Alondon Staff (01/03/2012)
Israel's Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, has vocally responded to now-former Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Jenny Tonge's recent controversial comments about Israel.
Chancellor George Osborne, who was guest of honour at the CST’s event, reiterated the ambassador’s criticism. "I've got a message for Jenny Tonge," he said. "The State of Israel is going to be around a lot longer than you are, Jenny."
This follows shortly after the news that Tonge had resigned the Liberal Democrat whip in the House of Lords. The furore was sparked by Tonge’s comments at an Israel Apartheid Week event last week at Middlesex University in Hendon, North London. At the event, co-sponsored by the charity Interpal and titled “Is Israel an Apartheid State?”, Tonge stated that, “Israel is not going to be there forever.” She added, “Israel will lose its support, and then they will reap what they have sown.”
Tonge also recommended the controversial book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, which has been described as “a sloppy diatribe” by the Anti-Defamation League and as “riddled with shoddiness and defiled by mendacity” by Israeli historian Benny Morris.
Groups and individuals from across the political spectrum condemned Tonge’s remarks. Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband tweeted, “No place in politics for those who question existence of the state of Israel”. Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, commented that, “These remarks were wrong and offensive and do not reflect the values of the Liberal Democrats”. Clegg demanded Tonge apologize or leave the party’s grouping in the House of Lords.
The event also featured Ghada Karmi and Ken O’Keefe. O’Keefe, a former US marine who took part in the ill-fated 2010 Gaza Flotilla, was the subject of a police investigation on suspicion of inciting racial hatred for comments he made at the Middlesex University event. Barnet police have since dropped the investigation into O'Keefe's remarks, concluding that no crime had been committed.* O’Keefe drew a direct comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany, stating, “The Jewish state, that’s not my expression, the Jewish state of Israel is, therefore, acting on behalf of the Jewish people. You, like the Nazis, have now a special obligation.” He also declared that Israel “in its current form should be destroyed”. Two audience members reported O'Keefe to the police. The blogger Richard Millet estimates that around thirty of the roughly one hundred and fifty strong audience were Jewish. Tonge was sat next to O’Keefe through the whole event.
Footage of Tonge’s remarks is available here.
*UPDATE: Barnet police dropped the investigation into O'Keefe's remarks after the original version of this article was published. The article has been amended to reflect the change in circumstances.
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