David Aaronovitch, writing in the Times (£), notes with understandable bitterness the soft treatment Jenny Tonge has received from the Liberal Democrats, both in the past, and in response to the latest disgraceful episode. He concludes:
Before she resigned, Baroness Tonge was suspended, not expelled, from her utterly complacent party. Because actually many people don’t care that much about antisemitism any more. They say they do, but they don’t. They cluck but secretly they think antisemitism isn’t really a problem, that Jews are generally rich and can look after themselves and that — one way or another — they probably have it coming.
Tonge was chairing an event in the House of Lords run by the Palestinian Return Centre. As David Collier reports, many of the views on display were within, if not reasonable, then at least expected, parameters. But this intervention from a Neturei Karta speaker had nothing to do with the Palestinian cause:
“And thirty years later, he made the boycott on Germany, the economic boycott on Germany which antagonised Hitler, over the edge, to then want to systematically kill Jews wherever he could find them. As opposed to ‘Judenrein’, to make Germany free of Jews, a Jew free land. Which is enough, but that is noted by one of our Rabbis, that is what pushed him over the edge. His personal secretary Ribbentrop was in Nuremberg trials, he said to Rabbi Wise(?), this is what, he became a madman after this boycott, Judea declares war on Germany. In Manhattan they had 100, 000 people marching in the economic boycott in 1935, it was the same heretic rabbi who caused that.
In other words, it was the boycotting Jews who must take responsibility for the Holocaust.
Tonge’s use of this familiar reflexive formula following her suspension has rarely been more inadequate or inapposite.
“We need an urgent definition of anti-Semitism.
“At the moment anyone who criticises Israel is accused of it.”
And this was how she parried accusations relating to the Neturei Karta speaker:
She has defended her actions, denied she is anti-Semitic and said she did not hear the full “rant”.
“I was chairing, I did not make any speeches, I introduced the speakers and in the course of that meeting there was a great rant”, she said.
“I remember the rant very well but I don’t remember hearing very much of it. It was a rant. I didn’t know what this person said.
However her response at the time in fact picked up directly on the speaker’s point:
Baroness Tonge responds: “Thank you very much. I think it’s very important that the word boycott has come up. The BDS, the campaign to boycott Israeli goods and services, and divestment from Israel, most of us think is very, very important indeed.”
According to the logic of the rant in question, if Israel really did commit the genocide they are so often accused of, it could be blamed on the Palestinians, in the region and abroad, who call for a boycott.
UK Media Watch identify what is perhaps the very worst aspect of this shameful meeting in the House of Lords.
Note that not one participant or audience member at the event raised objections to this morally grotesque charge.