“Absolutely appalling and a criminal act, but does it ever occur to Bibi and the present Israeli government that its actions against Palestinians may be reigniting anti-Semitism? I suppose someone will say that it is anti-Semitic to say so?”
What’s wrong with that?
Everything, according to the ‘usual suspects’ among the Inquisitors that makes up the Israel lobby.
Lord Pickles, in the House of Lords on 29 October responding to a Private Notice Question, said: “My Lords, will the Minister join me, along with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, in condemning the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, in suggesting that the murders in Pittsburgh were caused by the actions of the Israeli Government? That suggestion will clearly cause great pain in Pittsburgh, and falls foul of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.”
Jenny Tonge, a tireless champion of Palestinians’ rights, has fought long and hard in the struggle for their freedom. So what came as a surprise (for some) was the knife in the back from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), who issued this statement on 30 October: “In the aftermath of the massacre of 11 Jewish worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Baroness Tonge posted a comment on Facebook that suggested Israel’s policies and its treatment of the Palestinians could be contributing to a rise in anti-Semitism generally. Baroness Tonge subsequently removed the post.
“PSC regards the original post to be deeply troubling. Whilst the post acknowledged that the killings were appalling and a criminal act, it risked being read as implying that anti-Semitism can only be understood in the context of a response to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Such a view risks justifying or minimising antisemitism.”
The PSC told Jewish News it had “contacted Jenny Tonge to express our deep concerns at her post and is in the process of considering any further steps.”
Jewish News also reported that Conservative Friends of Israel Parliamentary Chairman Lord Pickles and Conservative Friends of Israel Honorary President Lord Polak had condemned her “callous inflammatory” remarks. They said the post “is in clear violation of the IHRA definition of Anti-Semitism adopted by the UK Government. For a Member of the House of Lords to publish such hateful thoughts brings Parliament into disrepute.”
Never mind that Jenny’s remark was accurate. The Israeli regime strains every sinew to ensure its behaviour is so appalling as to invite detestation and loathing, not because they are Jews but because they are the ‘amoral thugs’ that the late Jewish MP Sir Gerald Kaufman once called them.
Remember the warning from one of their own, former Israeli Director of Military Intelligence Yehoshafat Harkabi, who wrote: “Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world.”
Bibi and his adoring supporters, not Jenny Tonge, need to think about that. It remains to be seen whether Israel’s vile treatment of the Palestinians motivated the atrocity at Pittsburgh. But whatever the IHRA definition says, the European Convention on Human Rights and our Human Rights Act provide for freedom of expression which applies not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also to those that “offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population”. Unless, of course, they call for violence, hatred or intolerance, which is not the case here.
Nothing to apologise for
Of course the Zionists, even within her own party, have been gunning for Jenny for a very long time. A doctor by training and profession, she is used to being stabbed in the back by scaredy-cat leaders. In 2012 she was sacked after suggesting that Israel would not last for ever. She rejected an ultimatum from party leader Nick Clegg to apologise and said she stood by her remarks.
The row blew up when Jenny allegedly told a meeting at Middlesex University: “Beware Israel. Israel is not going to be there for ever in its present form… Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.” She said America would one day get sick of funding what she called America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East. “One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA: Enough is enough.”
Israel’s admirers were soon queuing up to spit their venom. The Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned Tonge’s remarks as “sinister and abhorrent”. Chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “There is no place for someone like Jenny Tonge in mainstream political parties in this country.”
The then chief rabbi, Lord Sacks, said: “I am appalled at Baroness Tonge’s remarks. They are dangerous, inflammatory and unacceptable… Views such as those expressed by Baroness Tonge have no place in civil public discourse.”
The Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel applauded Clegg’s “decisive action” and hoped the sacking would “draw a line under the continual smearing of Lib Dem party policy on Israel and the Middle East”. And according to The Guardian an unnamed Lib Dem spokesman said: “Jenny Tonge does not speak for the party on Israel and Palestine. Her presence and comments at this event were extremely ill-advised and ill-judged… The Liberal Democrats are wholehearted supporters of a peaceful two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine issue.”
Clegg, who was also Deputy Prime Minister in the coalition government at the time, said: “These remarks were wrong and offensive and do not reflect the values of the Liberal Democrats. I asked Baroness Tonge to withdraw her remarks and apologise for the offence she has caused. She has refused to do so and will now be leaving the party. The Liberal Democrats have a proud record of campaigning for the rights of Palestinians, and that will continue, but we are crystal clear in our support for a two-state solution.”
And a fat lot of good adopting that position has done. Even in 2012 it was obvious the two-state solution was stone dead.
However John McHugo, chair of the LibDem Friends of Palestine, said: “Jenny’s motivation in speaking up for the rights of the oppressed is anger at injustice when others, who have the duty to speak out, pass by silently on the other side of the street.”
In 2004 she said about Palestinian suicide bombers: “If I had to live in that situation – and I say that advisedly – I might just consider becoming one myself.” Everyone went mad. A senior Conservative said her comments would “sicken those across the world who have lost loved ones to suicide bombers”. The ignoramus didn’t mention the thousands of Palestinian families who had lost loved ones, their homes and their livelihoods – everything – to Israeli terrorists and occupation forces.
Charles Kennedy, the then LibDem party leader, dismissed Jenny as children’s spokesperson, saying: “Her recent remarks… are completely unacceptable. They are not compatible with Liberal Democrat party policies and principles. There can be no justification, under any circumstances, for taking innocent lives through terrorism.”
But Kennedy too couldn’t bring himself to mention the casualties inflicted by Israel’s acts of terror and frequent high-tech military strikes on an occupied and defenceless civilian population.
Then, in 2006, Jenny told a fringe meeting at her party’s conference: “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they have probably got a certain grip on our party.” As if to prove her point the LibDem Friends of Israel immediately issued a press release saying: “In the coming days and weeks we will work closely with colleagues inside the Party to ensure every avenue is explored towards removing Baroness Tonge from the Liberal Democrat benches in the House of Lords.”
The party’s leader at the time, Menzies Campbell, dissociated himself from her “offensive remarks” and “their clear anti-Semitic connotations”. Offensive? The pro-Israel lobby’s infiltration of Parliament and public life was there for all to see. That’s what was offensive. And the threat to national security was blazingly obvious. For example, our most important security bodies – the Intelligence & Security Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee and Defence Committee – were all headed by senior Friends of Israel. How could that be in our national interest?
Clegg and Co would do well to re-read the Preamble to their own party’s Constitution, a very fine document indeed especially where it says: “We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience… We reject all prejudice and discrimination… Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services.”
Those principles are as good as any for guiding a person through political life. But where are they reflected in our political elite’s dealings with the scandalous injustice in the Holy Land?
And just how principled was Clegg’s sacking of one of the country’s most committed campaigners for human rights, Jenny Tonge?
Jenny’s goodbye to the Liberal Democrat party and its sanctimonious hypocrites was a long time coming. She’s well rid of them.
PSC too timid to put down a marker for upholding international law?
And what of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign? I had suspicions in 2007 that the PSC was infiltrated at headquarters level when they refused to review or give any space at all to my book Radio Free Palestine (Foreword by Jeff Halper) even after I’d sent them two complimentary copies which they claimed had gone astray. They refused again when the book was published on the web for all to read. How’s that for “Solidarity”? Although I have every admiration for the hardworking campaigners in PSC’s local branches the leadership has done nothing to inspire or give me confidence. Of course, it is to be expected that such a high-profile campaign group would be targeted.
At its Annual General Meeting in 2016 the PSC even threw out a proposal to seek Israel’s expulsion from the United Nations. Chairman Hugh Lanning was reported to have started proceedings on a positive note saying: “Let us recommit to Palestine to make sure that we make a difference in the coming year.”
But a motion put for the PSC’s Executive Committee to “request the Government of the United Kingdom, enforced by a petition and lobbying, to submit a motion to the Security Council recommending that the General Assembly expel Israel from the UN in compliance with the UN Charter, Article 6″ failed — 76 for, 116 against. A statement by its main sponsor, Blake Alcott, said that an identical motion to the AGM a year previously was likewise opposed by the PSC leadership who felt “the time is not yet right”. He said: “Pro-Palestinians must wonder how much worse Israel’s crimes must be before the international community takes disciplinary action.”
There is ample reason to call for Israel’s expulsion from the UN. That racist endeavour clearly isn’t the ‘peace-loving state’ required by the UN Charter’s Article 4. Nor has it fulfilled the four conditions to its acceptance as a member back in May 1949. As the record shows, Israel has wilfully breached conditions of membership for decades. Many have argued it automatically disqualifies itself by failing to fulfill membership requirements in the first place. Furthermore it continues to show contempt for numerous UN resolution despite frequent reminders.
When considering what sort of response civil society should make, suspension sounds ‘softer’ than expulsion as membership can be speedily restored if and when Israel satisfies the other member states that it now conforms. And in the circumstances suspension would surely be more difficult to veto. But under the rules expulsion is also an option. This is what the relevant part of the UN Charter says:
- (Article 5) A Member of the United Nations against which preventive or enforcement action has been taken by the Security Council may be suspended from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. The exercise of these rights and privileges may be restored by the Security Council.
- (Article 6) A Member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.
It might be argued that the passing of numerous UN Security Council resolutions amounts to ‘preventive action’ (although still awaiting enforcement). But Article 6, which stipulates expulsion, is more clear-cut. Israel has certainly violated every norm, every rule of decency, every principle of humanity. And it continues to do so without showing a shred of remorse.
Of course Mr Alcott’s motion, if passed, would have been brushed aside by the British Government which is pledged by successive prime ministers to protect and reward Israel right or wrong. But that is not the point. The aim of the motion was to put down a marker and provide a focus around which other campaign groups across the world could mobilise, bringing similar pressure to bear on their own governments and creating an irresistible swell of global opinion to ensure international law is eventually upheld.
The PSC failed that simple test. So how will it ever “make a difference” on behalf of the long-suffering Palestinians?
This week Jenny wrote on her Facebook page: “PSC are very worried about the furore surrounding my remarks following Pittsburgh and I have resigned to save them embarrassment!!! Sad day.”
She was a patron and had been a member for 10 years. I’d say she’s well shot of them and the LibDems, both.
3 November 2018