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January 25, 2004


Jackie D

Consider this comment one member of the LDYS Executive made to other LDYS members on their group mailing list, regarding Palestinian suicide bombers and their victims, in response to another Lib Dem's comment that "It is innocent civilians who get hurt":

I dispute this term "innocent civilians". There is no such thing as an innocent bystander.

In this LDYS Executive member's world, victims of suicide bombings are complicit in their own deaths.

To his credit, fellow LDYS member James Graham took her to task for saying such a thing. But I do think that the above remark, and the number of party members who are taking up Dr Tonge's defence, shows that many Liberal Democrats have a long way to go before they can begin to grasp why it was wrong for her to say what she did.


Mr. Kamm,

Well put, indeed.

And yes, giving legitimacy to the "cause," (IRA, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbolah, Soviet Communism, Castro's Cuba, etc.) is legitimizing their actions. In this case, terrorist mass murder.

This is the crucial linkage that is missing from the argument of those who support Dr. Tonge. Their support for her comments are not a tacit approval of suicide mass murder, but rather, an explicit approval of it.

For those who truly believe in liberal democracy must accept this fact.

And yes, I too won't revisit an explanation of "root causes." You can see where that went in the last set of comments.

While your analysis here is correct, one can only hope that the reasons behind Dr. Tonge's statements and her dismissal will be reflected upon in earnest.

Peter Black

The full context of my remarks are as follows:

"There have been lots of messages to the party condemning the actions of Charles Kennedy in sacking her, stating in some cases that it is a pro-Israeli act, in others that it is intolerant and illiberal and in one case that he lacks the courage that Jenny Tonge showed in speaking out. A situation like Palestine does need courage but that courage needs to be tempered with wisdom. Jenny did not demonstrate that wisdom and so her point was lost in the reaction to it. She has not been gagged as she is free to continue to express her views. Charles Kennedy did not make a pro-Israeli act, rather his actions preserved the previously well-balanced and long-thought out policy of the party on Palestine."

You will note that I do not say that these messages are from Party members and your inference that they are is not supported by anything I have said. I reported that people have said that the sacking is a pro-Israeli act that does not mean that the Party as a whole believes that nor indeed I. In that context I suggest that the basis of your argument - the association of the whole Party with these remarks - is false.
I am of course one more Parliamentarian who is prepared to publicly disassociate myself from Dr. Jenny Tonge's remarks.

Peter Bocking

The same climate of ligitimation has been applied to crime in general as well as political terror.This mindset can have only one outcome,the surrender of civilised values to those who are prepared to use violence.Dr Tonge would not last five seconds in such an environment.The rise of the Nazi party or the Russian revolutionaries should give liberals some idea of what that outcome can be.


As the Lib Dem Youth and Students e-group seems to somehow be public knowledge, anyone reading it will know my views on the topic- and they are not overly sympathetic to Jenny Tonge to say the least- but it is important to realise that the party is pretty well split on the topic. Many felt that she had been stupid but didn't deserve the sack, some felt that she was speaking an uncomfortable truth, and others thought that it was legitimizing the acts of people to simply hate Israel and do not want its existence let alone peaceful co-habitation.
I imagine a similar range of opinions in the Labour Party when Cherie Blair said something similar, and in the Tory party after Anne Winterton's racist joke. A regrettable incident, but one that is more controversial than Lib Dem-haters might care to acknowledge.


I think, predictably, that Dr Tonge's comments were appallingly stupid and that there was no other option but to remove her. However, compared to some other parties, the Lib Dems are actually unusual in *not* stating support for the enemies of democracy. It was only a few years ago that the former leader of the Conservative Party (Margaret Thatcher) and many serving Tory MPs of the time voiced their strong support for the former Chilean dictator and mass-murderer Augusto Pinochet (with, it has to be said, a shocking lack of protest at their stated support for dictatorship and political murder) after he was arrested. It also took an appallingly long time for the Labour Party to deal with George Galloway, a longtime associate of and apologist for Saddam Hussein going back to 1994 (he was only sacked from the party after his comments were interpreted as inciting Iraqi troops to kill British servicemen in 2003). Compared to this shameful record, the Lib Dems (for all their faults) have no other recent examples I can think of MPs supporting or voicing solidarity with dictatorships or political/ethnic violence and murder.

Oliver Kamm

Ever get the feeling you just can't win? I went out of my way to give what I had thought was a fair and generous compliment regarding the actions of the Liberal Democrat leader and his senior colleagues, whereupon Peter Black complains - bizarrely, in the circumstances - that the basis of my argument is to associate the whole of his party with the sentiments of Jenny Tonge. Plainly Dr Tonge's views are not universally held within the Liberal Democrats, and Charles Kennedy deserves credit for taking the initiative and indicating where the boundaries of legitimate democratic politics had been breached. Some people seem oddly defensive when I broach the subject of the Liberal Democrats, yet they need not be. So far from being a 'Lib Dem-hater', I like to think of myself as an entirely objective and unbiased enemy of that party, and I'm as capable as anyone of giving praise where it's due. So it is in this case.

If Mr Black believes I've quoted him out of context, then he's right to post here the entire passage from which that quotation comes. But I'm bound to say I can't begin to see what his complaint is. I clearly stated that he supported the sacking of Dr Tonge, and the rest of the passage he quotes merely amplifies why he believes it was the right decision. I did, as it happens, draw the inference from his remarks that the messages received by his party complaining at Dr Tonge's treatment were from Liberal Democrat supporters. That is hardly an outlandish assumption: those who write to political parties, as opposed to their political representatives in legislative bodies, are indeed likely to be in sympathy with the party concerned, otherwise they wouldn't bother writing. I don't write to, e.g., the Conservative Party to express my incredulity at their opposition to university top-up fees, for I'm not a Conservative voter and there's no reason the party should treat my objections with any respect at all.

But even so, Mr Black should note that just as he didn't explicitly state that the messages at his party's headquarters were from Liberal Democrat supporters, neither did I. All I said was that large numbers of his party believe Dr Tonge has been wronged. This is surely not open to dispute. I don't generally link to small-circulation discussion boards (though I do sometimes, to make a wider point), but Mr Black knows that I could do this with innumerable instances of declared Liberal Democrat supporters over the past 48 hours. He himself quotes - and apparently doesn't object to - the following observation from one identifying Lib Dem supporter in such a forum: "How the hell can anybody justify the mass bulldozing of houses, an illegal military invasion lasting over 35 years, an army which gleefully shoots children and murders foreign citizens present to try and ensure that basic human rights law is followed?" If that type of judgement is representative of a significant body of opinion within the Liberal Democrats, then it's incumbent upon responsible politicians to tackle it directly and neutralise it rather than allow it to flourish. (For the record, the "foreign citizens present to try and ensure that basic human rights law is followed" is an allusion to the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian organisation that explicitly supports what it calls 'legitimate armed struggle', and that thus falls squarely within the tendencies I have criticised.)

I welcome the Liberal Democrat leadership's action against Dr Tonge, even though her continuation in her position would have caused that party embarrassment and electoral damage. I always consider it a gain when a democratic party acts decisively against tendencies within its ranks that are intolerant and inflammatory. I'm perplexed that my genuine and sincere praise of Charles Kennedy in this case has not been taken in the spirit in which it was intended, but there's not much I can do about it.


Please don't overdramatize the fear here in Israel. The facts are enough to support Israel. Besides, road deaths are considerably more numerous than death by terror.
That said, we do have to constantly subject ourselves to metal detectors, searches by guards etc. This is interesting because when you refute the logic of blaming terror on poverty, it is then said that terror is because of the humiliation of searches, metal detectors etc.
Why Israelis (and frequent fliers) are not affected is never explained.


Having read your comment, Oliver, I recant. Thank you for your high praise of the party in this matter. It is very much appreciated!


Having just seen thisReem Al-Rayashi(registration may be required) I wonder if Dr. Tonge and her supporters can still honestly or decently claim that her comments can morally be defended in any conceivable way?

Reem Al-Rayashi is shown smiling while her children play, presumably in her home, while she holds a Quaran and rifle. In another photo she is seen in front of a Hamas banner, holding a rifle and her son, who is himself, holding a mortar, date four days before the bombing took place!.

Where is the sign of the need or extreme deprivation, or desperation to kill herself, make motherless her children, and commit mass murder?

To what end does she do this? A political one?

No, Mrs. Al-Rayashi's was a submission to a death cult. Hers was the need to assuage the family shame for her having had an affair with another man. Hamas and their death cult teaching gave her the means with which to do this.

And this is what Dr. Tonge believes she, an MP in Great Britain, could do?

And there remains, yet still, many who support her?



I wanted to make a point to you on the original Tonge thread, but it seems I'm unable to post comments there right now.

You ask:

“Perhaps when Britain is bombed by jihadis in her pubs…”

Well, replace “jihadis” with “republicans”, and…..

The British government was having covert talks with the IRA leadership back in the days of Heath and Callaghan, while we were dragging bodies out of pubs in Guildford and Birmingham. Gerry Adams now takes tea with Blair and Sinn Fein share power in a partitionist Assembly in the Six Counties (at least, they do for as long as the UUP can be bothered to show up for work).

And a good thing too.

Before I go on, let me clarify a few things:

1 – Tonge was a fool. Is a fool. It is one thing to say you can understand the motivation of some of those fighting the intifada, but quite another to say one “might consider” committing a war crime.

2 – The Kurds in northern Iraq are more populous than the Palestinians, have been dispossessed for longer and suffered equal if not worse treatment that those living in the OTs. But the Kurds never deployed the suicide bomb as a weapon of war. Indeed, in the history of guerrilla warfare, the use of the suicide bomb barely features. I therefore utterly reject any link between the political or socio-economic context that obtains in the OTs and the use of this barbarous tactic.

3 – A political settlement of any description would fail to assuage the hatred emanating from the religious zealots who desire to see the pig Jew wiped from the face of the earth.

To summarize, those responsible for supporting and deploying the suicide bomb tactic are complicit in war crimes. Those who hint at an empathy with the war criminals are little better. Lastly, the people who need to address the “root causes” of such activity live in Palestine (or what might become Palestine), not Israel.

I thought it important to provide some context for the comments that follow.

It is possible to acknowledge the grievances of those who participate in the intifada without waking up one day to discover one is an apologist for war crimes. If I had been a young man growing up in the Bogside circa 1972, post-Bloody Sunday, I can’t discount the possibility – probability? – that I might have joined the IRA. Ditto Johannesburg – the mid-70s – and the ANC.

Obviously, not every Palestinian seen throwing stones at Israeli tanks is a member of Hamas., And I assume we can agree that there exists many a Palestinian who, whilst willing to engage the IDF, would never countenance the deliberate targeting of non-combatant Israelis going about their daily lives. My suspicion is that the current Israeli administration would prefer to wish such people away. The formulation of Israeli policy with respect to the OTs is a much more straightforward business if all Palestinians can be thought of as potential suicide bombers.

My suspicion, fear, call it what you will, is that this is the line taken by Sharon.

Would you agree?




Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

In response:

Polls repeatedly show greater than 70% support by the Palestinians for suicide mass murder, whether committed by religious or sectarian groups (Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.) and whether civilians or IDF are targeted.

If you know of data supporting your claim that the Palestinians reject targeting civilians, please share them.

And no, it is not the case that their exists in Israel the notion that it is "easier" or even justifiable to implement diplomatic, security, or other measures in the disputed territories based on the view that all the Palestinians are mass murderers.

Israel has repeatedly shown extraordinary restraint in its security measures. The perfidy of the terrorists to locate their weapons labs, smuggling tunnels, weapons caches, or fight from and within the civilian infrastructure is the main reason that their is the unfortunate "collateral" injury and loss of life.

Repeatedly through all the "negotiations" for peace there has existed the hope that Palestinian moderates would renounce violence as a political. But this cannot be as long as Arafat and his cadre remain in power. The unbridled corruption that is the PA, the ruthlessness and violence that is used by the PA to maintain power (even Abu Abbas was met with masked gunmen in the Palestinian parliament), and the exploitation of the Palestinians vis a vis the maintenance of the "refugee" camps are the major forces that belie their suffering.

Barak offered true concessions and was met with war.

Sharon's formulation is thus: Terror can never be rewarded as a political tool and the Palestinians must be disabused of their genocidal fantasies of a one-state solution, i.e., the destruction of Israel. Until the Palestinians themselves stop the incitement, cradle-to-grave indoctrination, and violence, their can be no peace.

Sharon is a realist and a pragmatist. He has said that it will likely be a generation hence before the Palestinians are ready for peace. On this point I pray he is wrong, but I fear he is correct.

Yes, there lies within Israel racists and fanatics. This is true in every country and will always be thus. But as Golda Meier said, "There will be no peace in the Middle East until the Arabs love their children more than they hate the Jews."


Palestinians who oppose terror attacks exist, but they are not wished away by the Israeli government.
They are overruled by the Palestinians leaders and cowed into silence by accusations of treason and the threat of assassination. Therefore, the Israeli government pays no attention to them, because regrettably, they have no influence.


I wanted to take up a point on 'Islamofascism', which was delved into a little on the earlier related comments thread. Although there are some similarities between Islamic fundamentalism and some strands of fascism it falls well before the finish. Fascism is palingetic (involving rebirth from the ashes, like the Phoenix) and is constructed upon a fusing of mythological traditions with a modernist idealism. Islamists are profoundly antimodern. Their aims may be tyrannical, genocidal, racist and antidemocratic, but this doesn't constitute fascism. Words lose their weight and deliberative intent if thrown around willy-nilly, and this is definitely a repeat offender. See Roger Griffin, 'Fascism' (1995, OUP), which I confess to only having read excerpts of, for a more dedicated account. Or Orcinus - http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/ - who writes about this fairly regularly.

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