In 2006 Tonge made headlines when she announced: "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." Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell – himself no great friend of Israel – called her remarks "unacceptable" and possessing "clear antisemitic connotations”.
An all-party group of members of the House of Lords led by former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey noted that her comments "evoked a classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theory”. She retorted that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's article "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" that appeared in the 23 March 2006 issue of The London Review of Books – whose “as-a-Jew” editor Mary-Kay Wilmers is on record, incidentally, as describing herself as "unambiguously hostile to Israel” – bore out her contention that the "'Israel lobby' had a disproportionate voice in Anglo-American foreign policy".
In 2008 Tonge, along with Lord Ahmed, leftwing Labour MP Clare Short, and several MEPs, sailed to Gaza to break Israel’s siege; Tonge compared the situation there to South African apartheid. The following year, shortly after Operation Cast Lead, she was part of a small British parliamentary delegation which, in the hope that the Blair government, followed by Bush’s, would be pressured into opening talks with Hamas, met the terrorist organisation’s leader, Khaled Meshaal, in Damascus.
Party leader Nick Clegg, not distinguished for any great sympathy for Israel, described her remarks as "wrong, distasteful and provocative" and added that he recognised “the deep and understandable distress they have caused to the Jewish community”. He therefore removed her as the party’s spokesperson on health matters in the Lords.
"Prevention of conflict also means that we must start being honest about international law and UN resolutions. It is a disgrace to us all that problems such as Kashmir and Palestine are still alienating Muslims all over the world. The treatment of Palestinians by Israel is held up as an example of how the West treats Muslims and is at the root cause of terrorism worldwide. Even Tony Blair has now admitted this publicly. [Jonathan Hoffman: No he has not.] Why do we let it continue? Is it Holocaust guilt? We should be guilty – of course we should. Is it the power of the pro-Israel lobby here and in the USA? I do not know. Or is it the need, maybe, to have an aircraft carrier called Israel in the Middle East from which to launch attacks on countries such as Iran? The cynic might think that that is why HMS Ark Royal and the Harriers can be dispensed with – we already have a static Ark Royal in a strategic position, armed to the teeth and ready to fight, provided that we do not offend Israel. I feel sorry for the people of Israel sometimes. Their Government's policies have made that country the cause of a lot of the world's problems, yet now they are seen in the middle as the remedy and the base for the West to fight back."
Given her past and present form, Jenny Tonge, if not actually an antisemite, is doing her utmost to seem like one. Her remarks are ludicrous and malevolent. I’ve already mentioned, on a recent blogpost regarding the remarks of Lib Dem peer Lord Phillips of Sudbury, how Lib Dem peer Lord Carlile is convinced that Tonge’s previous outbursts against Israel cost the Lib Dems vital votes in certain constituencies at the General Election. Indeed, the Lib Dems have a number of high-profile Israel bashers within their ranks.
If Nick Clegg is serious about mending his party’s fractured relationship with Anglo-Jewry – nay, if he is serious about a committal to truth and fairness – he should do what is long overdue, and remove the party whip from the incorrigible Jenny Tonge. Now!