“Does it ever occur to Bibi and the present Israeli government that it’s actions against Palestinians may be re-igniting antisemitism?” Baroness Jenny Tonge wondered.
Baroness Jenny Tonge, an independent peer in House of Lords, has suggested that the Israeli government bears some responsibility for Saturday’s horrific terrorist attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left 11 dead and six wounded.
Tonge responded to the attack on Facebook, writing: “Absolutely appalling and a criminal act, but does it ever occur to Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] and the present Israeli government that it’s [sic] actions against Palestinians may be re-igniting antisemitism? I suppose someone will say that it is antisemitic to say so?”
The post has since been removed from social media, and Tonge issued an apology, stating: “I bow to this great article by Robert Cohen and acknowledge that to think that the Israeli government’s persecution of the Palestinian people had anything to do with the actions of this gunman, may have been too hasty. We must wait for his trial and testimony to try to understand better this ‘white’ supremacy movement in the USA.”
“Attempting to blame the Jewish state for the actions of a neo-Nazi terrorist while, the bodies of his innocent victims are not yet cold, is utterly abhorrent,” stated the UK’s Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA).
“We consider that Baroness Tonge’s ongoing membership of the House of Lords and the medical profession are stains on both institutions and we have formally complained to both the House of Lords and the General Medical Council in the past,” CAA continued.
The anti-Semitism watchdog demanded that the Liberal Democrats, which secured Baroness Tonge’s seat in the House of Lords, “must now campaign for her to be removed from the legislature and stripped of her title.”
Tonge has twice been suspended by the United Kingdom’s Liberal Democrats over allegations of anti-Semitism and eventually resigned as pressure mounted.
Rich and Long History of Anti-Semitism
Baroness Tonge has a long history of using anti-Israel, and at times anti-Semitic, language.
In 2003 she compared conditions in Gaza to those in the Warsaw Ghetto, for which she was criticized by the chairman of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
The following year, during a spate of suicide bombings targeting Israelis, she said that she “might just consider becoming [a suicide bomber] myself” if she was a Palestinian. After her comments were condemned as “completely unacceptable” by her own party leader, Charles Kennedy, she told the BBC that suicide bombers’ actions are “appalling and loathsome.”
Two years later in 2006, she told a fringe meeting at her party conference: “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a grip on our party.” Once again, her party leader, then Sir Menzies Campbell, said that her comments had “clear anti-Semitic connotations,” but she was unapologetic.
In 2010, in response to an anti-Semitic libel alleging that Israeli soldiers providing aid in Haiti were secretly harvesting victims’ organs, Baroness Tonge suggested that Israel should conduct an inquiry to “clear the names of the team in Haiti.” The party leader, who by then was Nick Clegg, called the comments “wrong, distasteful and provocative,” and removed her as the party’s health spokesperson.
In 2012, she told a group at Middlesex University: “Beware Israel. Israel is not going to be there forever in its present performance.” Party leader Nick Clegg challenged her to apologize or resign for her remarks, following which she resigned the party whip.
In 2015, CAA condemned Tonge for asking a written question in the House of Lords which held Jews collectively responsible for perceived wrongdoing by Israel by calling for “Jewish faith leaders in the United Kingdom [to] publicly to condemn settlement building by Israel and to make clear their support for universal human rights.”
UK Politicians Fail to Act
Last year, she used a speech in the House of Lords to again call on “Jewish faith leaders in the United Kingdom publicly to condemn settlement building by Israel,” for which she was condemned , however, her party refused to act. When CAA called on its supporters to complain to the Liberal Democrat Party, the Party responded that they would investigate if they received complaints.
She then hosted a meeting in the House of Lords at which attendees compared Israel to the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group and suggested that Holocaust victims provoked their own genocide. She was suspended from the Liberal Democrat party pending investigation, following which she resigned from the party, but she remains in the House of Lords. Subsequently, the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, declined to take action against Baroness Tonge.
In October 2016, Tonge responded to a report on rising anti-Semitism in the UK by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee with a letter in which she wrote: “It is difficult to believe that a 75% increase in antisemitism [the Committee] reports, have been committed by people who simply hate Jewish people for no reason. It is surely the case that these incidents are reflecting the disgust amongst the general public of the way the government of Israel treats Palestinians and manipulates the USA and ourselves to take no action against that country’s blatant disregard of International Law and the Geneva Conventions.”
In May 2017, Tonge shared and then deleted an image belittling the Holocaust by equating it with the situation in Gaza. The cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, had won second prize in one of Iran’s Holocaust denial cartoon competitions.
Then in August 2017, she shared an anti-Semitic caricature on Facebook. The caricature was part of an image which claimed to expose the “AIPAC Jewish lobby” through a quote supposedly from Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters. In the bottom-right corner of the image, an anti-Semitic caricature of a big-nosed Jew clasping his hands together can be seen. The caricature is commonly used by neo-Nazis and far-left extremists in anti-Semitic social media memes. The original post, which Baroness Tonge shared, was posted by Saeed Sarwar, who commented on the image: “I’ve checked with 4 specialist friends in case anyone tries to suggest this is antisemitism. It’s actually bang on.”
“It is high time that Baroness Tonge was removed from the legislature and stripped of her title,” CAA concluded.