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Baroness Tonge meeting ‘was not antisemitic’, says Lords’ committee

Peer formally apologises over Parliamentary code of conduct breach

    Baroness Tonge
    Baroness Tonge

    Baroness Tonge has formally apologised after being found to have breached the House of Lords’ code of conduct when she hosted an event where Israel was compared to Daesh terrorists.

    However, accusations over antisemitic comments at the event were dismissed by the House of Lords’ Privileges and Conduct Committee.

    Video footage of the event last October showed Baroness Tonge listening to a man who said Zionism was a “perversion of Judaism”. He then implied an American rabbi had provoked Hitler into murdering six million Jews, using quotes reportedly taken from a neo-Nazi website.

    The man – reportedly a member of the anti-Zionist strictly Orthodox Neturei Karta sect – claimed Hitler was “pushed over the edge” by the rabbi’s comments.

    The man went on to talk about boycotts.

    Baroness Tonge is seen on camera thanking the speaker, before adding: “I think it’s very important that the word boycott has come up. The BDS, the campaign to boycott Israeli goods and services, and divestment from Israel, most of us think is very, very important indeed.”

    Run by the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) and hosted by Baroness Tonge, the meeting saw the launch of the Balfour Apology Campaign, ahead of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration next year.

    The report, published today, concluded that Baroness Tonge, who was suspended and subsequently resigned from the Liberal Democrats after the event, was not guilty of antisemitism.

    Investigators concluded that the meeting had not been intended to promote antisemitism, which meant the peer was “not obliged to deal with any such takeover”, of the event.

    The report states: “The commissioner assessed the detailed content of the meeting hosted by Baroness Tonge against the working definition of antisemitism agreed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and adopted by the Government.

    “The commissioner found that the meeting was not hosted with the intention of promoting antisemitism and was not taken over by those promoting antisemitism, so Baroness Tonge was not obliged to deal with any such takeover. The commissioner therefore dismissed this allegation.”

    Instead the committee found the peer had breached the code on a technicality, following complaints about the meeting at Westminster.

    The committee’s report, which followed investigations by the independent House of Lords Commissioner for Standards, found she breached the Code of Conduct by not obtaining the required permission for filming and photography at the event.

    It recommended that she make a written formal apology, which she has since done.

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