Conservative Friends of Israel

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One of the most active lobby groups in Westminster, 80% of all Conservative MP’s are members

Conservative Friends of Israel
Conservative Friends of Israel.png
Motto Supporting Israel and Promoting Conservatism
Type lobby
Website http://cfoi.co.uk
Membership • Malcolm Rifkind
• David Amess
• Timothy Kirkhope
• Liam Fox
• James Arbuthnot
• Tobias Ellwood
Interests Israel
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/conservativefriendsofisrael

In 2010, it was reported that 80% of all Conservative MP’s are members.[1].

Parliamentary Donations

CFI operates as an "unincorporated association", which according to Peter Oborne means:

It is a collection of individuals who don’t need to open their books, it may be legal but it’s hardly transparent[2].

Peter Oborne argues that there is a pattern of donations from CFI:

On studying donations to Conservative Constituency offices before the 2005 election a pattern emerges. A group of donors, all with strong connections to pro-Israel groups, (almost all are on the board of the CFI) made donations of between £2,000 and £5,000 either personally or through their companies to the constituency offices of certain Conservative candidates. The donors involved include Trevor Pears, a property magnate, who has sat on the BICOM board, used to sit on the CFI board, and has donated to David Cameron in the past; Lord Leonard Steinberg, vice- president of Conservative Friends of Israel and sponsor of Stuart Polak in parliament; Michael Lewis, a South African businessman and deputy chairman of BICOM who was formerly on the Board of CFI; three or four other prominent members of the CFI.

The method of donation – medium-sized sums to constituency offices often through companies rather than personal names – means that connections to the CFI or other pro-Israel group are by no means obvious. These donors may never have met the candidates, nor stepped foot, let alone actually live, in the constituency, but were happy to make donations. All candidates in these constituencies either won the seat or came close. Interestingly, in constituencies where the Conservative candidate stood little chance, the CFI made the £2,000 donation themselves.

The Tory MPs fighting parliamentary seats in 2005 whose campaigns were funded by these donors included Ed Vaizey, shadow minister for culture, media and sport; Greg Hands, shadow treasury minister; Michael Gove, shadow education secretary; Brooks Newmark, opposition foreign affairs whip; Shailesh Vara, shadow deputy leader of the Commons; Grant Shapps, shadow minister for housing; Adam Holloway MP.

Many of them then went on a CFI trip to Israel in 2006, although Michael Gove - whose polemic Celsius 7/7 comes free with CFI membership - has never been to Israel. Most have been supportive of Israel in speeches to parliament and none have been overtly critical. There is also a suggestion that some members of the CFI target MPs who are critical of Israel. For instance Karen Buck, the Labour MP for Regent’s Park and Kensington North, has been an outspoken critic. Her Conservative opponent Joanne Cash, who works for the think tank Policy Exchange, has received cheques cumulatively worth at least £20,000[3].

Relations with David Cameron

According to a report in the Jewish Chronicle:

... a small but influential group of Jewish Conservative officials and politicians were... key players in Mr Cameron’s campaign for the leadership. Among them was party treasurer Howard Leigh. Other senior figures around the leader include Oliver Letwin, head of policy [and] former shadow Home Secretary and shadow Chancellor. Although he is popular with Jewish Tories, Mr Cameron’s criticism of Israel’s actions in Lebanon sparked doubts – voiced particularly by Tory donor and former party treasurer Lord Kalms. However, Conservative Friends of Israel chair Richard Harrington stressed that the leader had given CFI “every possible access” and had met CFI officials several times.[4]

David Cameron CFI Speech 2009

David Cameron was the main speaker at the Conservative Friends of Israel annual lunch on the 18 June 2009.[5]. Cameron neglected to mention that six months prior to his speech, Israel began a 23-day bombardment of Gaza that led to the deaths of around 1,400 people including hundreds of children[6]. Not only did David Cameron neglect to mention the operation cast lead bombardment of Gaza but he described how “Israel strives to protect innocent life – Hamas target innocent life” .[7] and the Conservative Party leader emphasised the need for the Palestinians to relinquish the use of violence arguing that:

“for the Palestinians themselves, their obligations are clear: Prove you are a reliable negotiating partner. Bring order to your own society. And renounce violence completely” .[8]

Meeting with American Jewish Committee

In 2006, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) reported on a meeting with the Conservative Friends of Israel in 'an effort to strengthen AJC’s ties to British Jewry'.

The AJC report states that:

'AJC President E Robert Goodkind led a leadership delegation to London to meet with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the main community organizing body for British Jews, as well as with the Community Service Trust and the newly formed Jewish Leadership Council. The group also met with British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, longtime Jewish community leaders Lord Greville Janner and Sir Trevor Chinn, and with leadership from the Reform, Liberal and Conservative Masorti movements. In addition, the group held meetings with those Members of Parliament who initiated a serious parliamentary investigation of anti-Semitism, and with younger leaders of Conservative Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Israel. AJC Board members Stanley Bergman and Peter Rosenblatt joined Goodkind on the mission[9].

Conservative Friends of Israel/BICOM Links

According to Peter Oborne:

Despite the Conservative Friends of Israel and BICOM not formally merging there is a huge amount of co-ordination. Many of BICOM’s key figures also play roles in the CFI: Trevor Pears, Michael Lewis and Poju Zabludowicz are driving forces behind both lobbies. David Cameron also accepted £20,000 from Trevor Pears in his leadership election[10].

People

Parliamentary Group

Officers Of CFI

Vice Chairmen

Hon Secretaries

Vice Presidents

CFI Executive Board

CFI Staff

Contact

  • Address: 45B Westbourne Terrace, London W2 3UR
  • Tel: 020-7262 2493
  • Fax: 020-7224 8941
  • E-mail: info@cfoi.co.uk
  • Website: http://www.cfoi.co.uk

References

  1. Peter Oborne, Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby, Channel 4 Dispatches, 16-November-2009, Viewed 02-January-2010
  2. Peter Oborne, Inside Britain's Israel Lobby, Channel 4 Dispatches, Aired 16-November-2009, Viewed 03-January-2010
  3. Peter Oborne, Pro Israel Lobby Pamphlet, Channel 4 Dispatches, 16-November-2009, Accessed 03-January-2009
  4. Bernard Josephs and Leon Symons, Special report: Team Cameron’s big Jewish backers, The Jewish Chronicle, 13 October 2006, p. 3
  5. David Cameron, SPEECH BY CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER DAVID CAMERON TO THE CONSERVATIVE FRIENDS OF ISRAEL ANNUAL LUNCH HELD IN LONDON ON THURSDAY 18TH JUNE 2009, Conservative Friends of Israel, 18-June-2009, Accessed 02-January-2009
  6. Harriet Sherwood, Childhood in ruins, The Guardian, 17-December-2009, Accessed 02-January-2009
  7. David Cameron, SPEECH BY CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER DAVID CAMERON TO THE CONSERVATIVE FRIENDS OF ISRAEL ANNUAL LUNCH HELD IN LONDON ON THURSDAY 18TH JUNE 2009, Conservative Friends of Israel, 18-June-2009, Accessed 02-January-2009
  8. David Cameron, SPEECH BY CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER DAVID CAMERON TO THE CONSERVATIVE FRIENDS OF ISRAEL ANNUAL LUNCH HELD IN LONDON ON THURSDAY 18TH JUNE 2009, Conservative Friends of Israel, 18-June-2009, Accessed 02-January-2009
  9. American Jewish Committee London Jewish Community Greets AJC President Update 236, 20th December 2006. Accessed 21st August 2008
  10. Peter Oborne & James Jones, Inside Britain's Israel Lobby, 13-November-2009, Accessed 03-January-2009
  11. Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, James Arbuthnot believes Israel "is a country that embodies the values that we should stand for", Stuart Littlewood, 23 June 2010.
  12. Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, Conservative Friends of Israel at UK Political Conference, Arutz Sheva, 22 January 2008.
  13. Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, ibid.
  14. Etgar Lefkovits, UK MPs call for Europe-wide campaign to pressure Red Cross concerning Schalit, Jerusalem Post, 9 November 2008.
  15. About Us, CFI website, version dated 8 Aug 2007, accessed in web archive 7 Oct 2009
  16. About Us, CFI website, version dated 6 May 2008, accessed in web archive 7 Oct 2009
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