UK Christian Aid head attacks 'pro-Israel lobby'

Baroness Jenny Tonge stepped down after arguing that lobby dominates Anglo-American foreign policy.

jenny tonge 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
jenny tonge 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Baroness Jenny Tonge has stepped down as a trustee of the charity Christian Aid, a move believed to be related to comments she made about the "financial grips of the pro-Israel lobby" in September. Speaking last week at Edinburgh University, as reported in The Jerusalem Post, Tonge stood by her earlier comments, saying there had been "extensive" research in the US supporting her argument that the Israeli lobby has a disproportionate voice in Anglo-American foreign policy. The charity refused to say whether Tonge was pushed out of her position or left of her own accord. Nigel Varndell, intercommunity and interfaith manager at Christian Aid, said she offered her resignation at the charity's annual general meeting last week. He said her resignation was immediately accepted by the chair but declined to say whether she was pushed following her controversial comments. Dr. Daleep Mukarji, director of Christian Aid, confirmed that Tonge chose to resign and said this would be formally reported to the next board meeting. At a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat Party conference in September, 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." Following her comments, John Davison, a spokesman for Christian Aid, told the Jewish Chronicle, "Baroness Tonge was not speaking on behalf of Christian Aid nor had she consulted with the organization before making these comments. The areas on which she was speaking are outside the remit of a development organization which deals with issues of poverty and humanitarian relief." Davison said he expected Mukarji to take up the matter with Tonge. Liberal Democrat Party leader Sir Menzies Campbell disassociated the party from her remarks and condemned Tonge for "clear anti-Semitic connotations." David Gifford, chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews, said Tonge's statements had often been difficult and hurtful for the Christian-Jewish dynamic in Britain and at variance with opportunities for open dialogue. He added that "progress can only be made by supporting attempts to reconcile rather than divide." "Christian Aid has done the right thing in this instance," said Gavin Gross, campaigns director of the UK Zionist Federation (ZF). "The ZF believe that while criticism of Israel is legitimate, using classic stereotypes such as alleging financial control of the Western world, as Baroness Tonge did, falls outside the boundaries of civilized debate in the UK and we will always take a strong stand against it."