The Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine regret the resignation of the party whip by Baroness Tonge and offer her their full support. Her resignation follows condemnation of her by the party leadership for remarks she made in a meeting at Middlesex University last week. The condemnation was made before the leadership had heard her side of the story or even spoken to her. That action in itself worries us. She is entitled to an apology.

Her actual words which caused the controversy were “Israel is not going to be there forever on its present performance”. She has confirmed to us that her intention was to imply that Israel’s wilful failure to uphold and respect the human rights of Palestinian Muslims and Christians is behaviour which is likely to lead to its self-destruction. This failure by Israel applies both with regard to its own Arab citizens (whom it discriminates against) and to the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (who have endured Israeli occupation for nearly 45 years). We consider that her words, when interpreted in this context, were entirely reasonable.

It is worth noting that her remarks were made at the end of a long and acrimonious meeting in which she was repeatedly barracked by pro-Israeli government hecklers. The video clip which recorded her remarks is incomplete and does not give a full or accurate impression of the debate. What disturbs us most, however, is the selective reporting of her remarks on the blogs by Richard Millet and Guido Fawkes. The three minute clip of her remarks on Guido Fawkes is entitled “LibDem Peer says ‘Israel won’t be there forever’.” This partial quotation would seem very possibly to be deliberate, and has had the effect of fostering a misinterpretation of her views.

John McHugo, chair of Lib Dem Friends of Palestine, says, “This is a witchhunt based on trial by blog. Jenny’s motivation in speaking up for the rights of the oppressed is anger at injustice when others, who have the duty to speak out, pass by silently on the other side of the street. It is also an attempt to make Jenny the story, and to detract attention from the evils of Israel’s occupation.”

Note (from the LDFP website): “The Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine exist to fight for the rights of the Palestinian People through the medium of the Liberal Democrat Party. We currently support the “two state solution” for an independent and viable Palestinian state, and security for both parties. We therefore call on Israel to renounce all claims to occupied land and to halt all illegal settlement building. If Israel is unwilling to do this, there will come a point at which “the one state solution”, under which Israel will need to offer all Palestinians citizenship in a single, secular State, will become the only way forward. This may be very soon.”