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Just two weeks after a Parliamentary Report found that anti-Semitism was on the rise in the UK, a member of the House of Lords is embroiled in controversial comments made at a public meeting.
Speaking on Tuesday at a meeting of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, a pro-Palestinian fringe organization, Baroness Jenny Tonge said, "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."
Tonge was sacked as a front bench Liberal Democrat spokeswoman in January 2004 after expressing support for Palestinian suicide bombers.
Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel and a host of Jewish organizations that include the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and the British Israel Communication and Research Center (BICOM), a UK-based pro-Israel lobby group, said they believe it "is now time to review Baroness Tonge's position in the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party."
"Jenny Tonge's original support for suicide bombers in Israel got her sacked from the front bench," said Gavin Stollar, a spokesman for the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel. "I think her vulgar repetition and rhetoric means that her position within the party needs to be seriously reviewed."
Speaking at the event, Tonge also repeated her support for suicide bombings in Israel.
The recent "Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism" raised concern about the growing form of anti-Jewish prejudice that takes the form of conversations, discussions or pronouncements made in public or private that cross the line of acceptability.
This "anti-Semitic discourse" is the term the inquiry adopted to describe the widespread change in mood and tone when Jews are discussed, whether in print or broadcast, at universities or in public or social settings.
"Two weeks ago, an independent parliamentary inquiry warned of linkage between this kind of discourse and themes common to anti-Semitism," said Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, of Tonge's remarks. "Tonge has provided shocking evidence that the inquiry was right to be concerned. Conspiracy theories of this nature provide a breeding ground for the politics of hatred. The Liberal Democrat leadership must take action."
The report said: "Anti-Semitic discourse is not normally targeted at an identifiable victim, but at Jews as a group. It may be found in the media or in more private social interaction and often reflects some of the features of historical anti-Semitism, playing on Jewish stereotypes and myths."
One of the most common forms of myths and stereotypes is that a "Jewish lobby" controls the media, the economy or a political party, as suggested by Tonge Tuesday night.
"Baroness Tonge's comments could have been lifted from the parliamentary inquiry's report as a textbook example of the kind of discourse that so concerned them," said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies. "At a time when anti-Semitism is on the increase and everyone should be working to develop communal harmony, I find it despicable that she believed it was appropriate to make comments such as these at a major political conference."
"Unfortunately, we are not surprised by Jenny Tonge's comments, but we are still shocked," said Ben Novick, spokesperson for BICOM. "At a time when suicide bombing and terrorism is affecting many liberal democratic societies across the world, it is truly shocking to hear a Liberal Democrat parliamentarian espouse such sentiment."
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