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Anger as Baroness Tonge blames Israel for antisemitism rise

Peer says "actions of Israeli government" have contributed to increase and accuses Community Security Trust of displaying a "perpetual victim mentality"

    Baroness Tonge
    Baroness Tonge

    Baroness Tonge has sparked fury by blaming Israel for the rise in antisemitism in Britain.

    The Community Security Trust reported this week that Jew-hate was at record levels, with 1,309 incidents in 2016, a 36 per cent increase on the previous year.

    In an email to CST, Baroness Tonge responded that Israel was partly responsible for hate crimes against Jews in the UK.

    She wrote: “Do you NEVER consider that the actions of the Israeli government are contributing towards this rise? Sadly, many people do not distinguish between Jewish people and Mr Netanyahu and his colleagues.”

    The peer, who was suspended and subsequently resigned from the Liberal Democrats in October 2016 after years of inflammatory statements on Israel, accused CST of a “perpetual victim mentality” which did not help “real decent Jewish people”.

    She suggested that the level of antisemitism would be lower “if CST and the Board of Deputies spoke up against the abuse if human rights, flagrant disregard of international law and the Geneva Convention”, adding: “We want a country free of all racism”.

    Mark Gardner, CST director of communications, described Baroness Tonge's reaction to the report as " intemperate" and "hostile".

    He said: "It typifies how Israel hatred causes some on the anti-racist liberal left to wilfully ignore, pervert and ridicule the concerns of British and world Jewry about antisemitism.”  

    Her "victim mentality" jibe was "repulsive", he said.

    "It not only insults Jews, but demands they magically cast off the accumulated trauma of millennia of persecution, culminating in the Holocaust. If she told black people to get over slavery, we can imagine exactly what reaction it would rightly provoke.”

    Mr Gardner added that CST had received "many supportive emails and tweets from politicians of all political parties and also from many non-Jewish members of the public" since publishing the report. 

    "For this reason, we took the finely balanced decision not to publicise Baroness Tonge’s outburst, but then she herself put in on Facebook, trying to promote scorn for this, the worst set of antisemitic incidents reported in recent decades,” he said.

    Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush said: “This is an apt reminder, if one was needed, of why Baroness Tonge finds herself in the political wilderness.”

    Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “Baroness Tonge’s anti-Israel sound bites are often thinly veiled jibes at the Jewish community. These latest are part of a regrettable pattern from a serial offender.

    "Her divisive rhetoric has become a broken record, and has no place in politics or anywhere else.”  

    The peer's comments provoked an angry reaction on social media, with users describing them as “foul”, “stupid” and “offensive” and calling for the peer to be expelled from the House of Lords.

    One critic wrote that Baroness Tonge seemed to believe that “victims of racism are responsible for the hatred they face”.

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