On October 27th the BBC News website’s UK Politics page ran an article headlined “Lib Dems suspend peer over controversial meeting“. Readers of the second version of the report were informed that:
“A former Lib Dem MP has had her membership of the party suspended after chairing a meeting criticised as “shameful” by the Israeli embassy.
Baroness Tonge, who was already sitting as an independent peer, said she would now quit the party for good.”
Readers trying to understand why that meeting in the House of Lords was “controversial” and “shameful” had to make do with the following thirty-two word explanation:
“One person at the meeting reportedly compared Israel to so-called Islamic State. […]
The Jewish Chronicle reported that another audience member had implied an American rabbi had provoked Hitler into murdering Jews.”
A more comprehensive account of the proceedings is provided by David Collier, who was present at the event.
With regard to the purpose of the meeting, BBC News website readers were given the following vague description:
“The event, in the House of Lords, was organised by the Palestinian Return Centre as part of its campaign calling for the UK Government to “officially apologise for its past colonial crimes in Palestine”.”
In fact – as the PRC’s promotional material for the event clearly states – the meeting was part of an ongoing campaign by the PRC (and others – as the BBC has already partly reported) to get Britain to specifically ‘apologise’ for the Balfour Declaration rather than for any generalised “colonial crimes”.
“The Palestinian Return Centre is hosting an event inside the UK Parliament a week ahead of the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration which will be on November 2nd. The Balfour Declaration, which had no basis of legal authority, promised the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, where the indigenous Palestinians amounted to 90% of the total population.
After the Balfour Declaration Palestine became the victim of colonialism and Britain’s legacy is still evident today as Palestinians continue to be denied the right to self-determination and suffer from living under military occupation or as refugees. As the 100th year since the Balfour declaration approaches, the Palestinian Return Centre has decided to re-launch its campaign which started in 2013 called Balfour Apology Campaign which asks the UK Government to officially apologies for its past colonial crimes in Palestine.”
The BBC’s portrayal of the aim of the event therefore conceals the real agenda of the campaign of which this meeting was part: an agenda recently described by David Horovitz at the Times of Israel.
“The Balfour Declaration sought to restore a Jewish homeland while respecting the interests of the non-Jews who share this land. Thirty years later, the UN set out a specific framework for achieving this. This was not acceptable to the Arabs of Palestine and those who spoke for them at the time, since their desire for a first-ever Palestinian state was outweighed by their hostility to the notion of a revived Jewish state alongside them. And it is all too evidently not acceptable to the Palestinian leadership now.
In declaring diplomatic and legal war on the Balfour Declaration, Palestinian leaders are telling the world — to their and our enduring misfortune — that nothing has changed in 100 years, that their opposition to our state in any borders remains greater than their desire for their own independent entity. A century later, they are affirming that their refusal to share any part of this land with the Jewish people remains absolute.”
Readers would of course also have been in a better position to understand that agenda had they been given any background information about the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) and told of its connections to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood or the additional activities of individuals connected to that London-based organisation which has been banned in Israel since 2010.
Neither were readers informed of Jenny Tonge’s record of previous collaboration with the PRC and its various spin-offs which, as the Times recently reported, included a 2009 PRC paid trip to Syria to meet Bashar al Assad.
“Lady Tonge accompanied Mr Corbyn on the PRC trip to Syria in 2009. Mr Corbyn used the visit to allege that “once again the Israeli tail wags the US dog”, an allegation popular with conspiracy theorists and antisemites. […]
The politicians met Assad and thanked him for housing half a million Palestinian refugees since 1948.”
Remarkably, this BBC report gives uncritical amplification to Jenny Tonge’s advancement of a well-worn trope concerning ‘powerful’ Jews:
“Speaking to the BBC, Baroness Tonge blamed the “power of the Israel lobby” and its sway over UK political parties for her suspension.”
As David Aaronovitch noted at the Sunday Times:
“Ten years ago the baroness did the old one about Jewish financial power in the form of “the pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips”. She got a reprimand from her party leader for it. Six years ago it was the ancient blood libel (Jews kill gentiles for their blood or body parts, see also under Shylock), when she demanded an inquiry into absurd allegations that an Israeli aid mission to Haiti was harvesting organs from Haitians. She lost a front bench job for that.”
One might therefore have expected the BBC to provide readers with some obviously relevant context concerning Tonge’s ignominious record of antisemitic statements – and to be able to recognise (and identify as such) a version of the Jewish lobby trope before promoting it in a quote. But sadly, the BBC’s own record on that particular topic has long been disturbingly dismal.
BBC News, PA Balfour agitprop and British history
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BBC whitewashes Jenny Tonge
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The UN, the PRC and Hamas: a postscript with a twist