Labour Friends of Israel fund trip amidst genocide

  • Post last modified:June 4, 2024
  • Reading time:15 mins read

Just over a week after Israel massacred 21 Palestinians and injured over 150 more queuing for aid, pro-Israel lobby group Labour Friends of Israel funded a Labour MP’s visit to the settler colonial state. Now, former MP Damien Egan is standing for re-election – and of course, his general election campaign is already underway.

Damien Egan: another LFI MP visits Israel

Since a by-election on 16 February, Damien Egan has stood as the Labour Party MP for the former South Gloucestershire constituency of Kingswood. Egan is now standing as the Labour Party’s candidate for Bristol North East. This is a new constituency under the Conservative’s boundary changes, which come into force for the upcoming election on 4 July.

A little over a month into his role as MP, and Egan jetted out on a so-called “fact finding visit” to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Notably, the opaquely-funded lobby group Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) paid for Egan to make the trip.

His final entry as Kingswood MP in the parliamentary ‘Register of Members’ Financial Interests’ revealed that LFI financed a four-day visit between the 24 to the 28 March. It paid for Egan’s flights, food, and accommodation during the trip to the tune of £2,400.

LFI is a pro-Israel lobby group that has openly boasted its role to “promote the State of Israel”. The group has repeatedly refused to disclose where it gets its funding. Naturally, this has prompted questions over potential Israeli state interference in British politics.

Moreover, as the Canary’s James Wright reported:

LFI has close ties to the Israeli embassy. Undercover filming from Al Jazeera showed an LFI officer admitting:

We do work really really closely together. It’s just publicly we just try to keep the LFI as a separate identity to the embassy.

Ostensibly, as Declassified UK has described, the group’s remit entails:

insulating the Israeli government from criticism on the British left as it engages in widely unpopular policies.

LFI-sponsored visits to “cultivate support for Israel”

LFI’s sponsored visits to Israel for MPs is a key part of this. Crucially, as Declassified has also detailed:

The trips are designed to cultivate support for Israel and build ties between key Labour figures and Israeli politicians and businesspeople.

In other words, LFI orchestrates these visits with MPs to manufacture and maintain support for Israel’s apartheid settler colonial project within the party.

In January, Declassified noted how some Labour MPs have been taking LFI-funded trips during the course of Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza. At the time for instance, this included Labour MPs Christian Wakeford and Margaret Hodge. Alongside them, Labour’s spokesperson in the House of Lords Ruth Anderson, and former MP Louise Ellman also made LFI-funded journeys.

Damien Egan has since joined these ranks. Most significantly, the Labour MP made this trip just over a week after Israel committed one of many atrocious war crimes.

Specifically, on 15 March, Israeli forces opened fire at thousands of Palestinians waiting for food aid. Using helicopters, tanks, and drones, they murdered 21 people and wounded over 150 more queuing at food trucks. Despite his visit less than ten days after this attack, Egan hasn’t made any public comment condemning Israel over this massacre.

What’s more, Egan’s visit came just days before Israel assassinated the seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers. One of the victims – James Kirby – came from Bristol, where the Labour candidate is standing to be one of the city’s MPs.

Egan issued two short posts on X offering his condolences to Kirby’s family:

Notably however, he drew far short of condemning Israel for its attack. Instead, Egan posted an open-ended call for “answers” and entirely avoided namechecking Israel for its war crime.

Of course, Egan’s post was right out of the corporate media’s playbook in its liberal use of passive voice too. Rather than lay blame at Israel’s feet for the murder, he entirely skirted around its culpability in their deaths.

Married to an IDF spy recruiter

However, Damien Egan’s visit and notable silence on Israel’s war crimes and continuing genocide should perhaps come as no surprise.

This is because the Labour MP is married to a former IDF soldier. As Palestine-focused news outlet Electronic Intifada revealed in February, his husband Yossi Felberbaum was a recruiter of officers from Israel’s deadly spy agency Unit 8200. Specifically, Electronic Intifada detailed how:

In a Facebook posting from 2017, a group called Birthright Israel Excel wrote that Felberbaum had been in the Israeli military for six years.

They explained that Felberbaum had played “an important role” acting as one of their liaisons with the Israeli military, “assisting with recruitment of 8200 unit soldiers as Israeli Peers”.

What’s more, as the news site also noted, the deadly cyber-intelligence warfare unit:

plays a vital role in the targeting, murder, blackmail and mass surveillance of Palestinians.

Abhorrently, it underscored how previous testimonies to the Guardian exposed how:

Unit 8200 officers boasted to each other about “blood on the headset” – the X’s they marked there after each assassination of a Palestinian.

Electronic Intifada were unable to confirm if Felberbaum had served as a Unit 8200 officer. However, it raised his close connections to the unit.

Egan’s Pro-Israel bias in Parliament

Naturally then, Damien Egan’s record on Palestine in his short tenure as an MP reflects his pro-Israel bias.

His name is absent from numerous cross-party letters seeking to hold Israel to account. For instance, Egan didn’t put his name to fellow Labour MP Zarah Sultana’s call for the government to suspend arms sales. Notably, Sultana submitted the letter alongside 134 MPs on 27 March – precisely when Egan was engaged in his so-called “fact finding visit”.

Following this, he also failed to sign another letter by Labour MP Richard Burgon, one day prior to Sunak declaring the election. This demanded that the government uphold the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrants against Israeli war criminals.

Meanwhile, Egan did instead sign a letter by LFI urging the UK government to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terror organisation. Vitally, the letter referenced Iran’s missile assault on Israel on 13 April. The letter said that:

Iran carried out an unprecedented direct attack on Israeli soil, which included 110 ballistic missiles, over 30 cruise missiles and 200 UAVs launched largely from Iran but also from territories in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

Curiously however, LFI’s letter failed to acknowledge the reason for the attack. That is, that on 1 April, Israel bombed an Iranian embassy in Syria. Of course, LFI’s statement could be a mirror image of both the Conservative’s and Labour’s official lines on the incidents. Notably, as the Canary reported in April:

Sunak and Starmer are selling a version of reality in which the Iran strike came out of nowhere. It’s a reality in which we and our allies can launch unprovoked attacks and then condemn our targets for retaliating.

In other words, Egan is the perfect dutiful Starmerite and apologist for genocidal Israel.

Following Netanyahu… on Instagram

Unsurprisingly, Damien Egan appears to be a Zionist. Protest groups Rise Up For Palestine and Black Lives Matter Cardiff have previously revealed that Egan follows a “dozens” of Zionists on his official Labour Party Instagram account. Among just over 1,100 accounts he currently follows, one is of potential war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu:

Damien Egan's Instagram followers, showing that he follows Netanyahu among 1,146 accounts he follows. Damien Egan's Instagram followers, showing that he follows Netanyahu among 1,146 accounts he follows.

The groups also pointed out that Egan follows:

Yishai Fleisher; a prominent settler & one of the heads of the settler movement in Hebron; who is an advisor to Israel’s far-right national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who has stated ‘“Israel is back in Gaza and we are here to stay in our ancestral land’

Chabad Lubavitch; Chabad is considered a conservative Orthodox sect of Judaism whose leaders in Israel have long opposed the formation of a Palestinian state, or territorial concessions to Palestinians. Chabad have set up a centre in Gaza in an occupied house in Beit Hanoun.

Hen Mazzig – a prominent Zionist who states that calling for a ceasefire is anti-Semitic.

Of course, none of this has stopped Labour from selecting Egan as its candidate in the upcoming election. Hot off the heels of Sunak’s election announcement and Egan and his team were out campaigning in Bristol North East:

On top of this, Egan has been out campaigning for fellow Bristol candidate Thangam Debbonaire. Debbonaire is contesting Bristol West – his adjacent constituency:

In November, Thangam Debbonaire toed the party line and abstained on a vote for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Damien Egan: angling for power?

The Canary asked Damien Egan’s office for comment on the details contained in this article. We had not received a response at the time of publication.

Perhaps Egan is angling for a prominent position in Labour’s government post-election. After all, in Starmer’s previous shadow cabinet, over half of its 31 members were listed as LFI parliamentary supporters.

However, come election day, voters should not forget that Egan gallivanted off to Israel amidst a literal genocide.

At the end of the day, this is the Labour Party’s lasting legacy under Starmer.

Featured image via the Independent – YouTube

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