Tim Farron has said Jenny Tonge and David Ward should both face a disciplinary process over “intolerable” comments reacting to the release of a parliamentary report into anti-Semitism.
Tonge, who resigned the Lib Dem whip in 2012 but remains a member of the party, sought to offer a “reason” for rising anti-Semitism in the UK.
In a letter to the Guardian, which has yet to be printed, she welcomed the report by the home affairs select committee but insisted “it would have been more useful if it had investigated the causes of antisemitism too. It is difficult to believe that a 75 percent increase in antisemitism it reports have been committed by people who simply hate Jewish people for no reason.
“It is surely the case these incidents are reflecting the disgust amongst the general public of the way the government of Israel treats Palestinians and manipulates the USA and ourselves to take no action against the country’s blatent disregard of international law and the Geneva Conventions.”
“Added to this is Israel’s adoption of the official title of ‘Jewish state of Israel’. This conflates Israel with the Jewish people here, whether or not they support the Zionist state and many do not. I look forward to the sequel to this report. Be tough on the causes of antisemitism as well as the loathsome sentiment itself.”
The home affairs committee report levelled specific criticism at the Lib Dems, saying the party “should pay heed to the need to act swiftly and decisively” to address anti-Semitism in its ranks.
It also took aim at leader Tim Farron for referring to disciplinary processes when pressed on the case of Lib Dem David Ward, who he said had served his time when as an MP he was briefly suspended by the party.
Ward took to Twitter after the report’s release to say: “Antisemitism row becoming daft – for a voice of sanity see the PSC evidence to the Chakrabarti inquiry (and HASC).”
A further message said: “The Zionists are winning despite the appalling racism of the state of israel and its supporters – don’t give up – good will triumph bad.”
Speaking to LBC, Farron said comments from both were “intolerable” and she believed they should be referred to the party’s internal disciplinary proceedings. After initially saying action was being taken, he refused to confirm that the offensive remarks had already been referred when pressed on the matter.
Gary Spedding, who undertakes cross-party work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has complained to Farron.
He said: “It is deplorable for anyone to suggest that Israel is the main causes of anti-Semitism here in the U.K. The reality is that Israel-Palestine related anti-Semitism is the result of a toxic mixture of ignorance, hatred, victim blaming, denial and an unhealthy obsession with Jewish people.”
Tonge is a serial offender having once said she might consider becoming a suicide bomber if forced to live like the Palestinians and later resigned the party whip after saying Israel would not exist forever in present form.
The party failed to take action this year after Jewish News exposed that she had shared a post referring to “Jewish power” on social media.
Following Tonge’s latest comments, a party spokesperson said: “Jenny Tonge does not take the party whip 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.”