Pressure was mounting on the Liberal Democrats to finally kick Baroness Tonge out of the party this week, after she claimed Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians was a “major cause” of jihadism and Islamic State.
It also emerged that the anti-Israel peer had earlier shared an article about “Jewish power” being behind Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s current woes.
In a House of Lords statement on Palestinian children on Thursday, Tonge said: “The treatment of the Palestinians by Israel is a major cause of the rise of extreme Islamism and Daesh [Islamic State].”
Board of Deputies of British Jews vice president Marie van der Zyl said it was “another House of Lords debate and another outrageous speech from Baroness Tonge on the Middle East,” adding: “It is time for Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron to expel her once and for all from the party.”
In a statement, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) said: “We cannot expect [her] to apologise, as she means it. It is now time for her to be expelled not just the parliamentary party, [but] from the House of Lords.”
Mark Gardner, a director at the Community Security Trust (CST), stopped short of calling for her ouster, saying: “This is the latest in a long line of provocative statements that will cause offence. As with all political parties, it is for them to decide if they want to be associated with such behaviour.”
This week it emerged that Tonge shared an article by anti-Israel author Gilad Atzmon, in which he said: “British Labour is the current target of an intensive exercise in Jewish power. The Jewish Lobby and media are openly silencing criticism of Israel and Jewish power.” Gardner said “she can make whatever excuses she likes but this stinks”.
Tonge sits as an independent peer in the chamber after resigned the party whip in 2012, after refusing to apologise for saying Israel “is not going to be there forever”. In 2010 she was sacked as health spokesperson after claiming Israeli troops sent to Haiti to help in the aftermath of a huge earthquake were trafficking organs.
The Liberal Democrats told Jewish News: “Jenny Tonge is not a member of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and does not speak for the party on these matters,” adding that there was a complaints procedure for anyone wishing to use it.
Her latest comments came in a debate about the welfare of Palestinian children brought by Lord Warner, who told the chamber: “Palestinian children grow up in a culture of fear, intimidation, suspicion and sometimes death.”
Lord Monroe Palmer of Child’s Hill said Warner was “painting a picture of a bottle half-empty,” adding that infant mortality rates in Gaza and the West Bank “are better than those in China, Romania, Turkey and South Africa”.
Lord Stuart Polak said: “The suffering of Palestinian children is a tragic consequence of the extremist ideology that has been allowed to flourish in the Palestinian territories.”
Warner replied: “I can think of no greater incitement than a 50-year military occupation in which you watch illegal settlers take over your land.”
Before the debate, the House of Lords Library withdrew a briefing note on the living conditions, health and wellbeing of Palestinian children “in order to reflect” on comments made by an unidentified member, who complained about the document’s scope.