John Woodcock, the government’s man urging MPs to stop engaging with pro-Palestine groups, has accepted Israel lobby funding amid the Gaza genocide.

5 MARCH 2024 –

John Woodcock (2nd from right) on a trip to Israel and Palestine in 2011. (Photo: LFI)

John Woodcock (2nd from right) on a trip to Israel and Palestine in 2011. (Photo: LFI)

John Woodcock, or Lord Walney, is the UK government’s independent adviser on political violence and disruption.

In 2021, he was tasked with producing a report “into the extreme fringes on both ends of the political spectrum” in Britain, and with making recommendations to the prime minister.

Woodcock has now completed his report, and is urging Britain’s political leaders to take a “zero-tolerance approach” to pro-Palestine and climate protesters.

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, says Woodcock, should “instruct their MPs and councillors not to engage with anyone” from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign “until they get their house in order and cut the hate from their marches”.

In addition, Woodcock is suggesting that pro-Palestine protesters should be forced to pay towards policing costs and be treated like “sectarian parades in Northern Ireland”.

Yet Woodcock can hardly be considered independent. He has previously worked with the Israel lobby and has even accepted funding from it amid the ongoing genocide in Gaza, Declassified has found.

This raises serious questions about Woodcock’s suitability to advise the government on issues relating to Palestine, or on extremism altogether.

Woodcock and Israel

In 2011, one year after being elected as a Labour MP, Woodcock was appointed chair of the pro-Israel lobby group, Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). 

That year, he travelled to Israel on a trip funded by LFI, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Portland Trust. 

During the visit, Woodcock and seven other MPs planted trees in Israel’s Aminadav Forest, around seven miles west of Jerusalem, which was established by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). 

The JNF is a quasi-governmental organisation which has supported illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine, and was described by historian Ilan Pappé as a “colonialist agency of ethnic cleansing”.

During his time as an MP, Woodcock also accepted funding from the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, a group established in 2003 by the then Israeli foreign minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his Australian counterpart.

“I was one of the people who had a lazy, ill-informed, and I guess small level prejudice against the nation of Israel”, Woodcock has said. “I had this ill-thought-out sense of Israel as being the powerful, unfair aggressors to their neighbours”.

This all changed, he noted, following a visit to Israel while working with a student organisation.

‘Solidarity mission’

No longer an MP, Woodcock was ennobled to the House of Lords in 2020 and appointed as the government’s adviser on political violence and disruption.

Woodcock has continued to accept funds from Britain’s Israel lobby amid the genocide in Gaza.

In January this year, Woodcock visited Israel as part of a parliamentary delegation organised by the European Leadership Network (ELNET UK), with flights and accommodation paid for by the organisation.

Woodcock apparently did not publicise his trip to Israel. It does not feature on his X (formerly Twitter) page, and it gained no media attention.

He was joined by Conservative MP Tom Hunt and Conservative Friends of Israel’s honorary president Lord Polak. Hunt described the delegation as a “solidarity mission”.

“Woodcock was funded by ELNET while preparing to deliver his report concerning Palestine protests in Britain”

ELNET was created in 2007 to “counter the widespread criticism of Israel in Europe”, and has since described South Africa’s genocide case at the ICJ as “politically motivated and legally tenuous”.

The organisation’s British wing is directed by former Labour MP and LFI chair, Joan Ryan, while much of its operations are run from its office in Tel Aviv, headed by Emmanuel Navon.

Navon has described Israel’s possible offensive into the Rafah area of Gaza as “necessary” and suggested that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell “need not worry about Gaza civilians” should it happen.

Woodcock was funded by ELNET while preparing to deliver his report concerning Palestine protests in Britain.

Saudi Arabia

Woodcock’s authority to discern the threat of “extremism” and “political violence” in Britain is further diminished by his defence of Saudi Arabia.

As an MP, he accepted over £14,000 from the Saudi government to travel to the country on two occasions.

In 2016, amid the brutal war on Yemen, Woodcock suggested that ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia was “empty gesture politics”.

Two years later, Woodcock said that he was “hugely struck by” Saudi king Salman’s “ambition to modernise the country”. 

In the first four months of 2018, the Saudi dictatorship had authorised 48 beheadings, half of which were on non-violent drug charges.


John McEvoy is an independent journalist who has written for International History Review, The Canary, Tribune Magazine, Jacobin and Brasil Wire.VIEW MORE ARTICLES