A Horse of a Different Color is Still a Horse

A Horse of a Different Color is Still a Horse

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

There is much to say about English politics and its attitude towards Jews and its protecting anti-Semitism in the name of free speech, but perhaps it reached its nadir this week. It was revealed that last week Baroness Jennie Tonge, a known outspoken critic of Israel and pro-Palestinian activist, had participated in a program at Middlesex University’s Free Palestine Society program.  According to the tape of the conference, the Liberal-Democratic whip in the House of Lords, Baroness Tonge declared during the program:

Beware Israel. Israel is not going to be there forever in its present form. One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving £70bn a year to Israel to support what I call America's aircraft carrier in the Middle East – that is Israel. One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA: enough is enough. Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.

Nick Clegg, who is the Lib-Dem leader in the House of Commons and his party’s leading member in the coalition Government of Conservatives and Liberal-Democrats, called upon her to apologize for her remarks. Jennie Tonge resigned from the Lib-Dem Party rather than do as Clegg had requested, whereupon he announced she would no longer sit with the Lib-Dems in the House of Lords and he removed the whip from Lady Tonge.

What is strange is the level of tolerance the English have for this type of behavior. This is not the first time she has said outrageous things about Israel. While still a member of the House of Commons in an appearance at a 2004 panel at a university, she remarked that she could consider becoming a suicide bomber. In 2009 she was removed from the Lib-Dems front bench when she accused Israeli Defense Forces of harvesting organs in Haiti after the earthquake, but Clegg did not remove her whip.

There was no ethics investigation and no internal party call for her dismissal. While Lib-Dems have only been in the Government since 2010, it is not clear that they would have had a similar level of tolerance were a Member or a Lord to proclaim similar anti-Black, or anti-Muslim, or anti-gay, etc., remarks. It will no doubt be explained that this is not anti-Semitism, but only an expression of anti-Israel feeling and sensitivity for the Palestinians plight.

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