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Baroness Tonge removes antisemitic cartoon, claims she thought it was ‘two figures trying to escape Gaza’

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

On the morning of the May Bank Holiday (1 May) Baroness Jenny Tonge posted this Latuff cartoon on her Facebook page.

Nobody  could be in any doubt as to what it shows: the cry of ‘Never Again’ recently echoed round the world on Yom HaShoah, the day in April/May that we remember the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The figure on the left – shaped like a swastika, with a yellow star and wearing the striped uniform worn by prisoners in Auschwitz – is obviously a concentration camp victim. The figure on the right is obviously a Palestinian whose movement out of Gaza is controlled due to the risk of terrorist infiltration into Israel. The message – again obvious – is that ‘Israel is doing the same to the Palestinians in Gaza as was done to the Jews by the Nazis’. By the EUMC/IHRA Definition of Antisemitism which the UK government has adopted, the cartoon is antisemitic (‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’).

The cartoonist Latuff regularly features on this blog. He persistently uses antisemitic imagery in his cartoons.   In 2006, Latuff won second prize in Iran’s grotesque ‘Holocaust Cartoon Contest’.  ‘Simply the fact that he entered a competition designed to denigrate and diminish the Holocaust should have seen him permanently shunned in progressive or anti-racist circles.’

I noticed the cartoon on Baroness Tonge’s Facebook page in the morning of 2 May. I alerted the six members of the House of Lords who had previously complained about Baroness Tonge to the Standards Commissioner of the House (you can see their names in the Commissioner’s Report here (p7) and my blog about the Report here).  The same afternoon Sarah Deech tweeted about it. Later on 2 May the JC picked it up and on May 3 so did Jewish News. The growing backlash cannot fail to have been noticed by the noble Baroness – and in the evening of 3 May she deleted the post.

On 4 May in the evening she posted the following by way of ‘apology’:

She could have simply said ‘I am sorry I posted an antisemitic cartoon. I have now removed it’.

But no.

The intellectual contortions she goes through in order NOT to admit that it was an offensive antisemitic cartoon are wondrous to behold.  She claims she thought the cartoon ‘showed two figures trying to escape Gaza through a fence’. Since when do Palestinians wear a yellow star and wear the uniform of the camps? And even ignoring this, why is the phrase ‘Never Again’ in capitals above the figure? And why are the two figures shaped like swastikas?

Just what kind of fools does Baroness Tonge take us for?

Yet again she has used her position in the House of Lords to harass Jewish people.

The House of Lords has a Code of Conduct which – to quote the Standards Commissioner – “does not extend to members’ performance of duties unrelated to parliamentary proceedings; and it is outside my remit to consider complaints about members’ expression of views or opinions. I interpret that as covering members’ posts on social media.”

A Code of Conduct which allows a Member of the House of Lords to persistently harass Jewish people urgently needs to be amended. The petition asking for Baroness Tonge to be expelled from the House has now been signed by nearly 1000 people.  Given the persistent demands for reform of the second Chamber, you might think that its Members would do everything possible to stop one of their number bringing the institution into disrepute.