Why Jenny Tonge had to go for her comments on Israel


9:36 am - March 3rd 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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Last week I tweeted that it was right for the Libdem peer Jenny Tonge to quit the Libdems over her remarks on Israel.

I want to clarify why I said this, mostly because I think it points to broader points around such issues.

Three factors matter:

Rule one – Apologise even if people interpret it wrongly
If lots of people are outraged and it looks like they have a good reason to do so, then at the very least accept that your intention was misconstrued. Apologise for any offence taken even if you didn’t mean it that way.

Everything from Jeremy Clarkson to the Diane Abbott controversies had elements that people found offensive, for good reason.

Jenny Tonge’s remark could also be seen as her saying she did not want Israel to exist. At the very least she could have seen that and accepted that. But she refused to apologise and accept her remarks may have offended some people. That alone meant she had to go.

Rule two – context and history matter
Conservatives trying to pretend that Ken Livingstone is homophobic is just opportunistic idiocy. But Jenny Tonge has a history of inflammatory remarks regarding Israel. That was the main reason her remark was seen in a different context than perhaps she meant it.

Let’s put it this way – if Douglas Murray says something (that can be interpreted as) inflammatory about Muslims, then he probably meant since he has a history.

Mehdi Hasan said similar things have been said by Israeli politicians, but that’s moot. When Jay-Z and Kanya West say ‘Niggaz in Paris‘ it has a different context to Marie Le Pen saying it.

Rule three – extremists don’t help debate
Ian Dunt at Politics.co.uk said:

There are several effective ways of closing down an argument. One of the most immoral is to give it the name of another argument which is not accepted. This is the trick that has been played with some regularity by Israel’s defenders.

This is true, but every issue has to be taken on its own merit. It is a mistake to assume that every incident of outrage should not be taken seriously. It is also a mistake to assume that extremists such as Jenny Tonge help the debate.

I know several Jews who stand up for Palestinian rights but wouldn’t want to associate themselves with extremists on the same issue. I also know Muslims who see where Israel is coming from, but don’t speak out because they think that side is dominated by people who hate Muslims. Having an issue dominated by extremists isn’t healthy for debate, and there are still too many extremists on either side.

It isn’t racist for example to point out that the Israeli government is dominated by extremists. Its foreign minister Avigdor Leiberman was called a “fascist” for good reason. I can’t imagine a scenario where Muslims think he’s got their interests at heart too.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


“Jenny Tonge’s remark could also be seen as her saying she did not want Israel to exist”

However could people have gathered that impression?

Very sensible.

Other Tonge issue is the nutters with whom she was sharing the platform, a long record of which she also has.

I generally agree with this article and I think you make quite a few good points – but I’m afraid Ken Livingstone also “has previous” when it comes to homophobia. His willingness to share platforms with and publicly praise, on quite a few separate occasions, people who are virulently homophobic and proud of it really doesn’t sit well with his claim to be not homophobic.

And I say that as a liberal, not a tory, and I know plenty of non-tory gay people who’d say the same as well.

@3. Livingstone isn’t a homophobe, but he’s more than happy to sidle up to homophobes in a pigeon-holing attempt to capture what he perceives to be a monolithic Muslim block vote. The two things are different, but like you I don’t think either is less repulsive than the other.

Why is it ok for the prime minister of Israel to boast about having the President of the USA in his pocket but so outrageous when someone else suggests the same?

I am not sure if I agree with Jenny Tonge but her comments are not offensive. Criticism of Israel is not the same as anti-semitism or denying the holocaust.

Which borders of Israel was Jenny Tonge referring to, the present illegal borders containing illegal Israeli settlements, or the borders of Israel before the 1967 war of aggression?

Should Daniel Bernard, the French ambassador to Britain, have been expelled or recalled when he reportedly described Israel as a “shitty little country”, according to the Daily Telegraph of 23 December 2001? By the account in Wikipedia, the French press was largely supportive of him.

In the UN debate in November 1947 on the partition of Palestine, the UK abstained with the UK representative correctly predicted that the partition of Palestine would lead to continuing conflict. What do detractors of Jenny Tonge suppose is likely to bring this conflict to an end and on what borders?

We seem to have reverted to the traditional PR game where any public comment critical of Israel is put down as “antisemitic”. A reading of Avi Shlaim: The Iron Wall (Penguin Books) is recommended.
http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/153

8. Chaise Guevara

Not commenting on Tonge’s words specifically, but I really don’t think people should apologise for giving offense if they feel their words have been misrepresented. Firstly, it feeds into that annoying idea that people have the right not to be offended. Secondly, it’s just a bad tactical move, as it implies wrongdoing.

Imagine you wrote an article that included the sentence “The idea that homosexuality is sinful is outmoded and frankly stupid”. Then someone looking to make trouble quote-mined you and tweeted: ” “homosexuality is sinful” – Sunny Hundal”. Would you apologise, or would you say “Excuse me, but that’s not what I said”?

OP: “Rule one – Apologise een [sic] if people interpret it wrongly”

Why should anyone apologise for someone else misinterpreting something they’ve said? Especially if that ‘misinterpretation’ is likely to be wilful?

OP: “Jenny Tonge’s remark could also be seen as her saying she did not want Israel to exist.”

Only by those with a blunt axe to grind.

OP: “At the very least she could have seen that and accepted that.”

Oh, I’m sure that Jenny Tonge saw that would happen, and accepted it. It stands to her credit that she went ahead and said it anyway.

OP: “But Jenny Tonge has a history of inflammatory remarks regarding Israel.”

No, she has a history of telling rather more of the truth about Israel than we are accustomed from hearing from either the corporate media or politicians from parties where the ‘ Friends Of Israel’ have long had a disproportionate and – on the whole – baleful influence.

Your entire position on this seems to me to constitute yet another trahison des clercs from the self-described ‘Left’.

cjcjc @2:

“Other Tonge issue is the nutters with whom she was sharing the platform, a long record of which she also has.”

Yoda you now become have?

Jenny Tonge’s remark could also be seen as her saying she did not want Israel to exist”
I wonder why the wirter did not ask the labour leader Ed Miliband to apologise for his ill thought comment on Baroness comments towards Israel, when he remarked on his twitter “No place in politics for those who question the existence of the state of Israel.”
I find this remark deeply offensive to the free thinkig mind, Ed Miliband is dictating to everybody who wants to get involve in British politics to endorse the state of Israel without looking at the circumstances and the factors that led to the creation of Israel 1948, in order for him/her to make up his/her mind independently without drawing any red lines and taboos in politics, I wonder, what happened to free expressing of speech and opinion as a fundimental corner of democratic nations.

I wish more “supporters” of the Palestinians in the west would show the same maturity and genuine desire for peace as Arafat and Fatah did in supporting a two-state solution, and Arab leaders did in Riyadh in 2007.

From our cosy perspective here, it seems very tempting to romanticise violence in hatred overseas, despite the harm it does to both sides in a conflict.

I would like to see the United Nations pressure Israel, and force it if need be, to withdraw from the West Bank, stop blockading Gaza, and allow the Palestinians to set up a viable and independent state in line with UN242.

I’d be wary of saying that type of thing in conversation, not because I’d be accused of anti-semitism – that has never happened – but because there’s a good chance one of the people in the room will turn out to be a nutter who believes the “zionists” or “Israel lobby” control our banks/media/government and will assume that I’m a fellow traveller, so that I feel guilty about ever opening my mouth.

I think the platform sharing was the thing that stood out for me as particularly outrageous – particularly when combined with her form on dodgy comments about Israel.

13. Charlieman

My compliments to Sunny on his considered OP. There are things with which I disagree but, if the recent thread on the Iran/Israeli stand off sets a precedent, it appears to be a good starting point for debate.

Picking up on Chaise Guevara @8: “…I really don’t think people should apologise for giving offense if they feel their words have been misrepresented.”

In a political argument, we say things that may be misconstrued or misrepresented. For those, we clarify the point that we intended to make. We do not apologise, because no offence was intended. We can express regret that our words were misunderstood.

There are other occasions when we stick our feet in our mouths. We do not think through the consequences of our arguments and we say something that, on reflection, we know to be offensive or daft. For those we apologise and tell ourselves not to do it again.

We can only apologise a few numbers of time for mistaken comments before others disbelieve our sincerity. If we make offensive remarks frequently, others determine that we are not sorry. They conclude that (generously) we are suffering from a personality disorder or that we actually think what we said.


My belief is that senior LibDems simply lost patience with Jenny Tonge. Fatigue. The words that caused the breach were not particularly offensive in my opinion. But this event succeeded others when she has said things that were, at best, ill considered. Then there is Jenny Tonge’s thoughtlessness about the meetings where she has spoken. She has stood alongside people who reject the two state solution too many times. It should be unsurprising that LibDem leaders concluded that she caused too many problems to be worth handling.

Reading LibDem blogs, I’ve seen comments about Jenny Tonge’s long history of contribution to other areas of policy. She was a good egg and a resolute campaigner. But enough is enough.


@3. George W. Potter: “…but I’m afraid Ken Livingstone also “has previous” when it comes to homophobia. His willingness to share platforms with and publicly praise, on quite a few separate occasions, people who are virulently homophobic and proud of it really doesn’t sit well with his claim to be not homophobic.”

Ken Livingstone has shared platforms with the obnoxious Lutfur Rahman. That is a mistake that you can only make once before people can fairly challenge your commitment to gay rights.

George

His willingness to share platforms with and publicly praise, on quite a few separate occasions, people who are virulently homophobic and proud of it really doesn’t sit well with his claim to be not homophobic.

Yusuf Qaradawi also wants to execute apostates but I doubt Ken Livingstone has a pathological dislike of converts. To promote somebody with unpleasant views needn’t mean you share their views, it can mean that you’re insufficiently concerned with opposing them. That’s a serious charge, and one I’d aim at Livingstone, but it’s a different one.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 13 Charlieman

“We can only apologise a few numbers of time for mistaken comments before others disbelieve our sincerity. If we make offensive remarks frequently, others determine that we are not sorry. They conclude that (generously) we are suffering from a personality disorder or that we actually think what we said.”

Yeah. Which is why, for example, I confidently call the BNP racist even though they tend to purge any statements they previously made indicating that this is the case. It’s similar to the form of bullying where you repeatedly insult someone and say “Joking! Joking!” after each comment. It swiftly becomes clear that you mean what you say. And it’s a very bad idea to create the impression that you’re that sort of person by apologising for things that need no apology.

I don’t want to open the Ken/Boris can of worms, especially as it’s the topic of another thread, but that’s something I like about Ken: when his opponents have made false accusations against him based on misrepresentations (e.g. calling him antisemitic because he said something unfriendly to a Jewish guy), he’s called them on it rather than folding and saying “I apologise for any offence caused” or whatever.

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 BenSix

Precisely.

17. Robin Levett

@Falco #1:

However could people have gathered that impression?

I have no idea – having read the remarks as quoted by the Grauniad, they seem to be (paraphrased) a warning to Israel that it can’t rely upon US support for ever, that without that support it may have difficulties surviving, and so some degree of flexibility in dealing with its neighbours and the Palestinians might be in order.

I haven’t followed her previous history; is there in that history any factor rendering the above paraphrase unfair?

18. Charlieman

@11. hobson: “I wish more “supporters” of the Palestinians in the west would show the same maturity and genuine desire for peace as Arafat and Fatah did in supporting a two-state solution, and Arab leaders did in Riyadh in 2007.”

Sadly, whilst time has progressed, political thought has regressed. The two state solution is about nationality: Palestine and Israel. Palestinian citizenship would include Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-theists and followers of religions that we do not hear about in the UK. Israeli citizenship already includes the above, although the government needs a few lessons about civil rights.

But support for a Palestinian state has been transformed into support for an Islamic Palestinian state. That was not the desire of Fatah which I presume still seeks a secular state.

This is not just an Israel/Palestine problem. Lebanon has tried to create a secular state for years — it cannot try anything else other than partition and further partition.

“I’d be wary of saying that type of thing in conversation, not because I’d be accused of anti-semitism – that has never happened – but because there’s a good chance one of the people in the room will turn out to be a nutter who believes the “zionists” or “Israel lobby” control our banks/media/government and will assume that I’m a fellow traveller, so that I feel guilty about ever opening my mouth.”

There is a logical inconsistency in that sentence that I am going to skip. But I am worried that “Zionist” is being used as an expletive against supporters of a two state solution.

19. flyingrodent

She’s a loony. If I was a Lib Dem – which I certainly am not – I’d regard her as a terrible liability and I’d have wanted her punted years ago.

20. modernity's ghost

Tonge’s past comments:

“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.”

http://blog.thecst.org.uk/?p=3492

21. Charlieman

Re: Loss of respect by sharing platforms with bigots

Voodoo presented a “simple” argument @55 in another thread: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/03/02/outrage-as-oxford-university-hosts-conference-by-homophobes/

I have simplified Voodoo’s argument further.

“Group A and Group B are associated.
Group B then associates with Group C.
Group A does not want to be associated with Group C, even by proxy, so breaks ties with Group B.”

If Group B comprises Jenny Tonge and Group A the LibDems, we can understand why LibDems have taken their position.

If Group B comprises Ken Livingstone and Group A the Labour Party, we cannot understand why the Labour Party has not kicked him out or at minimum provided lessons about the dangers of normative relativism.

The position taken by Nick Clegg and the LibDems on this is utterly incomprehensible.

In 2009, Gerald Kaufman MP made a speech in Parliament saying that Israel was acting like Nazis in Gaza which – judging by media reports at the time – appears to be a fairly accurate description of what the IDF was doing in Gaza. Try this video clip on YouTube of his speech in Parliament:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQxdxH2k7-M

That public observation by Kaufman, for the record, was far more offensive towards Israel than anything said by Jenny Tonge but he wasn’t expelled from the Labour Party and nor was there significant pressure upon him to resign the Labour whip, as best as I can tell.

If anything, the pressures applied to Jenny Tonge and Nick Clegg’s posturing seem to me compelling reasons for not voting LibDem unless Jenny Tonge is promptly reinstated, otherwise LibDem pre-emptive claims to “liberal” values and supporting freedom of legitimate political expression are risible.

How is Jenny Tonge an extremist? Is being critical of Israel “extremist” as well as “anti semitic” now? Unlike the Israelis, I don’t see her threatening people with violence. Once again, the limits of our right to freedom of speech have been vividly illustrated.

Tonge’s past comments:

Don’t see a problem with that. It is the Elephant in the room that nobody must say without being shouted down.. The pro Israeli lobby have done here in the UK what they have done in the US. Which is to Shut down any criticism of the state of Israel.

Those who say that there is not a pro Israeli lobby in both the UK and the US who have huge political and financial clout, are like the morons in the Emperors new cloths. IT’S STARING YOU IN THE FUCKING FACE.

25. Charlieman

@22. Bob B: “In 2009, Gerald Kaufman MP made a speech in Parliament saying that Israel was acting like Nazis in Gaza which – judging by media reports at the time – appears to be a fairly accurate description of what the IDF was doing in Gaza. Try this video clip on YouTube of his speech in Parliament:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQxdxH2k7-M

Gerald Kaufman’s explosion was apposite and I supported it at the time. I support it today. Kaufman spoke as a man who seeks a two state solution. I have little time for Gerald Kaufman but on occasions, he is on the right side.

“That public observation by Kaufman, for the record, was far more offensive towards Israel than anything said by Jenny Tonge…”

Intellectual clarity is improved by disregarding anuses.

26. Charlieman

@24. Sally: “IT’S STARING YOU IN THE FUCKING FACE.”

Indeed, it is staring in my fucking face. Israel lies to the world. And Hamas cannot tell a truth. That is why independent liberal nations such as Sweden have tried to intervene.

But Sally is not concerned about political resolution. Sally’s politics is ABOUT SHOUTING.

There’s no misunderstanding. EdM stated that the belief that Israel should not exist was not merely wrong but one which no-one in public life should be permitted to hold. It was an utterly cretinous remark far more offensive than Tonge’s. Tonge of course should have ben binned for the tinfoil had rubbish about organ harvesting in Haiti, but if that is the real reason why not say so?

One thing I find priceless about this latest contrived nonsense, is the usual tories and right wing nuts who tell us constantly about the wonders of having a non elected second chamber. They are always championing the advantages of un elected people, who do not have to debase themselves by standing for election. They can give views that are not put through focus groups, and have been cleared by the party leaders…… Blah blah blah

And the moment one of these people say something they don’t like , they want her head on a spike. You can’t make it up, as LittlJohn would say.

29. Charlieman

@28. Sally: “You can’t make it up, as LittlJohn would say.”

I think that the Turing Test may be misguided. The Turing Test is about creating a computer program that responds to human input just like it was another human. If you search briefly on the interweb, you’ll find lots of experimental sites where you can talk to Eliza’s big sister. (Eliza was the first popular program that mimicked a conversation.)

The Sally Test would be much harder: to create a bot that generates realistic blog comments that vaguely relate to the thread with misleading spelling mistakes, abstract but human digressions, and the ability to insert “brownshirt” as the least appropriate adjective.

“If lots of people are outraged …”

But … I’m outraged at every other post Sunny writes ! And he’s never apologised !

Must admit I never saw Sunny as a consenus seeker – I thought he was more of a “by any means necessary” type.

“and it looks like they have a good reason to do so”

Ah, but who’s doing the looking ? Sunny doesn’t apologise because he doesn’t think there’s a good reason to. Presumably Ms Tonge thinks the same.

“context and history matter”

When Chris Rock or Jesse Jackson worry about the race of the guy behind them in the late night cash machine queue, they’re just articulating the reality of urban life. A white person doing the same is expressing four hundred years of racist hegemony.

My guess is Jenny Tonge’s logic was as follows:

If Israel does not come to a just peace and settlement with its neighbours before US hegemony in the region ends, whether it be because it goes bankrupt or because China becomes THE superpower and begins to throw its weight around, there is a risk of attack by the Arab and/or Farsi world with the pent-up anger that has accrued over the decades due to its treatment of the Palestinians, hence Israel reaps what it has sown. This could result in an Israel no longer existing irrespective whether that is a good or bad thing. It is merely an analysis of sorts.

How under any circumstances that could be construed as offensive I don’t know, however, I am all to well aware of anyone seen as criticising Israel being shouted down especially those in the public eye.

I made the same points to my Israeli relatives seven years ago and they agreed, but they admitted they are scared to make peace but scared of the alternative too. where does that leave you?!

My position was one of not wanting to see the people of Israel be the victim of such an attack as well as a desire for the Palestinians to have the life and state they deserve – as laid out under international law.

The fact that people don’t like a particular position is no reason not to say it or to apologise for it, else we have the simplest tactic to get rid of people in office we don’t agree with. The laws are in place for those who incite racial hatred etc.

Frankly I don’t think the state of Israel should have been created it was a terrible decision (I admit that would have left the superpowers at the time a headache following the second world war but why should confiscating what clearly should have been Palestinian land be their easy way out?), but now it’s here I don’t think it should or could be undone (unless a one-state solution was agreed if that’s what a referendum decreed). should i apologise for that position if people find it unacceptable? I know I’m not anti-Israel or anti-Jewish but also know some people are incapable of standing up their positions so resort to hot-air and rhetoric.

It is quite amazing that within 70 odd years since the horrors of the Holocaust, The state of Israel has managed to take so much good will, and piss it away with their arrogance , and aggression.

They now rely on far right wing Christian nut jobs, who believe in protecting Israel for no other reason than they want Jesus to return, and then see the world end, and they get raptured into heaven.

33. Chaise Guevara

@ 30 Laban Tall

+1

34. modernity's ghost

Why do Baroness Tonge’s defenders mostly sound like a bunch of conspiracy freaks ?

They always, go on and on about the supposedly all-powerful “Zionist” lobby.

Can’t be that powerful, if everyone is talking about it and sees thru it?

Don’t go apologising for people getting offended for misunderstanding what a person said. That way lies this madness:

The director of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams’s constituent services office resigned after being accused of using a racial slur, the mayor’s office said yesterday.

David Howard, head of the Office of Public Advocate, said he used the word “niggardly” in a Jan. 15 conversation about funding with two employees.

“I used the word ‘niggardly’ in reference to my administration of a fund,” Howard said in a written statement yesterday. “Although the word, which is defined as miserly, does not have any racial connotations, I realize that staff members present were offended by the word.

“I immediately apologized,” Howard said. ” . . . I would never think of making a racist remark. I regret that the word I did use offended anyone.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/daily/jan99/district27.htm

Glenn – I think if she had just said those remarks out of nowhere, they would have resonated quite differently. Do look at the context within which she spoke, the context of her earlier remarks about Israel/zionists, and the context of the meeting at Middlesex. I’ll put a link in a separate comment to Richard Millett’s blog.

Well, I don’t agree with her comments, but I take issue with this:

“Rule one – Apologise even if people interpret it wrongly”

This is crap. Never apologise for anything if you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. Apologising when you’ve done nothing wrong is for cowards and hypocrites.

Did she “have to go”? I don’t know. I support a two-state solution and don’t think her views are necessarily helpful, but there are hundreds of people in parliament who’ve done far worse – such as everyone who voted to conquer Iraq. The issue, I think, is that their transgressions are connected to and supported by the establishment, so we let them get away with it.

On the theme of Israel acting like Nazis in Gaza in 2009, this link is to American commentary broadcast on CNN relating to the weapons used by the IDF:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsGUs1kprRM

But … I’m outraged at every other post Sunny writes ! And he’s never apologised !

Heh – I should have said that apologies only necessary when sensible people are outraged.

If only Harry Cole and Paul Staines and the usual bunch of numpties were outraged – I wouldn’t worry about it too much. But that wasn’t the case here.

Indeed it is wrong to question the legitimacy of Israel or Palestine.

However, the desire to see a comprehensive peace in the Middle East is growing more urgent than ever but the process in reaching a comprehensive and durable peace has not been helped by the current impasse in peace talks or by Israel’s current Prime Minister Mr Netanyahu, who continues to build illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Last November, there were a further 6 UN Resolutions on Palestine and the Middle East. One in particular pertaining to Jerusalem was supported by 166 nations and the UK. Israel opposed these resolutions.

In fact there are over 150 UN Resolutions. Furthermore the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague pertaining to the ‘security barrier’, which is 3 times the length of the Berlin Wall, has been ignored by Mr Netanyahu. The ICJ referred to the ‘security barrier’ as illegal including that part that has divided Arab East Jerusalem.

It is impossible to envisage a two-state solution, if settlements and the ‘security barrier’ are finally completed. Palestinian communities will be separated into pockets of territory that lack contiguity, surrounded by settlements only accessible by settler only roads. ‘Natural growth’ settlements too were not acceptable as part of Phase I of the internationally agreed Road Map (2003) either.

There are 130 nations in the world that recognise Palestine including India, China, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil. Day by day, the ‘security barrier’ and settlements erode the possibility of a two-state solution, the viability a comprehensive peace, the contiguity of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (including Arab East Jerusalem) and the relevance of the Palestinian National Authority.

Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve peace and security, but this is not possible with Mr Netanyahu’s refusal to end his policies which include rejecting the US President’s 1967 lines. UNESCO’s recognition of Palestine last year (supported by France, Spain, Ireland and Norway) underline the fact that Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate aspirations. That can only come about through a two-state solution. Palestine needs to be viable and contiguous and Israel secure.

“Rule one – Apologise even if people interpret it wrongly”

“Heh – I should have said that apologies only necessary when sensible people are outraged.”

But how do you define who is sensible? Deliberately taking offense is one of the defence mechanisms of poeple in authority when they are caught out.

43. Chaise Guevara

@ 42

Agreed. A better rule might be “If you’re accused of being offensive, think about whether the accusations are right rather than automatically going on the defensive”.

“The State of Israel will not last forever in its present form.”

For this, the Lib Dem Whip is withdrawn. For a statement of the obvious.

About 14,000 Jews left Israel annually between 1990 and 2005. Half of Israelis aged between 14 and 18 express the desire to live elsewhere. A huge percentage of Israelis holds, or plans to inquire about obtaining, foreign nationality. The Berlin synagogue has 12,000 members, and there are now perhaps 55,000 Jews in Poland, many of whom are immigrants from Israel. Curzon was right when he bemoaned the Balfour Declaration on the grounds that the “advanced and intellectual” Jews would have no desire to live in the Middle East. They cannot wait to go home.

The screeching of Britain’s Likud supporters and worse cannot hide the fact that the Jewish Chronicle has to reflect mainstream Anglo-Jewish opinion or go out of business, that the Board of Deputies of British Jews has to reflect mainstream Anglo-Jewish opinion or its members would not be re-elected, and so on. The tyranny of those who shout the loudest is coming to an end. Not a moment too soon.

Desperately, Israel is instead flying in Russians who refuse to eat kosher food and who insist on taking their Israeli Defence Force oaths on the New Testament alone, Russian Nazis, East Africans who have invented a religion based on the Old Testament brought by Christian missionaries, Peruvian Indians, absolutely anyone at all. Even the Pashtun are now classified as a Lost Tribe with a view to airlifting them to Israel in future, since at least they are not Arabs.

Such Jewish births as there still are, are largely and increasingly to ultra-Orthodox who so disdain the Zionist State that they will use physical force against its teenage conscripts of both sexes. Their desire to live in the Land of Israel is manifestly quite separate from any desire to live in the State of Israel, which is presumably why, settled on the West Bank, they do not do so. One cannot help feeling that they and the inhabitants of Umm al-Fahm ought to have been asked each other’s questions.

If Israel does not want to become a haven for Russian Nazis, then she needs to repeal the Law of Return, declaring that she is now a settled culture and society in her own right, and precluding any wildly impracticable demand for a corresponding right on the part of Palestinian refugees or their descendants. The people who will do anything for Israel except live there, and who throw their weight around in demanding policies that suit their prejudices expressed from comfortable berths thousands of miles away, can thus be told where to go, or not to bother trying to go.

If there cannot be a Palestinian State, contrary to the position of the last Republican President of the United States, then with whom and with what have the Israelis ever been negotiating? Those interlocutors do not seek recognition of a Muslim state; on the contrary, the Palestinian Authority already operates a Christian quota without parallel in Israel, though corresponding to similar arrangements in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iran. They do not even seek recognition of an Arab state.

Ever since 1993, they have recognised Israel within her borders before 1967, and, although they ought also to claim the territory to the east that a Palestinian State would rapidly come to include, they seek nothing more than recognition of Palestine within the territory captured in that year, the home of everyone who lives there, and if anything an emerging or emerged Orthodox Jewish refuge from godless Zionism. The only problem is with recognising Israel as “a Jewish State”, condemning a fifth of the population, including the world’s most ancient Christian communities, to the second class citizenship from which the Israeli Constitution theoretically protects them, however different the practice may be.

Israel needs to move to very extensive devolution to the very local level, Jewish or Arab, religious or secular, Muslim or Christian, and so forth. She needs three parliamentary chambers, each about one third of the size of the present one, with one for the ultra-Orthodox, one for the Arabs, and one for everyone else, the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs being already identified in law because of their arrangements in relation to military service. All legislation would require the approval of all three chambers. Each chamber would elect a Co-President, all three of whom would have to approve all legislation and senior appointments, as well as performing ceremonial duties.

Each chamber would be guaranteed a Minister in each department and at least a quarter of Cabinet posts. Yiddish would be recognised as an official language, the quid pro quo for recognising all the many currently unrecognised villages in the Galilee and the Negev. The alliance necessary to pull this off would take an awful lot of effort. But two peoples facing nothing less than denaturalisation could very well be prepared to make that amount of effort. The other lot should have had more children, or bothered to move there from places like London and New York. But they did not.

Buy the book here. (Ignore the negative comments, which are all by the same person, a former student of mine who has mental health problems.)

@21: If Group B comprises Ken Livingstone and Group A the Labour Party, we cannot understand why the Labour Party has not kicked him out

The Labour Party has kicked Livingstone out in the past. He went on to stand as an independent for major of London, and win, beating the official Labour candidate.

Given that past, it’s understandable that Labour might not want to do the same thing again.

SH shows no understanding of the Palestine question and what Jenny Tonge said. As for the outcry against Jenny Tonge, if you have taken the trouble to do your homework, I think you will find that the shrillest cries come from the Zionist lobby or those political leaders who are running scared of the Zionist lobby. Instead of rubbishing JT, you should be celebrating the principled stance she has taken on Palestine. One thing which you have to accept is that the current situation with perpetual illegal settlements is unsustainable. Indeed if the Israelis persist with this policy, the two state solution will not be viable anyway.

Israel has inflicted endless misery on Palestinians after terrorising them into flight for their lives and sequestrating their lands. Try this passage about the Qibya massacre in October 1953 in Avi Shlaim’s book:

“. . Unit 101 was commanded by an aggressive and ambitious young major named Ariel Sharon. Sharon’s order was to penetrate Qibya, blow up houses, and inflict heavy casualties on its inhabitants. His success in carrying out this order surpassed all expectations. The full and macabre story of what happened at Qibya was revealed only during the morning after the attack. The village had been reduced to a pile of rubble: forty-five houses had been blown up, and sixty-nine civiliains, two-thirds of them women and children, had been killed. Sharon and his men claimed that they had no idea that anyone was hiding in the houses. The UN observer who inspected the reached a different conclusion: ‘One story was repeated time after time: the bullet splintered door, the body sprawled across the threshold, indicating that the inhabitants had been forced by heavy fire to stay inside until their homes were blown up over them.’”
Avi Shlaim: The Iron Wall (Penguin Books, 2001), p.91.

Is Clegg deploring Avi Slaim for writing that and trying to get him fired from his professorship at Oxford?

48. Roger Mexico

Shorter Sunny: if people bully you – give in. Because you can be sure that they’ll go away and not bother you any more.

Unsurprisingly anything so daft is going to require outstandingly stupid arguments to support it

Apologise even if people interpret it wrongly. No you don’t. If the misunderstanding seems genuine, you explain politely what you really meant. If the outrage is second-hand, you refer them to what was actually said and politely request they apologise when they realise what was actually said. If the misinterpretation is wilful or perverse you direct them to remedial language classes – particularly if they are a native speaker.

Context and history matter Apart from trivial examples (eg if you’re really quoting other people), they usually don’t. If an argument needs excuses or back-up from elsewhere it’s probably got something wrong with it. Actually what is then stated is that certain people should have their remarks interpreted differently because of who they are or the reputation they have.

Put like that of course it’s shown to be the start of the flowery path that continues through ad hominems down to conspiracy theories and “they really mean … and they’re saying that because they’re ….”. On the whole it’s better to assume that people mean what they say and not what you think they ought to say because of who they are. Point out possible interests and contradictions by all means, but putting words in other peoples’ mouths is just admitting that you can’t win the argument against their real opinions.

Extremists don’t help debate is also self-evidently wrong except in the most trivial circumstances, probably involving machine guns. Extremists can help define what the debate is, and if you exclude them from it you simply don’t have the full debate. But in any case who is defining what is ‘extreme’? One person’s extremist can be another’s moderate, or even extremist in the other direction.

Again the headline is different from the rest of the paragraph, which seems to be based on the fear that “extremism” is somehow passed on by proximity – a perception along the lines of a playground taunt (“I saw you speak to Smelly Jackson – that means you’re smelly”). I know that on the the internet no one knows you’re a seven year-old, but most of us have realised by now that, though effectively cruel, this is not intellectually sound. And then we can all have a go at Six Degrees of Guilt By Association and prove that the Pope is anti-Catholic showing how easily this sort of argument can be reduced to absurdity.

All this dodgy reasoning is because no one with any sense of perspective would label Tonge as an “extremist”. Silly, naive, misinformed or just plain wrong perhaps, but not extreme. In this case her actual stated views are not just internationally agreed policy, as others have pointed out, they are probably shared by most people in the country.

That two Party leaders, Clegg and Miliband have over-reacted, terrified, like a pair of Hyacinth Buckets, of what the neighbours will think, only goes to show that rationality doesn’t rate very high in the Westminster Bubble. Luckily for them not many people outside will have noticed either way.

Roger Mexico

+10000

Unusual to find a liberal (in the old sense) posting here.

Forgot to say – I think Tonge’s an idiot. But if that were a criterion for expulsion from the Lib Dims, the party would not exist. She should be free to speak rubbish on whatever subject she wishes – and we can judge accordingly.

51. Just Visiting

Roger Mexico

> Shorter Sunny: if people bully you – give in. Because you can be sure that they’ll go away and not bother you any more.

That maybe explains Sunny’s proven avoidance of the criticism of Muslims on LC.
And why he instead misses few opportunities to criticise christianity.

The former religion is prone to be a bully.

Like this week’s death threats, at the cancelled meeting of the Queen Mary “Atheist society”:

“‘Five minutes before the talk was due to start a man burst into the room holding a camera phone and for some seconds stood filming the faces of all those in the room. He shouted ‘listen up all of you, I am recording this, I have your faces on film now, and I know where some of you live’, at that moment he aggressively pushed the phone in someone’s face and then said ‘and if I hear that anything is said against the holy Prophet Mohammed, I will hunt you down.’ He then left the room.

‘The same man then began filming the faces of Society members in the foyer and threatening to hunt them down if anything was said about Mohammed, he added that he knew where they lived and would murder them and their families. ”

http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/966

If people are offended because they’ve miscontrued me I’ll be sorry in the sense of regretting their offence but I won’t be sorry in the sense of being apologetic. If it’s (a) a misinterpretation and (b) a problem with their reading, not my phrasing, it’s their problem not mine. The difference between “sorry” and “sorry” is pretty darned important. If somebody’s mother dies and I say that I’m “sorry” I hope they’re not going to infer that I’ve murdered the poor woman.

Unfortunately Sunny’s criteria make words like “sensible people” and “extremist” do a lot of work. The experience of the last ten years should tell us that these are value-laden words, that the beliefs of supposedly sensible people are not always correct and that people labelled as “extremists” may have a valid point. Remember when it was only “extremists” who pointed out that the War on Terror was a risky idea and that large-scale military operations were not necessarily a good way of dealing with terrorist groups!

54. Chaise Guevara

@ 53 Guano

“Remember when it was only “extremists” who pointed out that the War on Terror was a risky idea”

Um, that was at least half the UK population. Although I agree with you re using these terms as lazy buzzwords.

Sarcasm, Chaise.

56. Chaise Guevara

@ BenSix

Cool, apologies.

57. Charlieman

@51. Just Visiting: “That maybe explains Sunny’s proven avoidance of the criticism of Muslims on LC.
And why he instead misses few opportunities to criticise christianity.”

A few months before LibCon was invented, I discovered Pickled Politics. It was a place where people argued about how to create a UK secular society and the role of religion within it. PP has now ended.

And that is where Sunny conducted arguments about faith and society.

If Sunny is reading is this, was not Pickled Politics a more open spirited and contemplative forum than LibCon? Or that regulars ignored outrage?

Before we take away the voice of those who speak out against displacing, confining and killing people can we not at least have a coherent argument as to it is justifiable?

Silencing opposition merely adds fuel to ‘retaliation and terrorism’ which is often sited as justification.

Granted it is a complex issue, but any layman might be inclined to believe that the aggressive silencing of critics is a cynical ploy to fuel opposition and encourage extreme reactions to what are commonly perceived as blatant atrocities, thereby justifying further displacement, confinement and killing.

It is obvious that there are perpetuators on both sides, but only Israel is guilty of acting as a western backed ‘democratic’ state flaunting hard earned international conventions and law.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why Jenny Tonge had to go for her comments on Israel http://t.co/Z38jAxjT

  2. ?????

    “@libcon: Why Jenny Tonge had to go for her comments on Israel http://t.co/sR6UeVf9” What a shower of shite.

  3. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why Jenny Tonge had to go for her comments on Israel http://t.co/4Gibe489

  4. Gael

    RT @libcon: Why Jenny Tonge had to go for her comments on Israel http://t.co/Ws3EtnxJ #gaza #palestine

  5. Gael

    Sunny Hundal calls Baroness Jenny #Tonge an extremist > " extremists such as Jenny Tonge help" http://t.co/HRitSDGU @LDFoP

  6. sunny hundal

    Three short reasons why I think Jenny Tongue had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/wKgsYbPM

  7. ?????

    Three short reasons why I think Jenny Tongue had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/wKgsYbPM

  8. John Brooks

    RT @sunny_hundal Three short reasons why I think Jenny Tongue had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/0vPQ4nu8

  9. Dan Hodges

    Good post by @sunny_hundal on Jenny Tongue http://t.co/Rc15rUjC

  10. Patron Press - #P2

    #UK : Why Jenny Tonge had to go for her comments on Israel http://t.co/53FrVk0d

  11. Leah Kreitzman

    Three short reasons why I think Jenny Tongue had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/wKgsYbPM

  12. Martin Shovel

    RT @DPJHodges: Good post by @sunny_hundal on Jenny Tongue http://t.co/LW0rqDwW

  13. Julia Harris

    Three short reasons why I think Jenny Tongue had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/wKgsYbPM

  14. BevR

    Three short reasons why I think Jenny Tongue had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/wKgsYbPM

  15. Soupy One

    Three short reasons why I think Jenny Tongue had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/wKgsYbPM

  16. Jason Brickley

    Why Jenny Tonge had to go for her comments on Israel http://t.co/13e5v05y

  17. Soupy One

    @Flashmaggie @InTheSoupAgain Still banging the drum, eh? Best see Sunny Hundel's thoughtful contribution http://t.co/PwUYJsmF

  18. Seph Brown

    RT @sunny_hundal: 3 reasons why Tonge had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/TPLBWV8T <- #4 is that sloppy ranting always bad.

  19. Soupy One

    RT @sunny_hundal: 3 reasons why Tonge had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/TPLBWV8T <- #4 is that sloppy ranting always bad.

  20. James Hepplestone

    Three short reasons why I think Jenny Tongue had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/wKgsYbPM

  21. After Tonge « Soupy One

    […] Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy explains the issues with refreshing clarity, Why Jenny Tonge had to go for her comments on Israel. […]

  22. sunny hundal

    Why I think Jenny Tonge had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/wKgsYbPM

  23. Adam Ford

    Scumdal strikes again RT @sunny_hundal: Why I think Jenny Tonge had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/NAcbPidk

  24. David Landon Cole

    Why I think Jenny Tonge had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/wKgsYbPM

  25. Alex

    The Hundal on Jenny Tonge's Israel comments: "Something or other extremism and then a thingy. Also extremism": http://t.co/Q15WVP4D

  26. Gael

    a self confessed Blairite > #TonyBlair > RT @DPJHodges: Good post by @sunny_hundal on Jenny Tongue http://t.co/HRitSDGU #sldconf

  27. Ben Bruges

    Unusually disappointing article >> RT @sunny_hundal: Why I think Jenny Tonge had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/nClvRCd3

  28. sunny hundal

    Unusually disappointing article >> RT @sunny_hundal: Why I think Jenny Tonge had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/nClvRCd3

  29. Lewis MacKenzie

    Three short reasons why I think Jenny Tongue had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/wKgsYbPM

  30. Lewis MacKenzie

    @moronwatch Are you following Sunny Hundal? http://t.co/AeA7PllK

  31. Robert CP

    Unusually disappointing article >> RT @sunny_hundal: Why I think Jenny Tonge had to go, for her comments on Israel http://t.co/nClvRCd3





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