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Baroness Tonge, A Lib Dem Peer, Suspended By Party After Event Blamed Jews For Holocaust. Later Quits

Audience applauded claim at event ex-MP hosted.

27/10/2016 17:07 | Updated 28 October 2016

A Liberal Democrat peer and former MP has quit the party after hosting an event in Parliament where a speaker blamed Jews for the Holocaust.

As first reported by The Times, the event held by Baroness Tonge was condemned by Israel after an audience member suggested Hitler massacred millions of Jews because he was “antagonised” by a Rabbi in New York who urged people to boycott German goods.

Baroness Tonge, MP for Richmond Park until 2005, was launching a campaign to demand the British Government apologises for the Balfour declaration of 1917, which called for Jews to be given a home in Palestine.

Yiftah Curiel, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London, tweeted video excerpts from a live feed of the event.

The full event was broadcast on the Facebook page of the London-based Palestine Return Centre, which disputes any suggestion the audience was applauding the sentiment - pointing out Baroness Tonge went on to talk about the campaign, which is what prompted the applause.

Speaking to the Press Association (PA), Baroness Tonge said she resigned from the party “about the same time” as she was suspended by its leader.

Defending her actions, she insisted she did not hear the full “rant”.

She said: “I was chairing, I did not make any speeches, I introduced the speakers and in the course of that meeting there was a great rant.

“I remember the rant very well but I don’t remember hearing very much of it. It was a rant. I didn’t know what this person said.

“You do get ranters at these meetings and I think the best way of dealing with them - if you challenge them they go on and on and on and on - the best way is to just say ‘yes, thank you very much, next speaker’.”

Baroness Tonge, who sat in the Lords as an independent but was a member of the party, told PA said she would not have intervened to stop or eject the speaker if she had heard him.

She said: “I think I would have said ‘thank you very much, next speaker’. Because that, I know I’ve chaired many meetings, I’m an old lady, if you take issue with something a speaker has said the whole thing escalates.”

Baroness Tonge was previously forced to resign the Lib Dem whip after four years ago claiming the state of Israel was “not going to be there forever”.

A Lib Dem spokesman said the party had suspended Baroness Tonge’s membership and a one-month investigation into her conduct will be carried out, MailOnline reported.

“We take her comments very seriously and have acted accordingly,” the spokesperson added. It later emerged Tonge had quit the party.

An Israeli embassy spokesman for the described the House of Lords gathering as “a shameful event” that gave voice to racist tropes against Jews and Israelis alike”.

The audience member who was applauded after contending 1930s Rabbi Stephen Wise “antagonised Hitler, over the edge, to then want to systematically kill Jews wherever he could find them” through the German boycott.

The speaker went on: “He became a madman after this boycott. Judea declares war on Germany. In Manhattan they had 100,000 people marching in the economic boycott in 1935, it was the same heretic rabbi who caused that.”

IAN NICHOLSON/PA Archive
Baroness Tonge, an MP until 2005.

The male audience member also suggested the figure of six million Jews killed by the Nazis was a hoax, and told the meeting: “If anybody is antisemitic, it’s the Israelis themselves.”

Further, he compared Israel to ISIS, saying: “Isis is a perversion of Islam just as Zionism is a perversion of Judaism.”

* Article updated to reflect comments by the Baroness Tonge and Palestine Return Centre.

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