Letters: Israel, Clegg and Tonge’s loss of the Lib Dem whip
Jenny Tonge has been forced to resign the Liberal Democrat whip in the Lords for making the essentially non-controversial prediction that Israel cannot be guaranteed survival in its present form if it continues to alienate all its neighbours, including former allies such as Egypt and Turkey, all the Arabs it controls, and eventually even the taxpayers of the United States (Report, 1 March).
Israel already has changed form since its creation by expanding into other people’s land in violation of international law and UN security council resolutions. Its survival was put seriously at risk in October 1973 and, with the advent of a powerful Hezbollah neighbour and possibly a nuclear power in Iran, is at risk again. Even in the US, criticism of Israel is at last being publicly made by politicians, academics, writers and journalists. Why is it wrong for a British politician to point these matters out? Is Britain guaranteed survival in its “present form”? Is Scotland? Would a Liberal MP or peer be sacked for debating the case?
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.
• Jenny Tonge's main offence was being a member of a party for whom principle is a dirty word. Tonge stated: "Israel will not continue much longer in its present form." Is Nick Clegg really saying that Israel should continue to treat its Arab citizens as guests? Or that depriving the Palestinians of the occupied territories of any democratic rights should continue, since it is clear that the West Bank is not going to be relinquished? Perhaps Clegg should consult the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz of 29 November 2007, where he will find the then prime minister, Ehud Olmert, stating: "If the day comes when the two‑state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished." Clegg should be eating humble pie and apologising profusely for having jumped when the tabloids barked.
• I am appalled at the way Jenny Tonge has been treated. I spoke at the same Middlesex University debate as her on 23 February. Her remarks about Israel were clearly made in the context of its continuing repression of the Palestinians and its violations of international norms of behaviour – hardly startling news. No one could have objected, except the hysterical supporters of Israel who came to attack her, and the Lib Dem leaders too craven to stand up to them.
• I was deeply saddened to read of Nick Clegg forcing Baroness Tonge’s resignation merely for stating the obvious. The true friends of Israel long ago realised that US taxpayers cannot subsidise them forever, and their only hope for peace is in a genuine partnership of equals with their Palestinian neighbours.
Former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate
from (author unknown)