Israel condemned a “shameful” meeting held at the House of Lords in London this week at which a member of the audience won applause for claiming that Jews were to blame for the Holocaust.
The meeting on Tuesday kicked off a campaign by vehemently anti-Israel Baroness Jenny Tonge to demand that the UK government apologize for the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which affirmed the right of the Jewish people to a homeland in then-Palestine.
The meeting, which reportedly began with comments from the organizers, soon opened the debate up to the floor. According to blogger David Collier who was present at the event, a member of the militantly anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta movement launched a diatribe against an American Zionist rabbi he said drove Hitler to carry out a mass extermination of Europe’s Jews.
The Neturei Karta member began by comparing Israel to the Islamic State group, saying that, “ISIS is a perversion of Islam, just as Zionism is a perversion of Judaism.” He then went on to accuse Stephen Wise, an American Reform rabbi and Zionist leader who died in 1949, of both foreseeing the number of dead in the Holocaust three decades before its inception and of driving Hitler to commit the genocide.
Man says Jews were responsible for the Holocaust; panel thanks man, BDS is mentioned, general applause pic.twitter.com/3FbBNoXUjm
— Yiftah Curiel (@yiftahc) October 26, 2016
The man said: “One of the main Zionists in America, Rabbi Stephen Wise, a Reform, a heretic, so-called rabbi, he spoke in The New York Times in 1905, there are six million, note the number, bleeding and suffering reasons to justify Zionism.” Collier points out that this quote by Wise is commonly used among Holocaust deniers.
The audience member then went on to accuse Wise of enraging Hitler by instigating an American economic boycott of Germany to the point that he wanted to “systematically kill Jews wherever he could find them.”
The attendee said that Wise “made the boycott on Germany, the economic boycott on Germany which antagonized Hitler, over the edge, to then want to systematically kill Jews wherever he could find them. As opposed to just ‘Judenrein,’ to make Germany free of Jews, a Jew-free land. Which is enough, but that is noted by one of our rabbis, that is what pushed him over the edge.”
The man continued by saying that Hitler “became a madman after this boycott, Judea declares war on Germany. In Manhattan they had 100,000 people marching in the economic boycott in 1935, it was the same heretic rabbi who caused that.”
The comments drew praise from the panel and the audience.
The audience member also claimed that “if anybody is anti-Semitic, it’s the Israelis themselves.” This comment also drew applause.
"If anybody is antisemitic, it's the Israelis themselves"; panel applauds; hard to believe, but this happened this week at House of Lords pic.twitter.com/L8v4cARnK8
— Yiftah Curiel (@yiftahc) October 26, 2016
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London branded the meeting as “a shameful event, which gave voice to racist tropes against Jews and Israelis alike.”
Tonge, a member of the Liberal Democrat Party, who sits as an independent peer in Parliament after resigning from the party’s parliamentary group over anti-Israel comments in 2012, last week claimed that growing anti-Semitism in Europe reflects the general public’s “disgust” over the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron on Tuesday told London’s LBC radio that the comments from Tonge were “intolerable” and that action had been taken, although he could not specify what that action was.
A party spokesperson told the Jewish News that “Tonge does not take the party whip [does not accept party discipline] in the House of Lords and does not speak for the Liberal Democrats on Middle East issues.”
“If a complaint is made, we will investigate it quickly and thoroughly.”
Tonge resigned in 2012 from the position of party whip, a task equivalent in the United States to speaker, after she spoke about Israel’s demise at an event promoting the boycott of the Jewish state.
“Beware Israel. Israel is not going to be there forever in its present form,” she said at the time. “One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving 70 billion [dollars] a year to Israel to support what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East – that is Israel. One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA: enough is enough… Israel will lose its support and then they will reap what they have sown.”