Baroness Jenny Tonge has called for an investigation into financial meddling in British politics by pro-Israel groups, citing the Friends of Israel organisations and think-tank BICOM as potential culprits.
In an interview with Henry Jackson Society director Alan Mendoza for J-TV, Tonge apologised for past comments in which she said pro-Israel groups had the western world in their “financial grips” but said she thought money might be changing hands in the UK.
Challenged on her statements, she said: “I will accept that that was a bit over-the-top, it was exaggerated, and it has all sorts of connotations, I know that. I do apologise for saying that. But I do not withdraw my comments that there are a lot of interference in the political processes in America and this country. Money is changing hands. And that does worry me.”
Asked for details, given that political donations are regulated and transparent, she said: “I’ve been in a political party for long enough to know that there are ways round these things.” Asked if there were secret funds, she said: “There could be.”
Tonge invited someone to “prove me wrong,” saying: “I would like, for example, for someone to find out what BICOM is there for.” She said BICOM “might be” funnelling money into British politics, but acknowledged that she had no evidence of this.
Asked why she thought this, she said: “It’s the way everyone backs off if a criticism is made of Israel, everyone is afraid of making those criticisms, or supporting the Palestinians.”
She added: “Can you tell me why 80 percent of Conservative MPs belong to the Friends of Israel? Why a lot of people in my former party, in the Labour party, feel they have to belong to the Friends of Israel? There’s no other country where that applies. I just want to know whether that is because of the very lavish and expensive trips that they enjoy, or whether there is help in their constituencies, delivering leaflets and so forth, I just don’t like the influence, from any lobby.”
Elsewhere in the interview, she referred to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, saying Lord Balfour was “pressured into it” by Zionists and other cabinet members, before correcting herself, saying: “I don’t know. I wasn’t there”.
Tonge also revealed that she was an initial supporter of Israel, saying: “I was a great enthusiast for the State of Israel to be created, I was very supportive, I thought it was a great thing, even as a little child. I believe in Israel’s right to exist, and I wish it every success… I want it to be well, and I think it is a fantastic country.”
However, she added: “It cannot go on with its present policies of injustice towards the Palestinians, who in many cases have been there long, long, long before the people of Israel have been there.”
Watch the full version of the interview here: