The day after the publication of the Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism in Britain, two well-known Liberal Democrats, have made comments baiting Jews on social media. Both Baroness Tonge and former MP — now a Councillor — David Ward, have previously had the whip withdrawn by the Liberal Democrats, but they remain members of the Party and have recently been defended by the Party.
On Monday, Baroness Jenny Tonge complained on Facebook that her letter blaming Israel for antisemitism in the UK had been rejected by The Guardian. In her letter, without a trace of irony, she welcomed the Select Committee’s report, then continued “It is difficult to believe that a 75% increase in antisemitism it reports, have been committed by people who simply hate Jewish people for no reason. It is surely the case that 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 that country’s blatant disregard of International Law and the Geneva Conventions.”
Her explanation for antisemitism is in fact antisemitic according to the international definition of antisemitism which the Select Committee on Sunday recommended that all parties should use, in accordance with Campaign Against Antisemitism’s manifesto for fighting antisemitism in political parties. The definition says that “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” and “Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about…Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions” is antisemitic.
Additionally, late on Sunday night Councillor David Ward (a former MP) tweeted in response to the report that “The Zionists are winning despite the appalling racism of the State of #Israel and its supporters — don’t give up — good will triumph bad”.
The report said that “the word ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) as a term of abuse has no place in a civilised society…[and] this should be communicated by the Government and political parties”.
Both Tonge and Ward have been defended recently by the Liberal Democrats.
Last week, Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, told the Home Affairs Select Committee that Councillor Ward had “served his time” after he had the whip withdrawn while he was a Liberal Democrat MP for comments equating the Jewish people with Nazis while implying that it is for the victims of the Holocaust to learn a lesson from it, as well as questioning Israel’s right to exist at all.
Three weeks ago, the Liberal Democrats declined to expel Baroness Jenny Tonge from the Party over her various antisemitic statements, including her recent call in the House of Lords for British Jews to “publicly to condemn settlement building by Israel and to make clear their support for universal human rights”. The Liberal Democrat Party wrote to people who complained about Baroness Tonge’s remarks to tell them that it was “offensive” for her to have held British Jews accountable for the perceived actions of the State of Israel, but that her remarks “still fall short of being racist”. That is not what the definition of antisemitism endorsed by the Select Committee says.
Both David Ward and Baroness Tonge are serial offenders and it is hard to see why the Liberal Democrats repeatedly refuse to expel them. Just a day after it was released, the Select Committee’s report on antisemitism is receiving its first test. The Select Committee recommended that all parties should use the international definition of antisemitism, in accordance with Campaign Against Antisemitism’s manifesto for fighting antisemitism in political parties. Under the definition, the offences are clear and the Liberal Democrats must expel David Ward and Baroness Tonge without further delay.
Just on Sunday the Select Committee pointed out that antisemitism flourishes under leaders who tolerate it, as continues to be graphically evidenced in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. For Tim Farron to leave this matter here would amount to a similar display of hypocritical and weak leadership; if he does not comply with the Select Committee’s recommendations by expelling both David Ward and Baroness Tonge, he will be signalling that the Liberal Democrat Party is a safe space for antisemites.
Joe Glasman, Head of Political and Government Investigations at Campaign Against Antisemitism, has written to Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats.
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