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'Shameful' House of Lords event condemned after audience 'blames Jews for Holocaust'

    Baroness Tonge (centre) and attendees at the Palestinian Return Centre event in Parliament
    Baroness Tonge (centre) and attendees at the Palestinian Return Centre event in Parliament

    The Israel Embassy in London has condemned an event at the House of Lords at which audience members compared Israel to Daesh terrorists and suggested Jews were to blame for the Holocaust.

    One man said Zionism was a “perversion of Judaism”, and then implied an American rabbi had provoked Hitler into murdering six million Jews in the Shoah, using quotes reportedly taken from a neo-Nazi website.

    Another speaker is shown announcing, to applause: "If anybody is antisemitic, it's the Israelis themselves."

    The session was run by the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) and hosted by Baroness Tonge, the Liberal Democrat member and former MP who now sits as an independent peer.

    It launched what the organisation calls the Balfour Apology Campaign, ahead of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration next year.

    Video footage of the event shows Baroness Tonge listening to the audience member’s comments about Rabbi Stephen Wise, a leading figure in the United States in the 1930s.

    The man – reportedly a member of the anti-Zionist strictly Orthodox Neturei Karta sect – claims Hitler was “pushed over the edge” by the rabbi’s comments, and goes on to talk about boycotts.

    Baroness Tonge responds: “Thank you very much. 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.”

    Other speakers included Karl Sabbagh, a journalist and film maker, and Betty Hunter, honorary president of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

    An embassy spokesman said Tuesday evening’s event was “shameful” and “gave voice to racist tropes against Jews and Israelis alike”.

    David Collier, a blogger who attended the session, said he was later physically sick.

    He wrote: "I witnessed a Jew-hating festival at the heart of the British estate."

    The PRC wrote on its Facebook page yesterday: "This campaign has no other purpose than to improve awareness towards Palestinian human rights.

    "There is no other intention than that of implementing the recognition of the suffering of Palestinian refugees.

    "Having said that, we hope that dialogue, sympathy and mutual respect will replace intolerance, prejudice and anger."

    The organisation will campaign for the British government to "officially apologise for its past colonial crimes in Palestine".

    In a statement, the Council for Christians and Jews said it was "deeply concerned" by reports of the comments made at the event.

    The group added: "Nothing justified the deaths of six million Jews in the Holocaust. To in any way imply blame for the Holocaust on Jews themselves is a tragic misrepresentation of historical fact, an insult to the memories of the dead and to their families, and an affront to efforts to challenge antisemitism today.

    "We are also troubled by the remarks of another audience member who suggested that the 'Zionist movement' hold influence over Parliament. This is a classic antisemitic trope that is used to demonise Israel and deny the right of Jewish people to speak up for issues that affect them.

    CCJ urged Baroness Tonge "to clarify the events of yesterday evening and to distance herself from the comments that were made".

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