Baroness Tonge: Anti-Semitism in the House of Lords
A member gets booted from her position after calling for an investigation into IDF organ trafficking in Haiti. Really.
March 12, 2010 - 12:00 am
Baroness Tonge, a member of the House of Lords, a former Liberal Democrat (left of center) member of the House of Commons, and until very recently the party’s spokesperson for public health affairs, is advising Israel to set up an independent inquiry on the alleged Israeli crimes in Haiti.
She really means it: Haiti. In the wake of the January 12 earthquake, the Israeli army sent an emergency surgical unit there. Its work elicited instant admiration from the media covering the devastation.
A dissenting voice was heard, however. AfriSynergy Productions, based in Seattle, claimed that the Israelis came to Haiti only in order to snatch organs and put them on the world human organ market for sale. A video of these libels was posted on YouTube, and that’s what Baronness Tonge had in mind on February 13 when, in an interview with — really — the London Jewish Chronicle, she said the following:
To prevent allegations such as these, which have already been posted on YouTube, 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.
As far as law is understood by contemporary democratic standards, no charge can be introduced against a person, a group, or an organization without some serious preliminary scrutiny by legally empowered persons or bodies. Yet Baronness Tonge sees a YouTube rant as reasonable evidence for subjecting the Jewish State, its army, and its doctors to something very much like a second Gladstone report.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal-Democrat leader, dismissed Baroness Tonge as party spokesperson on February 17. Liberal-Democrat lords and members of Parliament said she should have been expelled from the party altogether. Indeed, this is not the first time she has been appalling: in 2004, when she still was known as the Liberal-Democrat member of Parliament Jennifer Louise Smith, she had already been dismissed as the party’s spokesperson on children for having said the following regarding suicide bombers:
If I had to live in that situation — and I say that advisedly — I might just consider becoming one myself.
Two years later, as a recently promoted member of the House of Lords, she said:
The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a grip on our party.
The then Liberal-Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell characterized such a statement as “anti-Semitic” and “unacceptable.” Likewise, various members of the House of Lords, including the spiritual lord George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, noticed that Baroness Tonge was resorting to “a classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theory.” But no other steps were taken against her then, a fact that certainly encouraged her to express even more radical views and finally to obliquely endorse the canard that Israel is trafficking in human organs for transplants.
The Iranian news agency Irna disseminated such defamatory reports for the first time in 2002. In fact, it claimed that the Israelis were not just engaging in an unsavory human organ trade, but actually murdering Palestinians, including children, in order to supply customers. Similar reports have been constantly circulated ever since then — even by national newspapers like the Swedish Aftonbladet last year — and have become commonplace tools for anti-Semitic propagandists. They help in countering one of Israel’s best assets in terms of global communication: its achievements in science, medicine, and humanitarian activities. Another advantage is that they dovetail with age-old and well-rooted anti-Jewish myths, particularly the classic blood libel literature.
The facts are plain. There is such a thing as trafficking in human organs: from the very moment that transplants have developed into a safe medical practice, demand has been exceeding offer. There are Israeli traffickers: we know that because they have been tried, more often than not, by Israeli courts.
Israelis can be victims too. Levy Yitzhak Rosenbaum, a New Jersey U.S. citizen, was charged last year for running an American-Israeli human organ trafficking network. He acted as an intermediary, for a huge profit, between poor Jewish Israeli donors willing to sell an organ for a few thousand dollars and rich American customers prepared to pay more than one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
And what about Iran? The Islamic Republic is the only country in the world that legalized — in 2006 — the commercial trade of human organs.