How to become an anti-Zionist martyr on the pages of the Guardian: Jenny Tonge edition

The way to become an anti-Zionist martyr is simple.

First, lend support for the end of the “Zionist project”, support terror against Israel or engage in implicit or explicit antisemitism.

Then, you suffer a mild rebuke, face social opprobrium, are asked to apologize, or pay some professional cost for expressing, legitimizing or condoning Judeophobia.

You then flagrantly misrepresent your views, and claim you were merely being critical of Israel.

The final step is easy, and requires no effort on your part: Just wait for the Guardian to publish reports, commentaries, or letters characterizing you as a victim of Israeli or Zionist power/control/villainy.

Baroness Jenny Tonge attended an event at Middlesex University in February where she expressed her belief that the end of the Jewish state would come and be a just outcome (as the Jewish state would merely be reaping what they have sown).  She also sat there in silence as an antisemitic extremist, Ken O’Keefe, compared Jews to Nazis and opined that 9/11 was an Israeli/Mossad conspiracy.   

She then resigned from her role within the Liberal Democrats after refusing to apologize.

First, it was longtime Guardian journalist Michael White who offered an apologia for Tonge

More recently, the Baroness was even more passionately defended on the Guardian’s Letters page, “LettersIsrael, Clegg and Tonge’s loss of Lib Dem Whip“, March 6.

Among the letters was one by former CiF commentator Tony Greenstein – an anti-Zionist who has legitimized comparisons between Nazism and Zionism – and one by former Liberal Democratic parliamentary candidate Edward Hooper, both of which complained that Tonge was forced to resign merely for stating the obvious about Israel’s future.

There was also a letter by Ghada Karmi, CiF contributor, endorser of the Global March to Jerusalem, and Palestine Solidarity Campaign patron who has called for “the end of a Jewish state in our region”. 

Here’s a passage from her Guardian letter:

No one could have objected [to Tonge’s remarks], except the hysterical supporters of Israel who came to attack her, and the Lib Dem leaders too craven to stand up to them. [emphasis added]

There was also a letter by Tim Llewellyn, the former BBC Middle East correspondent who has advanced the idea, not least in the Guardian, that the BBC is tainted by pro-Israel bias. He is also an advocate for Hamas and Hizbollah, believes that Zionism is a “calamity”, and has occasionally written obituaries for terrorists in the Guardian.

Here’s the winning passage from his Guardian letter:

What is more sinister than the reactions of Israel’s representatives and placemen to Jenny Tonge is that, in this third intervention against her over her candid remarks in recent years, the leaders of the Lib Dems, encouraged by senior figures in the two other main political parties, have disempowered a British parliamentarian under pressure from the backers of a foreign state – Israel

The candid remarks of Tonge which Llewellyn is referring to include her comments sympathetic to Palestinian suicide bombing, her call for Israel to “investigate” the IDF in light of charges they were stealing organs in Haiti, and this especially odious comment:

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

Read Llewellyn’s language again – arguing that the Liberal Democratic party was coerced to intervene and “disempower” Tonge due to “pressure from the backers of a foreign state” – which closely mirror Tonge’s very own sentiments on the dangerous power the pro-Israel lobby wields.

As I noted in my recent piece about Chris McGreal, narratives regarding the injurious influence of the Israel/Zionist lobby on US foreign policy is something approaching conventional wisdom at the Guardian, so it’s not surprising that they would publish letters in support of Tonge which parrot such a classic antisemitic canard. 

It’s a troubling commentary that someone like Tonge, who has advanced tropes which are indistinguishable from the poisonous Judeophobic narratives on the far-right, inspires sympathy from those purportedly on the left side of the political spectrum. 

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