Baroness Tonge: I got great support over my Israel line

Baroness Tonge has told the House of Lords she has received hundreds of letters of support following her resignation of the Liberal Democrat whip last month.

The controversial peer, now sitting as an independent, claimed 700 letters had arrived since she made anti-Israel comments at an Israel Apartheid Week event. She claimed "only five per cent" of the letters had been critical of her remarks.

Speaking in a Middle East debate in the Lords last Friday, she said the volume of correspondence from supporters in the United States led her to believe that "in America the tide is beginning to turn against Israel", a position which meant "Israel may indeed have to change in form".

Baroness Tonge added that the government's statements of concern following the latest round of violence in which rockets were fired on Israel from Gaza "do not stop the relentless ethnic cleansing, land grab and what many people would describe as terrorism by the Israeli Air Force, with its targeted assassinations. "Because of the pro-Israel lobby's bullying tactics against anyone who speaks the truth, Israel is allowed to act with impunity".

‘Rocket attacks always follow IAF attacks’

She said the rocket attacks on Israel "always follow a targeted assassination by the IAF" and begged ministers to "recognise the danger of Israel's behaviour and give us some reassurance that the government understand and will start taking action to control that country and give justice to the Palestinians before it is too late".

Around two dozen peers spoke in the three-and-a-half hour debate, covering issues affecting the Middle East including the Arab Spring uprisings, the Iranian nuclear threat and violence in Syria.

Conservative peer Viscount Eccles questioned Israel's policy in the West Bank and asked whether "the fundamental tail is wagging the dog? Do we not have to think much more seriously about how we can influence Israeli domestic politics?".

An Israeli attack on Iran would be "rather like Samson pulling down the pillars of the Temple upon itself", according to Labour's Lord Anderson.

Lord Soley, chairman of the Arab-Jewish Forum, called on the "powerful" Jewish and Arab diasporas to do more to help resolve the conflict. He said: "The Arab and Jewish diasporas tend to get behind their own country in the Middle East and shout for them, rather than actually recognising that they could have a wider point."

Lord Haskel said that an Institute for Jewish Policy Research survey had shown "very high levels of concern" among British Jews over the threat posed by Iran.

But he added: "At the same time most British Jews share a profound wish for this and other Middle East conflicts to be resolved peacefully around the negotiating table rather than on the battlefield."

Concluding the debate, Foreign Office minister Lord Howell praised Israel's Iron Dome technology which prevented the majority of Gaza-launched missiles hitting civilian sites in Israel.

He said Israel's targeting of Palestinian terrorist Zuhair al-Qaissi, and the rockets from Gaza which followed, were all "pieces of the jigsaw" and called for "boldness" to help bring peace to the region.

Last updated: 4:27pm, March 22 2012