Jenny Tonge led an all-party delegation to Gaza in November 2008 and, along with an assortment of British politicians who seem forever obsessed with “apartheid Israel,” is always on Israel’s back whatever the season or time of the year. My esteemed colleague Phyllis Chesler regularly writes about the rise of global anti-Semitism and I, for one, am afraid I do not differentiate between anti-Zionism and Jew-hatred when people like Baroness Tonge and MP Clare Short rant about the Jewish state’s evil deeds whilst other countries that are truly rogue states go unnoticed by parliamentarians. It was Tonge who sat next to Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard during a January 2009 BBC Question Time in which he was accused of using crib notes from the Israeli embassy; his hilarious reply was that the paper in front of him was actually from a Palestinian source.
This time, however, her observations about Israel harvesting organs have caused shock in wide circles. Damian Thompson in the Daily Telegraph of February 12 asked why “Jihad Jenny” was not sacked altogether by her party leader, Nick Clegg. Monroe Palmer, chairman of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, said he might like to invite her to validate the truth of the legendary anti-Semitic polemic The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Ed Fordham, another Liberal Democrat, said her views were “perverse and sick.” What is so absurd about her accusation is that organ matches for both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews are difficult enough; Baroness Tonge the physician ought to know that Haitian organs — and in fact those from many other worldwide locations — would not likely be a match for Israeli tissue. In mid-February Baroness Tonge’s comments provoked a rare joint public statement from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council. They said that her accusations against Israel were “outrageous and a calumny.” They continued: “Jenny Tonge’s persistent use of anti-Semitic tropes has no place in British politics.”
It is bad enough that eminent Anglo-Jews Sir Martin Gilbert, biographer of Winston Churchill, and Professor Michael Baum, a top oncologist, have come under fire in recent months, Gilbert accused of being unsuitable for being on the Iraq inquiry committee because he is a “Zionist” and Baum censured by fellow practitioners for defending Israel in a medical journal. The lawyer who defeated Holocaust-denier David Irving, Anthony Julius, has just published an enormous book about British anti-Semitism. Anyone defending Israel in a public forum risks being shouted down and thrown out of venues.
As Professor Geoffrey Alderman says in the most recent issue of the Jewish Chronicle: “We are not living in happy times.” Perhaps my reason for alarm at the latest “Jihad Jenny” remark can best be summed up by the Jerusalem Post: “Tonge’s language arguably encourages the Islamist call to British-born children as eventual recruits to jihad.” My sentiments exactly.