Nearly 90 peers have urged Baroness Jenny Tonge to apologize for claiming the Chief Rabbi of Britain “must be dancing in the street” after the general election which saw the Labour party headed by Jeremy Corbyn suffer its worst defeat since the 1930s.
Tonge, a former Liberal Democrat politician known for her anti-Israel views, took to Facebook following Thursday’s election and wrote, “The Chief Rabbi must be dancing in the street. The pro-Israel lobby won our General Election by lying about Jeremy Corbyn.”
Before the election, in an unprecedented move, the Chief Rabbi of Britain, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, published an article in which he criticized Corbyn and the party’s "utterly inadequate" response to anti-Semitism within its ranks.
In response to Tonge’s comments, 90 peers, including the government’s Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues and co-chair of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation, Lord Eric Pickles, wrote a letter accusing her of breaching the international definition of anti-Semitism, reported the Jewish News.
The letter, which was published in The Telegraph, was also signed by Lord Young of Cookham, the former Chief Whip, and Lord Levy, the former Labour party fund raiser.
“We the undersigned believe that members of the House of Lords are required to conform to the highest standards of Public Life. The use of language by Baroness Tonge in a published statement that the General Election outcome was a result of ‘the pro-Israeli lobby lying about Jeremy Corby’” falls well short of that high standard,” they wrote.
“Her language is both shameful and in clear contravention of the United Kingdom’s adoption of IHRA’s definition of Antisemitism. Baroness Tonge has brought Parliament into disrepute and we demand that she withdraws her remarks and issues a full and unqualified apology without delay,” they added.
When asked by the Jewish News if she’d apologize, Baroness Tonge replied, “The reports I read during the election campaign were that people were bring put off voting for the Labour Party in large numbers because of Jeremy Corbyn, who has been labelled as antisemitic by many opponents including the Chief Rabbi. I have known Jeremy Corbyn for many years and know without doubt that he is not antisemitic, far from it.”
“It was extraordinary for the Chief Rabbi, who only represents about half of synagogue attending Jews in this country, to endorse such political statements in the middle of an election campaign and he must have been very pleased with the result,” she continued.
“I am sorry however if some people are offended by the thought of the Chief Rabbi dancing in the street. It was a light hearted remark, not intended to offend,” claimed Tonge.
A spokesperson for the Board of Deputies of British Jews commented, “We stand behind the 90 peers who are urging Baroness Tonge to give an unqualified apology following her latest antisemitic trope of blaming Labour’s election defeat on ‘the pro-Israel lobby’.”
“She should also be ashamed that she spoke of the Chief Rabbi dancing in the streets at a time when Rabbi Mirvis has actually been mourning the death of his father. As has been proved time and again, Jenny Tonge is unfit to sit in the House of Lords,” the spokesperson added.
This is not the first time that Tonge has spoken out against Jews and Israel.
In 2004, she said that she would consider becoming a suicide bomber if she were an Arab living in the Palestinian Authority.
In 2006 Tonge said that “the pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they've probably got a grip on our party.”
Four years later, in 2010, Tonge accused Israel of being the “cause of terrorism” and said that the West's treatment of Muslims was caused by what she called “Holocaust guilt” and the “power of the pro-Israel lobby”.
In 2012, she resigned from her position of party whip, a task equivalent in the United States to speaker, after she spoke about Israel’s demise at an event promoting the boycott of the Jewish state.
In 2016, Tonge was suspended by the Lib Dems after hosting a meeting at the House of Lords in which one audience member blamed Jews for the Holocaust and Israel was compared to the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.
The following year, she accused the Community Security Trust (CST), which authored a report finding a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain, of displaying “a perpetual victim mentality” and of failing to help “real decent Jewish people”.