Jenny Tonge White Washed in The Guardian

Michael White

We won’t be shedding any tears over the resignation from the UK’s Liberal Democrat Party of Baroness Jenny Tonge for anti-Israel comments made at a university meeting. Tonge has a long history of anti-Israel comments, some of them anti-Semitic.

Of course there will be the predictable chorus from anti-Israel quarters claiming that Tonge is a victim of the “Israel lobby”. No surprise as well that The Guardian’s assistant editor Michael White has come out in defense of Tonge’s latest comments:

But should she have been effectively kicked out of her party over her latest controversy, the one in which she said Israel “is not going to be there for ever in its present form”?

I understand why many Israelis and some of their more ardent supporters around the world might get upset about such remarks. …

Chilling stuff and people like Tonge are both foolish in some of the things they say and careless about some of the company they keep. But Israel not to last for ever in its present form? That’s surely a no-brainer? Isn’t official Israeli policy committed to (modest) land-for-peace trades if the two-state solution, which almost everyone knows is the answer, comes about? That would change Israel “in its present form” a bit.

If only Tonge’s comments were so benign. What Michael White fails to take into account is the context in which these remarks were made. Tonge was addressing a viciously anti-Israel gathering where one of the speakers, Ken O’Keefe compared Jews to Nazis while the meeting itself was devoted to promoting Israel as an apartheid state.

Tonge sat silently next to O’Keefe as he made his disgusting remarks and the meeting was clearly not about promoting Middle East peace. Tonge’s previous form and the tone of this latest meeting make it perfectly clear what she meant by stating that Israel would not be around forever.

But perhaps Michael White’s sympathy towards Tonge isn’t surprising when you consider the sort of company he has kept on panel discussions.