Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy addresses LFI’s 2023 Annual Lunch

David Lammy today used the LFI annual lunch to underline Labour’s commitment to Israel and set out a series of measures the party would take in government to support a renewed drive to kick-start the Middle East peace process.

The shadow foreign secretary was addressing the biggest LFI lunch since Labour was in government, with over 450 people attending, including 90 parliamentarians and candidates.

The lunch also heard a powerful plea by hostage family member Steve Brisley on an afternoon of high emotion, in which thoughts rarely strayed from the Hamas attack on Israel and the ensuing conflict between the Jewish state and the terrorist group.

In her speech, Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Tzipi Hotovely, thanked the British people for their support, while LFI chair Steve McCabe warned that the “the danger posed by anti-Zionist antisemitism” had been highlighted like never before since 7 October.

“Day of horror”

The shadow foreign secretary, a long-standing parliamentary supporter of LFI, described the Hamas attack as “a day of horror. Not just for Israel, or for the Jewish communities spread around the world. But for us, for Britain, and for the whole Labour movement”. Referring throughout his speech to his home and constituency in North London and his close connection to the Jewish community, Lammy added: “What happened that morning in Kfar Aza, in Be’eri, in Ofakim, and if only it stopped there, was so enormous, it feels like a shiva we have not got up from. So great are the numbers and so great were the consequences.”

Two-state action

Lammy pledged a future Labour government would “strong and consistent advocates for a just and lasting peace based on two states”. His speech:

  • Committed Labour to supporting a replacement of the now defunct Quartet – “which includes a belligerent Russia” – with a new diplomatic vehicle “to support a multilateral plan for the future of Gaza, to drive forward reconstruction and make a renewed push for a two state solution”.
  • Said Labour would create “a new Middle East Peace envoy, charged with channelling British support to where we can make the greatest impact”.
  • Reaffirmed Labour’s support for the establishment of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Lammy called for Hamas to use the current pause to release all the Israeli hostages it is holding in Gaza and urged the international community to tackle the “humanitarian catastrophe” in the strip. Palestinian children, he added, “need aid, food, water, fuel and medicine, not in token, but in huge volumes, to ensure hospitals function and lives are saved”.

Obstacles to peace …

The shadow foreign secretary strongly condemned Hezbollah and its patrons in Tehran, and restated Labour’s commitment to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Lammy said the party would “stand against” all those whose actions undermine a two-state solution, called for a “revived – and reformed” Palestinian Authority, and said: “We must oppose illegal settlements in the West Bank, we must oppose hateful rhetoric and settler violence, and we must never turn a blind eye to forced displacement.”

… and anti-Zionism at home

Lammy also attacked the sharp increase in antisemitism in Britain since 7 October.  “There should be no safe space for the merchants of hate,” the shadow foreign secretary argued. “Not online. Not in the streets. And never again — in our party. We oppose those who try to divide us — utterly. And we call out those who – shockingly – refuse to call Hamas what they are: terrorists.”

Hostage family member’s emotional plea

Lammy was speaking after Brisley recalled the murder of his sister, Lianne, and nieces Noiya and Yahel at their homes in Kibbutz Be’eri. The three women were all British citizens. Brisley’s brother-in-law, Eli, and his brother, Yossi, were kidnapped and taken to Gaza.

“My family and I will mourn our loss for the rest of our days, but the safe return of Eli and Yosi will act as the greatest memorial possible to Lianne, Noiya and Yahel’s lives,” Brisley suggested.

Noting Eli’s love of all things British, Brisley went on to strongly criticise the lack of support afforded to hostage families in the UK from the British government. Requests for meeting with the foreign secretary have been met with silence, while a letter from Brisley’s elderly parents to Rishi Sunak has gone unanswered. “How can I be reassured that my government’s voice is being heard on the international scene, when I cannot even be reassured that my government has heard my voice,” he suggested.

Brisley’s appeal to the opposition to help the families was answered directly by Lammy who promised to raise the case with David Cameron. He also announced that a Labour government would appoint a new envoy with “a special remit to secure the release of UK citizens seized abroad” and provide families with a new legislative right for consular assistance.

LFI’s commitment to peace

McCabe’s speech offered strong support for Israel with a restatement of LFI’s commitment to a two-state solution.

“The conflict between Israel and Hamas stretches back more than three decades,” he argued. “It is time to bring it to a close. To free Gaza from Hamas. To free the Israeli people from terror. To remove the principal obstacle to a future peace. Hamas has robbed one generation of Israelis and Palestinians of the prospect of peace. We cannot allow them to deprive another.”

McCabe pledged that LFI will “keep up the pressure for the government to tackle the threat posed by Iran both here at home and in the region”, and urged ministers to ban the IRGC, expel Khamenei’s personal representative in the UK, and shut down Iran’s ideological centres in Britain.

He also called for tougher action to confront antisemitic anti-Zionism in the UK. “No Jewish child, Jewish student or Jewish parent should feel unsafe in 21st century Britain,” he suggested. “LFI will work with the next Labour government and stand with the Jewish community until the scourge of antisemitism is removed from our streets.”

Looking to the future, McCabe called for urgent action to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, together with a post-war Marshall Plan; measures to reform and empower the PA, including an end to antisemitic incitement and “the disgraceful payment of salaries to terrorists”; and a freeze on Israeli settlement construction, especially that which threatens Palestinian contiguity. He also urged the establishment of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace and support for the Arab-Israeli normalisation process.

LFI director Michael Rubin said: “This is the biggest LFI lunch since Labour was last in government, attended by the largest number of parliamentarians and parliamentary candidates in 14 years. Today’s attendance – and the words delivered by the foreign shadow secretary, David Lammy, in his speech – underline the unwavering support for Israel and the Jewish community in the Labour party in the wake of the atrocities of 7 October.”

He continued: “The success of today’s event is a reflection of both the manner in which Keir Starmer has rebuilt Labour’s reputation as a prospective party of government and the restoration under his leadership of a balanced and credible approach to the Middle East.”

LFI’s director concluded: “As it was under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Labour is once again a pro-Israel, pro-peace party. It is unequivocal in its condemnation of terrorism and the threats posed to Israel’s security by Iran and its proxy armies. And it stands firm with the Jewish community against anti-Zionist antisemitism which seeks to demonise and delegitimise the world’s only Jewish state.”