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MPs flock to support Labour Israel group

    LFI supporter Rupa Huq
    LFI supporter Rupa Huq

    The Labour Friends of Israel group has trebled the number of Parliamentary supporters backing its work, as moderate MPs rebelled against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party.

    More than 65 MPs have pledged to back the group – more than when Labour was led by pro-Israel prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

    LFI will also announce a re-branding at next week’s party conference, styling itself “Labour Friends of Israel: For Israel, For Palestine, For Peace”, alongside a campaign to back an international fund raising money for co-existence projects aimed at helping Israelis and Palestinians work together.

    A Young LFI group will be launched in the autumn, as well as a new website. The intention, the group said, was to attract grassroots supporters as well as politicians.

    One senior figure said moderate Labour MPs were showing their opposition “against those who want to demonise Israel”.

    LFI was left depleted after the 2015 general election when key figures including Ed Balls and Jim Murphy lost their seats.

    Among the leading names who have now agreed to support the group are Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, and Andy Burnham, the Shadow Home Secretary.

    Former frontbenchers Andrea Eagle and Chris Leslie have pledged their support, as has Jess Phillips, the non-Jewish MP who has repeatedly suffered anti-Zionist abuse and who resigned from Labour’s shadow education team in June.

    Other new supporters include Tristam Hunt, Liz Kendall and Dan Jarvis.

    Many of the MPs agreed to back LFI during the summer as the party endured months of turmoil over allegations of antisemitism.

    Rupa Huq, who was criticised for appearing to support antisemitic remarks in April, was one of a number of figures who approached LFI to offer her backing. Lilian Greenwood, the former Shadow Transport Secretary who quit Mr Corbyn’s team claiming she had been undermined by the party leader, is also supporting LFI.

    Three new-vice chairs will be revealed by the group - MPs Sharon Hodgson, Pat McFadden and John Spellar.

    Jennifer Gerber, LFI director, said the tripling of supporters “demonstrates that within the Parliamentary Labour Party there is a solid bloc of members who both support a two-state solution and oppose the effort to delegitimise and demonise the state of Israel.

    “With the launch of our campaign next month in support of an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace, we are showing the effectiveness of LFI as a force for holding to account the government and helping to engender positive change.”

    Joan Ryan MP, LFI chair, said the appeal due to be launched next month would support the Alliance for Middle East Peace’s international fund, which is inspired by a similar project run in Ireland that has removed sectarian divides.

    It will help increase public and private contributions to joint economic development and civil co-existence projects. LFI has repeatedly called on the government to increase spending on such schemes.

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