In a letter published today in The Times newspaper, cross-party peers from the Britain Israel Peers Group Committee, including CFI Honorary President Lord Polak CBE, rejected the claim that anyone who criticises Israel is accused of anti-Semitism.
The letter condemned the comments made at an event chaired by Baroness Tonge on Tuesday last week, in which Israel was compared to ISIS and the Holocaust was blamed on Jews.
The letter read:
“Sir, We reject Baroness Tonge’s claim that anyone who criticises Israel is accused of anti-Semitism (report, Oct 28). Free speech and debate is the bedrock of our British parliament and therefore it is entirely legitimate to use parliament to voice concerns about the policies of any country. However, for Baroness Tonge to use the House of Lords to host an event at which participants are able to go unchallenged, and are even thanked after having compared Israel to Islamic State and blamed Jews for the Holocaust, is truly shocking and despicable and undermines the tireless work that we as peers do to combat antisemitism and all forms of racism.
Baroness Deech; Lord Leigh of Hurley; Lord Palmer of Childs Hill; Lord Polak; Lord Turnberg”
Click here to read the full letter in The Times.
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”.