Keir Starmer’s Labour party has parachuted a professional lobbyist for Israel into the safe seat of North Durham for the UK general election. 

Luke Akehurst, the director of We Believe in Israel, has spent over a decade working as a campaigner for that country’s interests and has close ties to the Israeli embassy in London.

An Israeli diplomat was secretly recorded praising Akehurst as “a great campaigner” who was “one of the best in the inside” of the Labour party.

Akehurst, who is not Jewish, was once described by a fellow Israel lobbyist as “outrageously pro-Zionist”.

His selection comes just weeks after the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor applied for warrants to arrest Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant.

Akehurst, who has deleted over 1,000 tweets in recent days, has repeatedly defended Israel’s assault on Gaza in his social media posts.

He also sits on Labour’s National Executive Committee, which currently has emergency powers to pick candidates. Akehurst apparently lives in Oxfordshire, about 250 miles away from North Durham.

Labour has held the constituency by a large majority since its creation in 1983.

On the same day his candidacy was announced, Faiza Shaheen was suddenly deselected as a Labour candidate for Chingford over liking posts on social media.

One of the posts described how “professional organisations” mobilise pressure on people who are “even mildly critical of Israel”.

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‘Dream job’

Akehurst is the director of We Believe in Israel, a pro-Israel lobby organisation which aims to “provide a united front that brings together all the existing supporters of Israel in the UK”. 

He took up the directorship in 2011, after spending years working as a “defence” specialist at Weber Shandwick.

The public relations giant has represented clients from some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

“It was almost my dream job to run a pro-Israel campaigning organisation”, he told one journalist.

Since then, Akehurst has been among the most vociferous supporters of Israel in British public life.

He has fought strongly against the Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and consistently defended Israel’s military onslaughts against Palestinians.

Akehurst has particularly close ties with the Israeli embassy in London.

He has spoken at conferences alongside Israeli officials, and travelled with embassy staff to campaign events across the country.

In 2017, Al Jazeera’s ground-breaking documentary The Lobby showed Israeli embassy official and suspected intelligence officer Shai Masot discussing Akehurst in glowing terms.

“He’s a great campaigner”, Masot said. “He’s one of the best in the inside… in all the party. Seriously, there is not a lot of people like him”.

The documentary further revealed how Akehurst had planned to attend a Labour Friends of Palestine event to secretly “take notes” for BICOM’s “internal” usage.

We Believe in Israel said that “while it was not controlled financially or otherwise by Israel, it worked with a range of stakeholders including the Israeli Embassy”.

Akehurst has deleted over 1,000 potentially damning posts from his Twitter account in recent days.

One of those posts, on 31 October 2022, shows Akehurst accusing the United Nations of antisemitism.

In another tweet, from November 2023, he argued against international law and Britain’s official policy on Israel.

Akehurst wrote: “I’m in favour of major West Bank settlement blocks becoming part of Israel, and a new Palestinian state getting compensatory land swaps from pre-1967 Israeli territory. I want the Golan Heights to remain part of Israel”.

Israel has illegally occupied much of Syria’s Golan Heights region since 1967.

We Believe in Israel

We Believe in Israel grew out of a 2011 conference organised by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), described by the Guardian as “Britain’s most active pro-Israeli lobbying organisation”.

BICOM owes its existence to Poju Zabludowicz, whose wealth stems from his father Shlomo – “an arms dealer who made a fortune out of his close relations with the Israeli state, and some of the world’s most repressive regimes”.

The We Believe in Israel conference was supported by the Israeli embassy in London.

Attendees heard speeches from Israeli diplomats and an education minister, as well as Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland and the now shadow health minister Wes Streeting.

A plenary talk was delivered by Colonel Richard Kemp, a British army veteran who now runs a charity funded by Israel’s military.

Kemp received a standing ovation shortly after declaring that “a favourite vehicle for the anti-Israel conspiracy is the United Nations Human Rights Council”.

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Dining for Israel

The conference was supplemented with a 75-page “toolkit” on how to effectively lobby for Israel, emphasising methods such as “dining for Israel” and “lobbying MPs”.

“One of the most effective ways to engage people in a discussion about Israel is to invite them into your own home for dinner… People are very flattered to be invited to dinner”, the document advised. 

“If your local MP supports Israel in a crisis, they need the political cover of being able to demonstrate public support from their constituents for their stance”, it continued.

To prepare for these lobbying exercises, the toolkit encouraged campaigners to consult such “authoritative sources” as the Israeli embassy in London.

It also provided briefing material, some of which was prepared by retired Israeli brigadier general Michael Herzog.

In 2009, Herzog was indicted by Spain’s national court over his involvement in the bombing of a residential area in Gaza.

‘Entrenched espionage’

Kareem Dennis, the political activist and musician also known as Lowkey, told Declassified: “Luke Akehurst and his Israel lobby group tried very hard to get my music removed from Spotify, claiming it incited violence.

“His campaign manager was Rachel Blain. Today, she is the Director of Public Affairs at the Conservative Friends of Israel”. 

The complaint related to Lowkey’s 2010 track Long Live Palestine – Part 2. Akehurst told the Jewish News: “The presence of Lowkey’s music is particularly offensive”.

Dennis continued: “It now seems Blain was also employed by the Israeli embassy before working for We Believe in Israel. Rachel Blain notes on her LinkedIn account that she worked as a press assistant at an unnamed ‘International Embassy’ in London, where she ‘researched various media groups and platforms’.

“Before that, Blain worked for the Zionist Federation, where she ‘created dossiers to counter anti-Israel campaigns’. I think it is very likely that the embassy where Blain worked as a press assistant was the Israeli embassy.

“Just to point out how incestuous this all is, We Believe in Israel and the Board of Deputies where Blain interned actually lobbied the Minister of Culture and Sports, Lucy Frazer, on this issue. It turns out Frazer herself interned at the Israeli Ministry of Justice.

“Just another day in a system dominated by what Alan Duncan refers to as ‘entrenched espionage’.”

The post Luke Akehurst: Arch Israel lobbyist picked for Labour safe seat appeared first on Declassified Media Ltd.

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