88 peers call for Jenny Tonge apology over ‘Israel lobby won election’ remark
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88 peers call for Jenny Tonge apology over ‘Israel lobby won election’ remark

The former Liberal Democrat politician, who quit the party after being suspended in 2016, took to Facebook following the overwhelming Conservative victory

Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.

Almost 90 peers have urged Baroness Tonge to apologise, after she claimed the Chief Rabbi “must be dancing in the street” after the General Election, which was won by “the pro-Israel lobby”.

The former Liberal Democrat politician, who quit the party after being suspended in 2016, took to Facebook following the overwhelming Tory win on Thursday to make her controversial comment.

Tonge said: “The Chief Rabbi must be dancing in the street. The pro-Israel lobby won our General Election by lying about Jeremy Corbyn.”

In response, 90 peers, including the government’s Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues and co-chair of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation, Lord Eric Pickles, accused her of breaching the international definition of antisemitism. It was also signed by  Lord Young of Cookham, the former Chief Whip, and Lord Levy, the former Labour party fund raiser.

Writing in The Telegraph, the peers said: “We the undersigned believe that members of the House of Lords are required to conform to the highest standards of Public Life. The use of language by Baroness Tonge in a published statement that the General Election outcome was a result of “the pro-Israeli lobby” “lying about Jeremy Corbyn” falls well short of that high standard.”

Her language is both shameful and in clear contravention of the United Kingdom’s adoption of  IHRA’s definition of Antisemitism. Baroness Tonge has brought Parliament into disrepute and we demand that she withdraws her remarks and issues a full and unqualified apology without delay.”

When asked by Jewish News if she’d apologise, Baroness Tonge said;

“The reports I read during the election campaign were that people were bring put off voting for the Labour Party in large numbers because of Jeremy Corbyn, who has been labelled as antisemitic by many opponents including the Chief Rabbi. I have known Jeremy Corbyn for many years and know without doubt that he is not antisemitic, far from it.”

It was extraordinary for the Chief Rabbi, who only represents about half of synagogue attending Jews in this country, to endorse such political statements in the middle of an election campaign and he must have been very pleased with the result.”

I am sorry however if some people are offended by the thought of the Chief Rabbi dancing in the street. It was a light hearted remark , not intended to offend.”

A spokesperson for the Board of Deputies of British Jews commented: “We stand behind the 90 peers who are urging Baroness Tonge to give an unqualified apology following her latest antisemitic trope of blaming Labour’s election defeat on ‘the pro-Israel lobby’.”

She should also be ashamed that she spoke of the Chief Rabbi dancing in the streets at a time when Rabbi Mirvis has actually been mourning the death of his father. As has been proved time and again, Jenny Tonge is unfit to sit in the House of Lords.”

Before the election, Chief Rabbi Mirvis made an unprecedented intervention by writing a letter in The Times claiming the Labour leader was unfit for office and calling for people to “vote with their conscience” amid the antisemitism row.

Baroness Tonge has repeatedly courted controversy which has led to her being suspended by her former party, investigated by the Commissioner for Standards in the House of Lords, and forced to stand down as patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

She has been criticised for sharing an article about “Jewish power”, and for claiming that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians was a “major cause” of jihadism and Islamic State. After 11 people were killed at The Tree of Life Congregation in the US, she appeared to blame Israel for antisemitism.

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