

‘Power not protest’

When confronted by protesters about his position on Palestine, Lammy retorted that “power, not protest” is the suitable means for achieving a resolution to the war on Gaza. 

However, the Labour party appears to be exerting none of its power to end the genocide, and little can be said of its use of protest.

According to Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, South Africa’s case is a “distraction”.

Lammy has tweeted several times about Israel’s “right to defend itself” but never overtly criticised its mass bombing of Gaza that has killed over 25,000 Palestinians so far.


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Israel lobby

Lammy is a parliamentary supporter of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), a pro-Israel lobby group in Britain which does not disclose its sources of funding. 

In November 2023, Lammy spoke at LFI’s annual banquet alongside the Israeli ambassador in London, Tzipi Hotovely.

Hotovely has been a vociferous defender of Israel’s war on Gaza, and recently suggested there was no other solution besides bombing every school, mosque, and second house in Gaza.

During his speech at the banquet, Lammy thanked three men for supporting him through his early Harvard education. “Without you, I would never have made it to where I am today”, he declared.

“In November, Lammy spoke at LFI’s annual banquet alongside the Israeli ambassador”

One of those men, Jonathan Lewis, describes himself as a longstanding “activist and advocate for Israel”.

Lewis sits on the international board of Israel Bonds, an organisation which encourages investment in Israel in order to support its economy and counter the impact of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign.

“When one of the biggest challenges we face is the BDS movement, now is the time when this is best answered by investing, which is the opposite of divesting”, Lewis has argued.

Lammy also spoke at LFI’s annual event at the Labour Party conference in October. 

“We stand here as Labour Friends of Israel – but I have to say I am proud to live in a country where it doesn’t matter if you are Labour, Liberal Democrat or you are Conservative to stand with the people of Israel”, he said.


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‘An important moment’

In July 2022, Lammy visited Israel on a trip which was organised mainly by the Labour party but with the help of LFI, Declassified understands. 

The visit came after human rights organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’tselem, condemned Israel’s practice of apartheid against the Palestinians.

Michael Rubin, LFI’s director, noted that Lammy’s “first visit to Israel as Shadow Foreign Secretary is an important moment in the restoration of Labour’s deep and historic ties of friendship with the Jewish state”.

During his campaign to become London mayor in 2014-15, Lammy accepted £30,000 in donations from pro-Israel lobbyist Trevor Chinn. Lammy had previously accompanied Chinn on a trip to Israel funded by LFI and, with a token £90, by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In addition to receiving funding from the pro-Israel lobby, the Labour leadership has reportedly “consulted with US government figures over its approach to Gaza, and has been influenced by the US position”.

As Declassified previously reported, the Labour party is seeking to continue close and subservient relations to the US, and has been signalling to Washington that the “brief period when Jeremy Corbyn’s party challenged the establishment consensus on foreign policy” is over.