Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg has sacked controversial peer Baroness Jenny Tonge as his health spokeswoman in the House of Lords after she suggested last week that Israel set up an inquiry if it wants to refute allegations that its medical teams in Haiti “harvested” organs of earthquake victims.
“Following discussions with the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, Lord McNally, I have decided that Jenny Tonge will stand down as Liberal Democrat health spokesperson in the Lords following her unacceptable comments suggesting an inquiry into highly offensive allegations against the IDF humanitarian operation in Haiti,” Clegg said in a statement on Friday afternoon.
“The comments were wrong, distasteful and provocative and I recognize the deep and understandable distress they have caused to the Jewish community,” he added.
“While I do not believe that Jenny Tonge is anti-Semitic or racist, I regard her comments as wholly unacceptable,” he said.
“Jenny Tonge apologizes unreservedly for the offense she has caused.”
The allegation that IDF medics harvested organs from Haitians to use in transplants was published in the Gaza-based Web site The Palestine Telegraph, of which Tonge is a patron. The article, titled “Focus on Israel: Harvesting Haitian Organs,” was written by a Boston blogger Stephen Lendman.
Lendman – who in his biog says his main area of interest is for “justice for all the oppressed peoples of the world like the long-suffering people of Haiti and the Palestinians,” accused Israel of a “crime against humanity.”
The article makes reference to a report by Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV that cites “a damning YouTube video” posted by an American named “T. West” from a group called AfriSynergy Productions who said: “The video
presents something to think about while exploiting the horrible tragedy that has befallen Haiti where Israeli occupation soldiers are engaged in organ trafficking.”
Tonge said she did not accept this narrative and that the IDF was “to be commended for their fantastic response to the Haitian earthquake.”
However speaking to the Jewish Chronicle, Tonge added: “To prevent allegations such as these – which have already been posted on YouTube – going any further, the IDF and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names
of the team in Haiti.”
In an e-mail to an anti-Israel activist that was posted on an activist message board on Saturday, the Liberal Democrat peer blamed Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard for spreading the “silly allegation” and thus damaging Israel’s work in Haiti.
“This is total rubbish, as usual! Palestine Telegraph last week had a long piece by a Jewish American on the subject of organ donation – not an editorial piece,” Tonge said in the e-mail. “It said there were postings on YouTube about organ harvesting in Haiti by the large team sent out by Israel to help! The JC asked for a comment, as I am a patron of the Palestine Telegraph. I actually congratulated Israel for their prompt response to the disaster and said that if allegations were being made they should conduct an inquiry to dispel any rumors. Okay? It is quite ludicrous – organs would be useless in that situation anyway and it is a nonsense suggestion.
“Trouble is he [Stephen Pollard] has now SPREAD a silly allegation and done untold damage to a really great effort by the Israelis,” Tonge said.
In a joint statement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Jewish Leadership Council said that Tonge has uses classic anti-Semitic tropes calling her support for an investigation as “outrageous.”
“Baroness Tonge's support for an investigation into baseless accusations of organ harvesting by the Israeli rescue teams are outrageous and a calumny.
"Baroness Tonge has promoted this libel against Israel by utilising historic themes that are classically deployed to attack the Jewish People. She has dishonoured the noble efforts of Israeli soldiers and
civilians who engaged in a selfless humanitarian effort to save lives in Haiti,” the statement said.
The representative organizations said that party leader Nick Clegg acted correctly but said that any further use of anti-Semitic rhetoric should result in her expulsion from the party.
“Whatever her motives, Jenny Tonge's persistent use of Anti-Semitic tropes has no place in British politics. Nick Clegg has responded swiftly and correctly. We welcome this. Nevertheless, any further use of anti-Semitic rhetoric must result in Tonge's expulsion from the party and loss of the whip.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center also welcomed the decision.
In a letter sent to Clegg, director for international relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, commended him for removing Tonge from her position as health spokesperson in the Lords but called for her to be permanently expelled from the party.
“This agitator, reportedly known in radical circles as ‘Jihad Jenny’ is a hazard to the health, not only of the Liberal Democrat Party, but of the UK,” Samuels said. “Tonge’s language arguably encourages the Islamist call to British-born children as eventual recruits to Jihad.”
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Samuels said he considered “Tonge’s apologies as “recurrent and showing
no remorse” adding that as a “recidivist”, she should have no place in
a party whose constitution claims to reject all prejudices and
“We urge you to ensure that the Liberal
Democrats live up to those values by definitively expelling ‘Jihad
Jenny’ from your ranks. For, as long as she remains, the Liberal
Democrat party is passively endorsing positions explicitly defined as
anti-Semitic by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency’s 2004
Working Definition,” Samuels said.