Friday, February 12, 2010

In Praise of Jenny Tonge

The news that Nick Clegg has today sacked Jenny Tonge is sad news indeed. It further clouds what is and always has been a desperately clouded issue. I have read what Jenny said to the Jewish Chronicle about allegations of the IDF organ harvesting in Haiti"To prevent allegations such as these - which have already been posted on You Tube - going any further, the IDF and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti." Frankly, in my view, Nick has totally over reacted, which is disappointing given his unblemished and brave record of standing up to the Israeli lobby. He says - I quote from the BBC article - "The comments were wrong, distasteful and provocative and I recognise the deep and understandable distress they have caused to the Jewish community," Nick thus plays into the hands of the Zionists - if Jenny caused distress it was surely to the Israeli community? The British are being accused of colluding with torture, do we worry about that causing distress to the Christian community? Oh yes, we also have a sizeable Muslim community, so does Israel, and numerous other faiths, so does Israel.

Jenny has not accepted the allegations, she has merely suggested they should be investigated. Of course they are outrageous allegations, but so was the suggestion that this country may have colluded with torturers. Of course it is beyond belief that human beings, sent to help a country in distress would do such a thing, but human beings do do terrible things to each other, be they Israeli, American, Iraqi or British, particularly when they have been able to dehumanize those they hurt. Now, of course, I am not suggesting I believe these allegations, just challenging the idea that we assume some people are automatically beyond reproach. If such allegations had been made against Iranian forces for example, would that have evoked the same reaction?

In all of this the danger is that we lose sight of the very real outrage that the world sits silently by and allows the Israeli state to behave with impunity in violating not just the human rights of the Palestinians but of its own citizens. That we do this and continue to support a state which even Desmond Tutu has said is worse than apartheid South Africa, shames us all.

Jenny has been a brave and courageous voice challenging this. I know her to be a woman of huge integrity and compassion - she speaks out of the agony of witnessing what is happening virtually unchallenged in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel itself. I for one admire and value her contribution. If her frustration sometimes results in her speaking out of turn - at least it is only her words that are causing offence.............unlike the bombs and bullets that have maimed and killed countless innocent Palestinians in their homeland that is STILL illegally occupied.

I am thankful that there are Israelis, many of whom happen to be Jewish, and Jews, many of whom happen to be Israelis, who are at the forefront of challenging Israeli policy towards Palestine. They give the lie to the notion that this has anything at all to do with anti-semitism, they give me hope that ultimately, just as the Berlin Wall came down, just as today we celebrate the release of Mandela and the end of apartheid, one day we will celebrate a meaningful and lasting peace in Israel Palestine - but that peace will continue to allude us until we recognise that there can be no peace without justice and until we recognise that the Israeli state and the Jewish religion are not synonymous.


Garry Gelade said...

Clegg was quite right to discpline Tonge for her crass remarks. I think Clegg should drop you too. You are bringing the Lib Dems into disrepute by defending this stupid vicious woman.

Barbara said...

Dear Linda

It is said that a lie can get half way around the world before the truth can get its pants on. Nick Clegg was not overreacting. Like Garry Gelade, I believe that you, too, should be reconsidering your position in the Lib Dems in the light of the lamentable ignorance about the Middle Eastern situation you display in your blog post.

I am a Jew who has family in Israel. I am not silent about Israel's conduct, but neither do I, as you and Jenny Tonge seem far too ready to do, condemn Israel totally and utterly.

Jenny Tonge told a racist lie and tried and failed to slur the Israeli government's excellent contribution towards helping the people of Haiti at its hour of greatest need. Tonge has a history of expressing tacit support for the suicide murder of Israelis. It is about time that she was cut down to size.

From what you have written it is plain that neither she nor you know as much about the situation in the Middle East as you think you do. You are arguing from emotion rather than from actual knowledge or awareness of what is actually going on.

I did not hear or read about your condemnation, for example, of Hamas' almost continuous shelling of Israeli civilians in Sderot and southern Israel for over eight years. No other state would have kept patience while its own civilians were under attack.

By being too eager to sympathise with the Palestinians' carefully crafted victim status (deliberately exacerbated by Hamas to appeal to such as yourself who are quick to condemn without reading between the lines or even trying getting the whole story) you are bedding in Palestinian victimhood. Far better you should support a lasting peace between Hamas and Israel.

You do not seem to be at all aware that the standard of living and quality of life on the West Bank is much improved since Abbas distanced himself from terrorist activity, nor are you aware of the very many collaborative projects between Israelis and Palestinians, to better the lives and conditions of Palestinians.

The justice for Palestinians in Gaza will come when their leaders care more about their people's welfare and about pursuing peaceful state-building than they do about eradicating their Jewish neighbour. By failing to realise this, and by condemning Israel alone, you are colluding with Hamas' infamies against its own people.

I am glad that I resigned from the Lib Dems when I did. I think that you should resign you seat too.

Paul Walter said...

I tend to agree with you, Linda. I have read the original Jewish Chronicle article. I do think Jenny Tonge was misguided to get involved in this at all. However, the strength of the condemnation from Nick Clegg is over-the-top.

Mar said...

Linda,do not think you I are an anti-semite, but I think you should be investigated nevertheless.

Joe Otten said...

Calling for an investigation is not a neutral act, it is a roundabout way of repeating an allegation. If Jenny could give us some good reason for considering the allegation worth repeating, she might have some defence, but as it stands Clegg was dead right.

Linda Jack said...

Mar, what a ludicrous suggestion - I absolutely agree with you - there should be an immediate investigation.

Barbara, your comments are so ill informed I don't have the time or energy to respond.

TV Assassin said...

How amusing (and convenient) that you, Linda, start a 'debate' with your blog post, and when Barbara writes a reasoned and detailed response, you find yourself too busy or drained of energy to respond.

You seem to prefer to support the innuendo, vague hints, and nasty slurs encouraged and perpetuated by the likes of antisemites like Tonge, than the act of useful informed debate and discussion. Very telling.

The Lib Dems are really showing their true colours at the moment.

Joe Otten said...

TV Assassin, the Lib Dems have sacked Jenny Tonge. I hope that is what you mean when you say we are showing our true colours.


Linda, I personally don't believe that Jenny Tonge eats babies, but I'm willing to concede that there should be an investigation. See what I did there?

geordie frontwheel said...

The reason these comments cause distress to the Jewish community is that whether Jews in the UK are supporters or not of Israeli policy, all bear the brunt of anti-semitic violence that is exacerbated by the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

So when a fabricated story is created by a Palestinian paper, with zero evidence, which references historical anti-semitic tropes that have been used to justify pograms against Jews throughout the ages (versions of using Christian blood, eating babies etc), it should be the duty of all who are anti-racism to stand up and be counted. That Jenny Tonge calls for these baseless claims to be investigated sides her with the extremists (again). That you support her speaks volumes for what you really stand for .

I'd like to think that you are just too stupid to understand this...but I fear that actually you understand this only too well

Matthew Harris said...

Linda, I am a fellow Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate, and we've met a few times at Conference, etc. To clarify, Baroness Tonge was not sacked for saying that "some people are automatically beyond reproach". She was sacked for calling for an inquiry into an allegation that has its roots in a racist conspiracy theory. I invite you to think for a moment about any one of the UK's minority communities. Now think of the nastiest, most untrue thing that racist bigots say about the community in question. Think about that horrible thing and let it echo round your mind for a moment. Now imagine if a politician called for an inquiry into that thing. Would you not agree that it sounds as if the person calling for an inquiry believes that the allegation might be credible? And if the allegation is based on nothing but crude racism, then is really appropriate for a politician to suggest that such an allegation might be credible? Would you really want such a politician to sit on the Lib Dem front bench and be seen to speak for our party, suggesting that our party endorses their call for the inquiry - that is what being a frontbencher means. I applaud our party's leader for his swift and effective action.

TV Assassin said...

Joe Otten: I mean that this blog, Tonge's repeated slurs, and Clegg's minimal action in dealing with her ('sacking' from her health spokesman role but not withdrawing the whip) , have shown the Lib Dems' true colours. As has the substantial support for EDM 1577 by many Lib Dem MPs. Not to mention Clegg's absurd comments during and after Operation Cast Lead.

The Lib Dems are bad for Israel, and weak in the face of antisemitism at home and abroad.

Joe Otten said...

TVA, EDM 1577 is about torturers and war criminals. I don't see how being opposed to torture and war crimes implies being weak in the face of anti-semitism.

So we refuse to dehumanise the Palestinian people. That doesn't make us weak in the face of anti-semitism either. Rather it makes us not guilty of something just as bad.

Yes, (by my reckoning) Israel easily has the moral high ground compared to Hamas. But that is a long way from having the moral high ground by any absolute standard.

And sacking is a big deal, however many quotes you put the word in.

TV Assassin said...

fair enough Joe. We agree to disagree then. But many of us have observed that some, like you, take that position (so typical of the Lib Dems it seems, even in the comments left here), and used it to help us decide on how we vote. It's a really useful piece of input when thinking about the Lib Dems.

Matt said...

I don't think Clegg went far enough. Tonge knew exactly what she was doing and how offensive it was to construct this pseudo blood libel.
Not only that she is a patron of a bile spewing rag which keep churning out this nonsense. This wasn't a one off, this lady uses any pretence of 'peace protesting' to fire off her bigoted rants about Israel.

The lib Dems are best off rid of her.

Anonymous said...

I think you're quite right, Linda. Although there was clearly no reason to actually investigate the rumours, nor was there any reason for Tonge to be sacked. She had not said that she believed they had any basis in fact; on the contrary, she said that an investigation should be undertaken to dispel the rumours.

And it was evidently not Clegg alone who over-reacted to this storm in a tea cup judging by the comments posted here; most of which do not merit being taken seriously anymore than the aforementioned innuendo.