Leading Conservatives have condemned a meeting held at the House of Lords on Tuesday in which Israel was compared to ISIS and the Holocaust was blamed on Jews, as “outrageous” and “horrifying”. The meeting was chaired by former Liberal Democrat MP Baroness Tonge, who sits as an independent in the House of Lords.
Leader of the House of Commons, Rt. Hon. David Lidington MP, said that he was “genuinely horrified” by newspaper reports of the remarks.
Conservative MP for Monmouth, David Davies, said the remarks at the event were “outrageous” and called for an apology to “Israel and the Jewish people”.
CFI’s Honorary President Lord Polak CBE expressed his shock at the “abhorrent” anti-Semitism at the event: “Baroness Tonge’s silence in the face of such appalling anti-Semitism speaks volumes. It is simply shocking that such abhorrent views were allowed to go unchallenged in the Houses of Parliament. The Baroness has a shameful record of twisted, anti-Israel rhetoric and the Liberal Democrats’ suspension of Baroness Tonge, once again, is long overdue”.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, Mr Davies MP asked the Leader of the House of Commons: “May we have a debate on the use to which these premises may be put following reports that outrageously a member of the House of Lords presided over an event at which Israel was compared to Islamic State, and the Jews were even blamed for their own genocide?
“Could we discuss this and also whether we should be issuing an apology for these outrageous comments to the Israeli government and the Jewish people?”
Mr Lidington replied: “I read the newspaper reports of the event in question and I confess I was genuinely horrified by the speech that was reported there.
“I don’t want to treat every newspaper article as gospel but I think we should all be very concerned about what happened there.
Mr Lidington called for a swift investigation into the event: “I hope that since this appears to be an event organised by a leading member of the Liberal Democrat party, that the leader of the party does launch an immediate and thorough investigation so we can get to the truth and any appropriate disciplinary action can be taken.”
The Palestinian Return Centre, which live streamed the event on its Facebook page, said the event inside Parliament was part of its Balfour apology campaign – which calls for the UK Government to “officially apologise for its past colonial crimes in Palestine”.
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy described the House of Lords gathering as “a shameful event, which gave voice to racist tropes against Jews and Israelis alike”.
During the event, several offensive and anti-Semitic remarks were made. These were accepted by the panel and many were met with applause. At no point did Baroness Tonge, who chaired the meeting, challenge the remarks as inappropriate.
At one point, an audience member was applauded after suggesting that Hitler only decided to kill all the Jews after he was provoked by anti-German protests led by a rabbi in Manhattan.
The speaker, described on a blog as an ultra-orthodox Jew, said that in the 1930s Rabbi Stephen Wise, whom he described as a heretic, “made the boycott on Germany, the economic boycott . . . which antagonised Hitler, over the edge, to then want to systematically kill Jews wherever he could find them”.
The speaker went on: “As opposed to . . . make Germany free of Jews, a Jew-free land. 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”.
The speaker compared Israel to Islamic State, and said the best way to atone for the Balfour declaration was to prevent such things happening in future: “Just as the so-called Jewish state in Palestine doesn’t come from Judaism, this Islamic State in Syria is nothing to do with Islam. It is a perversion of Islam just as Zionism is a perversion of Judaism”.