Israel friends change tack and relaunch

By Martin Bright, January 13, 2011

Labour Friends of Israel is to re-invent itself as a membership organisation to argue actively for the two-state solution and develop the "progressive case" for Israel.

The new direction will be outlined at a seminar in March held jointly in Westminster with the New Labour magazine Progress to promote a fresh strategy for Israel's friends within the Labour Party and the trade union movement.

In recent years LFI has found itself increasingly forced into a fire-fighting role against a growing anti-Zionist sentiment in the Labour movement and the wider British left.

Under the leadership of its new director Jennifer Gerber, and chair David Cairns MP, the organisation has recognised that the political landscape has been transformed for supporters of Israel on the left in Britain.

The re-branded LFI will now operate under the slogan, Working Towards a Two-State Solution, and develop a more pro-active approach to the debate.

"At the moment people who self-define as on the left of politics are increasingly exposed to the blunt and lazy anti-Israel arguments," said Ms Gerber. "We believe there is a real need to kickstart a debate about the progressive case for Israel."

Both former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown championed the cause of Israel within the Labour Party.

However, Ed Miliband's position remains unclear and critical comments in his conference speech about Gaza and the Turkish flotilla have caused concern in some quarters.

In an attempt to move onto the front foot in the debate, LFI will become
a membership organisation in an attempt to build solidarity amongst Israel's supporters on the left.

At the same time, a grassroots campaign will target local constituency members, an area where the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been particularly effective in the past.

Ms Gerber added: "People seem to forget that Israel was founded on social democratic values and remains a example of a socially and economically progressive country - in a region where progressive values are in short supply."

Last updated: 1:01pm, January 13 2011