ER Editor: See also this piece from April 10 by Asa Winstanley, titled Keir Starmer tilts Labour sharply towards Israel. We draws readers’ attention to the photo below supplied by the author, showing Trevor Chinn, a significant backer of Keir Starmer and the ‘Israel lobbyist’ referenced in the title, rubbing shoulders with Jacob Rothschild and Tony Blair.
Readers may also be interested in this recent piece by The Canary, titled Keir Starmer received £50,000 donation from pro-Israel lobbyist in leadership bid. About the pro-Israel lobby group BICOM that Trevor Chinn plays a leading role in:
Britain’s most active pro-Israeli lobbying organisation – which flies journalists [including Guardian staff] to Israel on fact-finding trips and organises access to senior government figures – has received nearly £1.4m in two years from a billionaire donor whose father made a fortune manufacturing arms in Israel.
In 2009, the London-Palestine Solidarity group said BICOM had a key role in “laying the groundwork for Israel’s public justifications for the onslaught [on Gaza]”.
As Open Democracy reported in 2009, moreover, BICOM officials were among those involved in planning to pressure the Guardian to retract comparisons it made of Israel with apartheid South Africa. The report in Open Democracy continued:
Two months after the end of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, BICOM sent half a dozen journalists on a free trip to Tel Aviv to talk to Israeli defence analysts. The message BICOM wanted to get across was that they should pay more attention to Iran than to the Palestinians…
While BICOM’s work is entirely legitimate, it is by no means transparent. They never declare, for example, which journalists go on trips and who they meet. In the United States, AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] must register as a lobby and declare its activities. Over here, BICOM is simply a company registered at Companies House, and doesn’t make its work public.
Journalist Simon Childs, who went on one of such trips in 2017, concurred that “BICOM ‘simply dispenses with international legal principles as an explanatory framework’”. The only Palestinian refugee camp that featured on this BICOM tour was seen by Childs as a “speck on the horizon as we looked from Israel into Gaza – abstracted to the point of near-invisibility”.
Israel lobbyist funded Labour’s new leader
The donation from Chinn was not registered until five days after Starmer won the election, although it was received in February.
Although there is no suggestion of illegality, Labour members may consider this a violation of their trust.
In 2018, Chinn co-hosted a high-profile celebration of the life of late Israeli president Chaim Herzog, attended by Israeli ambassador Mark Regev. Published photos show that Tony Blair also attended.
He donated to the Labour Party during the Tony Blair years, but mostly ended that relationship after Corbyn, a lifelong Palestinian rights supporter, won the leadership in 2015.
The exception to this was Chinn’s funding of anti-Corbyn Labour members of Parliament, including deputy leader Tom Watson, former BICOM staffer Ruth Smeeth and Labour Friends of Israel’s then chair Joan Ryan.
All three played key roles in promoting the smear campaign that Corbyn’s Labour Party was a hotbed of anti-Semitism.
Chinn in 2016 also donated to Dan Jarvis, a Labour lawmaker who was at the time seen as a potential successor to Jeremy Corbyn.
Later that year Labour lawmakers staged a coup against Corbyn, hoping to remove him as leader. Chinn funded Corbyn’s rival in the resultant leadership election, Owen Smith.
Smith took donations for his campaign from Chinn totaling $33,000, the register shows.
During the 2015 leadership election, which ultimately resulted in Corbyn’s first victory, Chinn funded Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate who came last with a mere 4.5 percent of the vote.
In 2014, Chinn halted his annual donations to the Tricycle Theatre over its decision to decline funding from the Israeli embassy for a film festival it was planning to host.
“We can’t accept boycotts and whenever one comes along, we have to fight it,” Chinn told The Jewish News at the time.
“The Tricycle is going to lose a lot of audience members and a lot of financial support.”
The North London theater ultimately reversed its decision after being threatened by Sajid Javid, then Britain’s culture minister.
Javid later boasted about this threat to the theater, which had been secret at the time. The Israeli ambassador also intervened in the affair, documents released under freedom of information law showed.
Chinn’s $62,000 donation to Starmer’s campaign was the fourth highest amount from an individual donor – not including trade unions and companies.
Public sector union UNISON and service workers union USDAW donated $39,000 and almost $31,000 respectively. Another major trade union, Unite, supported Starmer’s leadership campaign rival Rebecca Long-Bailey.
At more than $123,000 each, the joint-top donors were Robert Latham and Waheed Alli.
Several of these donors from the business world funded Labour before the Corbyn era, and are now doubtless happy to have the party back under their influence after Corbyn’s departure.
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