Britain’s Liberal Democrat party on Thursday suspended its anti-Israel member of the House of Lords, Baroness Jenny Tonge, two days after she held a meeting in Parliament in which a member of the audience won applause for claiming that Jews were to blame for the Holocaust and comparing Israel to the Islamic State group.
Tonge, who sits as an independent peer in the Lords after resigning from the party parliamentary group over anti-Israel comments in 2012, chaired the meeting organized by the Palestinian Return Centre. The meeting marked the start of a campaign calling for the British government to apologize for the 1917 Balfour Declaration affirming the right of the Jewish people to a homeland in then-Palestine.
The Zionist Federation of Great Britain welcomed the suspension, saying in a statement issued to the media Thursday evening that the measure against Tonge “highlights the sheer nastiness of the ‘human rights’ meeting” she attended.
“For years these events have been going on, existing as echo chambers where speakers seem to compete with each other as to who can say the most ignorant, grotesque and offensive statements about Israel,” the statement said.
The Israeli embassy in London said in response to the suspension only that “Anti-Semitism should never be tolerated.”
Welsh Conservative MP David Davies brought up the issue, asking the Leader of the House David Lidington: “May we have a debate on the use to which these premises may be put following reports that outrageously a member of the House of Lords presided over an event at which Israel was compared to Islamic State, and the Jews were even blamed for their own 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
Davies continued: “Could we discuss this and also whether we should be issuing an apology for these outrageous comments to the Israeli government and the Jewish people.”
Lidington said in response that he was “genuinely horrified” by the comments at the meeting, and that “we should all be very concerned about what happened there.”
The leader also expressed the hope that Lib Dem chief Tim Farron “does launch an immediate and thorough investigation so we can get to the truth and any appropriate disciplinary action can be taken.”
Farron on Tuesday told London’s LBC radio that the comments by 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.”
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 boycotts of the Jewish state. She lists her party as “independent Liberal Democrat.”
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.”