At least nine UK Conservative MPs have accepted donations from the pro-Israel lobby since the beginning of Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza, Declassified has found.
The lobby organisations in question are parliamentary group Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and the European Leadership Network (ELNET) which describes itself as a “leading NGO dedicated to strengthening Europe-Israel relations”.
With a total value of £19,857, the donations have been used to finance a series of trips to Israel, which have been described as “solidarity” missions.
‘24 delegations to Israel’
CFI is a pro-Israel lobby group which was set up in 1974 by Michael Fidler, a Tory politician described in one biography as having political views “reminiscent of the philosophy of Enoch Powell”.
On its website, CFI boasts it has coordinated “24 delegations to Israel for over 180 Conservatives since the May 2015 General Election”.
Over the last decade, it has taken more MPs on overseas trips than any other political donor in Britain, according to an investigation by OpenDemocracy.
Those MPs were Stephen Crabb, Michael Ellis, Robert Jenrick, Nicola Richards, Greg Smith, and Theresa Villiers.
In Israel, the group was hosted by Israeli president Isaac Herzog, whose statement in October 2023 – that the “entire nation” of Gaza was responsible for Hamas’ attack on Israel – was cited by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as plausible evidence of incitement to genocide.
The Conservative MPs also met the current UK ambassador to Israel, Simon Walters, and the former Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev.
Regev is now a senior adviser to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has criticised South Africa’s genocide case at the ICJ as a “proposterous” and “obscene… manipulation of the genocide convention to serve Hamas’ interests”.
‘Finish the job’
Following the trip, Smith told GB News he “met with the IDF” – the Israeli military – and saw Hamas weapons with “clear identifiers back to Iran, to North Korea, really scarily, to China”.
He added: “This has ramifications for Israel, and for the whole of global security. I think there’s got to be moral clarity, we’ve got to stand with Israel… They have got to finish the job”.
In an article in Jewish News, Villiers declared that “Israel not only has a right to defend its citizens from attack, it has an obligation to”.
She added proudly that: “The UK government has been one of the staunchest supporters of Israel since 7th October and there must be no backsliding”.
For his part, Jenrick, a former minister, commented that the trip confirmed “the absolute imperative of standing with Israel and helping and supporting it to finish the job of eradicating Hamas”.
ELNET was created in 2007 to “counter the widespread criticism of Israel in Europe”. The group is a non-government network that provides “platforms for senior European and Israeli policymakers to gain deeper insights into the mutual benefits of close relations”.
ELNET describes South Africa’s current war crimes case against Israel at the ICJ as “politically motivated and legally tenuous”, and calls for it to “end”.
In 2021, former Labour MP and chair of parliamentary group Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), Joan Ryan, was appointed as chief executive of ELNET UK, the British wing of the organisation.
Ryan recently described her role as “building and strengthening relations between Europe and Israel, between the UK and Israel”, arguing that “you can’t fight anti-Semitism unless you also fight anti-Zionism”.
Between 5 and 8 November 2023, ELNET UK organised a “solidarity trip to Israel”, which was attended by Conservative MPs Matthew Offord and Andrew Percy. Upon return, Offord pledged that he would “work tirelessly to support Israel’s right to self-defence”.
In January 2024, ELNET UK led another “solidarity mission” to Israel, attended by Conservative MP Tom Hunt and CFI’s honorary president, Lord Polak.