British politician resigns for anti-Israel comments
Party leader Nick Clegg told British Liberal Democrat Baroness Jenny Tonge to apologize or step down following statements.
Baroness Jenny Tonge Photo: Richard Millett
LONDON – A Liberal Democrats peer has resigned from the party after refusing to apologize for telling students at a meeting last week that Israel will not last forever and that it would “reap what it has sown.”
Baroness Jenny Tonge was speaking at Middlesex University in north London when she said told students that Israel should “beware.”
“One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving £70 billion a year to Israel to support what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East – that is Israel,” said the peer, a term for a member of the House of Lords.
“One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA, ‘Enough is enough,’” Tonge maintained. “It will not go on forever; it will not go on forever. Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.”
Tonge rejected an ultimatum issued by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg on Wednesday calling on her to apologize for her remarks.
She will still sit in the House of Lords but will longer sit on the party’s benches in the House.
Jon Benjamin, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British, said it had been a long time in coming and that her position had been untenable for some time.
“Allegations of Jewish political control and organ-harvesting and sympathy for terrorists should have no place in the politics of a party that is now part of the government.”
“Israel will be around long after the outrageous comments from Baroness Tonge are consigned to the dustbin of history,” said Stuart Polak, the chair of the Conservative Friends of Israel.
“It is deeply troubling that a member of the House of Lords can hold such vile opinions. Tonge has once again brought the House and the Liberal Democrat Party into disrepute.”
Tonge, an ardent anti-Israel activist, was sacked as a Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on children’s issues in 2004 after suggesting she could consider becoming a suicide bomber.
In 2006, then-party leader Menzies Campbell dissociated the party from Tonge and condemned her for “clear anti-Semitic connotations” after she said that “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.”
The Liberal Democrat peer then said in 2010 that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is the root cause of terrorism worldwide.
“Holocaust guilt” possibly allows this treatment to go unchecked, Tonge suggested.
The same year, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg sacked her as the Liberal Democrat’s health spokeswoman after she suggested that Israel set up an inquiry if it wants to refute allegations that its medical teams in Haiti “harvested” organs of earthquake victims.
Following her remarks at last week’s meeting, there have been renewed calls for Clegg to take action.
Conservative MP Robert Halfon called for Tonge to withdraw her remarks immediately and unconditionally.
“Baroness Tonge has an appalling record of strong anti-Israel rhetoric. Too often, these remarks carry an offensive anti-Semitic tone. This latest outburst hinders the important role that Britain continues to make in supporting the ongoing Middle East peace process,” Halfon said.
“[There is] no place in politics for those who question the existence of the State of Israel. Nick Clegg must condemn Jenny Tonge’s remark and demand an apology,” Labor party leader Ed Milliband said via Twitter on Tuesday.
“There is a cross-party consensus that a two-state solution is the only way to bring peace to the Middle East. At the very least, Nick Clegg must make Baroness Tonge withdraw these remarks,” said Labor MP Ian Austin.
Gavin Stollar, chair of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, said that Tonge is an “irrelevant, siren and marginal voice” in the party.
“This is the latest in a series of outrageous remarks from Baroness Tonge – words of excuse or apology in response are no longer enough,” said John Woodcock, Labor MP and chair of Labor Friends of Israel.
Also speaking at the event was former US marine and anti-Israel activist Ken O’Keefe, who was on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship that attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2009.
O’Keefe told the student audience that Israel was directly involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and that it “continues to foster false-flag terrorism.”
“If Israel is inherently a racist state, if it is inherently an apartheid state, then I want no part of Israel; it has no place in this world. And it must in its current form –if you want me to use some inflammatory language – in its current form should be destroyed,” he said.
The event was condemned by Student Rights, an organization that monitors extremism on campuses in the UK.
“This drastically biased event serves as a terrifying example of how academic institutions are routinely perverted by dangerous ideologues posing as experts,” said Raheem Kassam, director of Student Rights.
“Baroness Tonge’s comments on Israel can be construed as both anti-Semitic and genocidal and are cause for great concern both intellectually and legally,” he added.