British baroness chastised for 'pro-Israel lobby' comments

"The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they've probably got a grip on our party."

tong 88 (photo credit: )
tong 88
(photo credit: )
The leader of Britain's Liberal Democrat party is considering recommendations to discipline and perhaps expel Baroness Jenny Tonge from the party's membership in the House of Lords following comments she made last week on the power of the "pro-Israel lobby." Speaking at Edinburgh University at a meeting attended by representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tonge defended comments she made at September's party conference that "The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they've probably got a grip on our party." In Edinburgh, Tonge clarified her remarks, saying there had been "extensive" research in the United States supporting her contention that the "Israel lobby" had a disproportionate voice in Anglo-American foreign policy, referring to a paper written by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt that appeared in the March 23, 2006 issue of The London Review of Books. Tonge defended her assertions as being unremarkable, noting that the speaker from the Israeli embassy "did not challenge me during the meeting at all." She explained that her earlier comments "were about the Israeli lobby in politics. They were a big distance from being about Jewishness or anti-Semitism." Tonge's September comments prompted an all-party group of lords led by the former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, to call for her censure. The group said her "irresponsible and inappropriate" comments "evoked a classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theory" and were symptomatic of the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK. Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell also chastised Tonge, saying her remarks were "unacceptable" and had "clear anti-Semitic connotations." In 2004, Tonge was stripped of her job as the party's shadow international development secretary for saying that if she were a Palestinian, she "might just consider becoming" a suicide bomber. Leaders of Britain's Jewish community have been quick to call for an account. John Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, noted that, "If someone makes comments that are so at odds with what the party feels, and hopefully at odds with common decency, then one would hope that they are no longer made welcome in the party itself." On Monday, Tonge met with the party leadership to consider her future place within the Liberal Democrat leadership in the wake of her renewed comments. A statement issued after the meeting said, "The leader of the Liberal Democrats and the chief whip in the House of Lords have made a recommendation with regard to Jenny Tonge. Campbell is considering this overnight."