LibLink: Lynne Featherstone calls for peace in Jewish Chronicle

Lynne Featherstone has a balanced piece in the Jewish Chron this week:

In Hornsey & Wood Green in North London, there is a strong pro-Israel lobby and a strong pro-Palestinian lobby. When Jenny Tonge made her disgraceful and ignorant comments in the JC, calling for an inquiry into Israel taking organs in Haiti, I got emails from the pro-Israel lobby saying that the Liberal Democrats were pro-Palestinian.

When Nick Clegg then rightly sacked Baroness Tonge from the front bench, I received emails claiming that he had only done so because the “Zionist conspiracy” had got to him. Both were symptomatic of the polarization by the two sides in the Middle East conflict.

The only side the Liberal Democrats are on is the side of peace. We condemn all acts of violence and urge all parties to negotiate a lasting settlement to this crisis. A sustainable solution will only be achieved with two separate Israeli and Palestinian states, mutually recognized and internationally accepted, within secure borders based on the situation before the 1967 conflict.

Find the full piece here.

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  • Simon Titley 25th Apr '10 - 12:09pm

    Jenny Tonge did not make “disgraceful and ignorant comments” – her mistake was to walk into a trap set by the Jewish Chronicle (whose editor is a Tory supporter, by the way).

    I am fed up of the way the Israeli lobby endlessly pursues vendettas against Jenny, Chris Davies and anyone else who dares make any criticism of Israeli policy. I realise there’s an election on but there is right and wrong here, and Lynne should get off the fence instead of trying to appease everyone.

  • Tony Greaves 25th Apr '10 - 1:54pm

    I am sorry that Lynne describes Jenny’s comment as “disgraceful and ignorant.” I could point out that her comment was issued as an official Liberal Democrat press notice.

    Whatever Jenny may be she is not ignorant about the Israel Palestine issue. Just because you disagree with her does not make her ignorant.

    Tony Greaves

  • Jonathan Hoffman 25th Apr '10 - 3:46pm

    What influence has Nadhmi Auchi’s Anglo-Arab Organisation had on the LibDems’ Middle East policies?

  • Andrew Suffield 26th Apr '10 - 2:38am

    Perhaps it would be better to discuss Baroness Tonge’s borderline and racist comments and why the Lib Dems can’t bring it upon themselves to expel her ?

    That’s an easy one. If the party went around expelling everybody who might hold an opinion you object to, then it could hardly claim to be a Liberal party. One of its core values is the right of everybody to have whatever opinions they want and associate with whoever they want, and another is the right of everybody to be judged fairly on the basis of evidence, not persecuted on the basis of rumour and association. If you think it should do this thing, all that really tells us is that you’re not a Liberal.

    As for the rest of this comment threat, it looks like Lynne called it perfectly. Her article is an accurate description of what I see here.

  • Andrew Suffield 26th Apr '10 - 3:41pm

    Why not? Even lower-case liberalism is not permissiveness and libertine.

    Are you seriously suggesting that there are forms of liberalism which can tolerate persecution based on rumours about a person’s opinion? I find this unlikely. Such persecution is the very opposite of everything liberalism stands for, so far as I can see.

    In any event, the preamble to the federal constitution is the closest thing that the Lib Dem party has to a credo, and it states:

    We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full.

    So, yes. It is those who object to freedom of conscience – the right of every person to have any viewpoint or thought – that are unwelcome in the party. It’s right there at the top of the constitution. If you don’t accept that as a fundamental right then you’re probably not a liberal, but you’re definitely not a Lib Dem.

    But, there is no question if Tonge holds these views. She does.

    I’m questioning it, right now. Show your evidence.

    Plus, she is on record as claiming the “Zionists” have gained control of political structures, even within this Party.

    Show this record. (Protip: if it was the libellous misquote that I debunk later in this post, the next thing you write had better be a retraction of this allegation)

    given that Tonge has not had problems with associating with people who believed the Nazis were best for Europe

    Show your evidence – although even if you had any, persecution based on association is absolutely unacceptable.

    we are talking specifically about Baroness Tonge’s known and articulated views

    Show your evidence.

    Do you believe that someone who thinks “the western world is in the grip of Zionist control” is a suitable candidate for LibDem membership ?

    That is not an accurate quote; misquoting to an extent as extreme and perfidious as you use here would normally be considered libellous, even for a pseudonymous author. Certainly it would result in maximal fines if published in the mainstream media. What she actually said was:

    The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips.

    Citing her source as “The Israel Lobby”, Mearscheimer and Walt, London Review of Books 2006 (well-known anti-semitic outlet, right?). An article which went on to become a New York Times (I heard they fed Hitler’s dog!) bestseller, was written by two respected professors at Chicago and Harvard (neo-Nazi training centres!), and does support her claim that Israel is a major world power with significant influence on US foreign policy. It was later disputed by other scholars, but that was the following year; she could not have known about it at the time.

    I do not think that citing such an article is grounds for expulsion from the party, even if it is later discredited; indeed, I would welcome more members who were capable of citing reputable sources and showing evidence for their statements.

    She has been very clear on this point:

    [those comments] were about the Israeli lobby in politics. They were a big distance from being about Jewishness or anti-Semitism

    Hence, any attempt to claim she meant otherwise would be an obvious lie, and I am not ashamed to call you a liar for doing so.

    Or that someone who contributes to the pushing of the Offal libel is fit for LibDem membership ?

    Google indicates that the only person on the entire internet who talks about “offal libel” is you, even if you do spend a remarkable amount of time posting vague references to it on every blog you can find. I don’t think the rantings of a lone pseudonymous author need any further response (or any effort to figure out what they’re ranting about, although you’re welcome to present any actual evidence of wrongdoing of any kind).

    I will not tolerate persecution based on rumour and lies. That is a bad thing, and must be stamped out wherever it appears.

    At present, the only thing I really know about Tonge’s personal opinions is that (a) a quick check on google and wikipedia reveals no support for any of these claims, (b) the last time she came up here, nobody had any real evidence to show for their claims, and (c) she is fervently hated by a handful of rumourmongers, liars, and kooks. On the basis that a good measure of a person’s character is the quality of the enemies they make, she’s seeming like a decent sort of person so far.

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