How Can We Overcome Baroness Jenny Tonge’s Antisemitism?
At the end of 2016, the Simon Wiesenthal Center released its annual list of global Top Ten Antisemitic and Anti-Israel incidents. Tragically, we could easily have posted a top 100. The second item on our list was the United Kingdom, with a focus on the British Labour Party’s failure to curb antisemitism within its ranks — specifically from Liberal Democrat Jenny Tonge.
Baroness Tonge had declared that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is a major cause for the rise of global jihadism and ISIS. Tonge hosted an event at the House of Lords at which Jews were blamed for the Holocaust. At the event, one participant went unchallenged when he declared that Hitler’s decision to wipe out the Jews came only after being provoked by the anti-Nazi protests in the US, led by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise. Applause followed when the speaker added, “If anybody is antisemitic, it’s the Israelis themselves.”
It wasn’t easy, but now Ms. Tonge has outdone herself. The British Jewish community’s main watchdog group on antisemitism, the Community Security Trust, just released a devastating report confirming a 36 percent rise in antisemitic incidents in 2016 as compared to 2015.
In response, Tonge sent the following email blaming the victims of history’s oldest hate:
“Do you NEVER consider that the actions of the Israeli government are contributing towards this rise?” Tonge wrote. “If the Board of Deputies and the CST spoke up against the abuse if (sic) human rights, flagrant disregard of international law and the Geneva Conventions they would do much to improve the situation here.”
For good measure, she added this slam at the Jewish Defense organization: “The perpetual victim mentality of your organization is counterproductive and does not help real decent Jewish people.”
In fact, less than 10% of the 1,309 incidents recorded by CST in 2016 involved discourse relating to the Middle East (105 cases), of which 62 showed evidence of anti-Israel motivation.
Last year, Tonge wrote to The Guardian: “It is difficult to believe that a 75 percent increase in antisemitism it reports have been committed by people who simply hate Jewish people for no reason. It is surely the case these incidents are reflecting the disgust amongst the general public of the way the government of Israel treats Palestinians and manipulates the USA and ourselves to take no action.”
Baroness Tonge’s hatred for Israel and the Jewish people is nothing if not consistent. Her elite status in her society ensures that her hatred will find its way into the mainstream of British culture. Tonge’s bigotry should serve as a reminder and challenge that antisemitism is, or at least should be, a problem that non-Jews must oppose.
In 2017, silence in the face of antisemitism only feeds the beast of hate. We Jews must be vigilant and outspoken. But we can only overcome the hate if bigots like Baroness Tonge are taken on — openly and loudly — by their peers.