Former Lib Dem peer cleared of anti-Semitism by parliamentary committee


The Privileges and Conduct Committee said Jenny Tonge had 'not intended to promote anti-semitism'

Jenny Tonge speaking on PressTV (YouTube)
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Last update: 
Tuesday 21 March 2017 14:14 UTC

A parliamentary committee has cleared former Liberal Democrat peer Jenny Tonge of anti-Semitism.

Tonge hosted an event in parliament in October 2016 marking the launch of the Balfour Apology Campaign, intended to campaign for an official apology from the British government for the document - the 1917 Balfour declaration - supporting the creation of the state of Israel.

However, reports at the time said that the event had featured audience members engaging in anti-Semitic behaviour, including comparing Israel to the Islamic State group and allegedly suggesting that Zionists had provoked the Holocaust.

The event was condemned by both the Liberal Democrat leadership and the Israeli embassy who called it a “shameful event which gave voice to racist tropes against Jews and Israelis alike”. Tonge, who had already resigned the Liberal Democrat whip in the House of Lords, resigned from the party altogether following the incident.

However, the report from the parliamentary Privileges and Conduct Committee said it was "clear from the transcript that the event as billed - to launch the Palestinian Return Centre’s Balfour Apology Campaign - was what took place, and that the event was not intended to promote anti-Semitism."

"I find that there was no takeover of the event by people promoting anti-Semitism, and that therefore Baroness Tonge was not obliged to deal with any such takeover."

The report also said that the audience member responsible for the alleged IS and Holocaust comments had not engaged in Holocaust denial. The speaker, a member of the ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist Jewish sect Neturei Karta, claimed that a "Reform heretic" rabbi had in the 1930s "antagonised Hitler over the edge to then want to systematically kill Jews wherever he could find them" which had been taken by some commentators as blaming Jews for provoking the Holocaust.

While acknowledging the problematic nature of the audience member's comments, the report noted that the "fact that Holocaust deniers use this device cannot be evidence that someone who accepts that Hitler wanted 'to systematically kill Jews wherever he could find them' is a Holocaust denier."

Tonge was a Liberal Democrat MP for London's Richmond Park constitutency from 1997 to 2005, but has sat as an independent in the Lords since she was threatened with suspension in 2012, following comments made during a talk at Middlesex University where she implied that the state of Israel would eventually cease to exist.

"Beware Israel. Israel is not going to be there forever in its present form," she told the audience. "One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving £70bn a year to Israel to support what I call America's aircraft carrier in the Middle East – that is Israel.

"One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA: enough is enough. Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown."

She also provoked controversy in 2010 after calling for an inquiry after Palestinian media reported that the Israeli Defence Forces had been involved in harvesting organs in Haiti and selling them on the black market.