BICOM Daily Briefing January 23 2004
Last updated: 2004-01-23
Todays papers include wide coverage of Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Tonges speech to a Palestinian group in Parliament and further interviews on Sky News, in which she said that she identified with Palestinian suicide bombers and would consider becoming one herself if she were Palestinian. Her comments are widely condemned and she faces investigation within her party. The Jewish Chronicle publishes a survey ahead of next weeks Holocaust Memorial Day, with worrying findings about British attitudes to the Holocaust and Jews. The results of the poll are also reported in The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent. There is also extensive coverage of Ariel
In the Israeli papers, Haaretz reports that US Middle East envoy John Wolf is set to return to the area. The paper also notes the meeting between National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and Ariel
Quotes of the Day:
Liberal MP sparks fury by identifying with suicide bombers
Jenny Tonge, Liberal Democrat MP for
Jenny Tonge (23/01, The Times): If I had to live in that situation I might just consider becoming one myself. The kindest thing you can say about the situation is that it is like apartheid.
Liberal Democrat party spokesman (23/01, The Times): "Jenny Tonge was expressing her personal views. The Liberal Democrats do not condone terrorism in any circumstances whether by suicide bombers or anybody else.
Michael Ancram, Shadow Foreign Secretary (23/01, The Daily Telegraph): [Her words will] sicken those who have lost loved ones to suicide bombers.
Lord Janner, vice-chairman of the British Israel Parliamentary Group, (23/1, The Guardian): She has encouraged and condoned the most atrocious acts of violence.
Shuli Davidovitch, Embassy of Israel spokesperson (23/01, The Guardian): We were shocked to hear these remarks which were extremely disgraceful. We would not expect any human being - and surely not a British MP - to express an understanding of such atrocities. Her words show something about her moral standards.
Ari Jesner, brother of British victim of suicide bomber (23/01, The Daily Express): Her comments show a complete lack of understanding of the situation in the
David Blunkett (23/01, The Guardian): It means people are prepared to set aside not only the evidence, but the overwhelming emotion that goes with it. They delude themselves into believing that the Nazis are not what we know them to be and this is very depressing.
Jim Murphy, Labour MP for Eastwood (23/1 The Guardian): We like to believe these views are confined to a minority on the hard right but this poll suggests otherwise.
Professor Robert Wistrich, head of the
Bashar al-Assad (22/01, al Sharq al Awsat): The Europeans tell us they don't think
Pervez Musharref, Pakistani President (22/1, Maariv): When relations between our countries are formalised, I would be happy to visit
Silvan Shalom (22/1, Haaretz): Regimes around the world understand there is a price to pay for supporting terrorism and are starting to appreciate there may be much to gain from standing with the community of nations. It looks as if many moderate Arab leaders are willing to have contacts with us more than they were in the past, because they were very afraid of Saddam.
Behind the News:
LibDem MPs comment provoke fury
Jenny Tonge, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, sparked fury yesterday when she identified with Palestinian suicide bombers, described the situation in Israel as like apartheid, and saying that she might also become a suicide bomber if she lived in that situation. Speaking to a meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the Houses of Parliament this week, she said that many many people criticise, many many people say it is just another form of terrorism, but I can understand and I am a fairly emotional person and I am a mother and a grand mother, I think if I had to live in that situation, and I say this advisedly, I might just consider becoming one myself. And that is a terrible thing to say. Interviewed on Sky News, she added What I said was that I did not condone suicide bombers. But I do understand why people become suicide bombers. It's out of desperation. And I guess that if I were in their position ... and saw no hope for the future at all, I might just think about it myself.
Dr Tonge was under criticism from across the political spectrum. The Liberal Democratic Party immediately distanced itself from Dr. Tonge, who has previously expressed similar opinions on the Israel-Palestine situation. She faces an immediate internal inquiry, and may be asked to stand down as LibDem front-bench spokesperson on children.
An ICM survey, conducted for the Jewish Chronicle ahead of next weeks Holocaust Memorial Day reveals that one in seven people in
The conference was also the stage for a chance meeting between Israeli Leader of the Opposition Shimon Peres and Pakistani President Pervez Musharref. In a conversation that lasted a number of minutes, Peres extended an invitation to Musharref to visit
Also in Davos, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom indicated that Arab states were more willing to meet with Israeli officials, noting the effect of the US-headed war in
Transportation Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday authorised the use of a new security technology for public buses, which can detect suicide bombers and prevent them from boarding the vehicles. The system consists of a barrier for the bus's front door, explosives detectors and a back door to be used only for exiting the bus. The innovations are meant both to prevent bombers from alighting and to minimise damage if an explosion takes place. Five buses are to be fitted with the new technology in a pilot project over the next three weeks. If the pilot is considered a success, the technology will be installed on hundreds of buses at a cost of thousands of dollars per vehicle.
Comment and Opinion:
The Daily Express (23/01): How can anyone at the heart of British democracy claim that she believes it is perfectly acceptable to kill and maim innocent people while blowing oneself up? Supporting violence of any sort to achieve political ends goes against everything our democracy stands for.
No one with an ounce of humanity can support the tactics of suicide bombers. Her comments can only inflame sentiment in the
Jonathan Sacks (The Times, 23/01): The findings of the ICM poll can be read two ways. Some will take them as proof that there remains, in
I take the second view. The levels of prejudice represented by the poll are low in comparison with other European countries, and compare favourably even with those in the
What the figures tell us, however, is that there is work still to be done. Anti-Semitism is not the only, or even the most important form of prejudice in British society. Islamophobia, too, needs to be confronted. Sikhs, Hindus and others also face a lack of understanding. The politics of hate can be spread all too easily by new global communication technologies, and are no longer confined to national boundaries. The internet has become a home for conspiracy theories and virulent prejudice.
Racism does not die. It merely sleeps and is all too easily woken. If the poll figures do no more than remind us of the need for constant vigilance, they will have served their purpose well.
The truth is that
Gerald Kaufmann (The Independent, 23/01): What I find remarkable about the Jewish Chronicle survey is not that 20 per cent do not believe that Jews make a positive contribution to life in this country but that nearly twice as many favour the Jewish contribution and - even more encouragingly - nearly half the electorate do not care. But those who believe Jews have too much influence are outnumbered nearly three to one; more than three to one find the idea of a Jewish prime minister acceptable.
As for 15 per cent Holocaust deniers, nearly 60 years after that monstrous event, with most people alive now not having been born at the time, this cannot be regarded as seriously disquieting. What I do find remarkable is that the Tory party, traditionally the most anti-Semitic of the main parties (despite having had Benjamin Disraeli, a Jew who was baptised and raised Anglican, as Prime Minister in the 19th century), have chosen a Jew as their leader, without a contest, and have a Jewish shadow Chancellor. This is the same Tory party whose Foreign Secretary, Alec Douglas-Home, 30 years ago during the Yom Kippur war accused me across the Commons floor of being more loyal to Israel than to Britain; the same Tory party, one of whose backbenchers, at about the same time, told me to get back to Tel Aviv.
I was elected to the Shadow Cabinet 12 years in succession, four times at the top of the poll, though everyone who voted, most of whom were not Jewish, was aware that I am a Jew. My constituents, scarcely any of whom are Jews and thousands of whom are Muslims, have elected me to Parliament nine times.
When a general election comes, maybe next year, if the Tories are wanted by the electorate they will win with a Jewish leader, just as they won with a bachelor leader, Edward Heath, and a woman leader, Margaret Thatcher, in the days when many regarded bachelors as anomalous and women as only fit for the kitchen.
If, as I expect, the Tories are not wanted by voters, they will lose, but not because they have been blind to religion.
- Lib Dem MP: Why I would consider being a suicide bomber (The Guardian);
- One in seven Britons says Holocaust is exaggerated (The Guardian);
- Israel's Greek drama (The Guardian);
- Sharon rejects calls to quit in bribe row (The Guardian);
- 'Everything he says is just hot air' (The Guardian);
- MP to be rebuked over terrorist sympathy (The Times);
- One in five would not elect Jewish premier (The Times);
- Israeli police are set to investigate degree scam (The Times);
- Sharon defies corruption claims (The Times);
- I would be suicide bomber in Israel, says Lib Dem MP (The Independent);
- Half of voters unwilling to accept a Jewish PM (The Independent);
- Sharon defies calls to resign as his troubles mount over bribery scandal (The Independent);
- 'Jewish lobby' is an anti-Semitic term, says US diplomat (The Independent);
- Fury over MP's sympathy for suicide bombers (The Daily Telegraph);
- Sharon refuses to resign over bribe allegation (The Daily Telegraph);
- Britons divided over Jewish PM (The Daily Telegraph);
- US peace monitor set for 'road map' visit to Middle East (The Financial Times);
- Defiant Sharon vows not to resign (The Scotsman);
- MP: I'd be suicide bomber (The Sun);
- The Jews of Uganda (The Economist);
- The ballad of Connie and Babs (The Spectator);
- Sharon will stay PM 'until 2007' (BBC Online);
- MP's suicide bomb comments rapped (BBC Online);
- Israel reveals 'bomb-proof' bus (BBC Online);
- Iranian leader talks to Israeli (BBC Online);
- Israeli press challenges Sharon (BBC Online);
- Armitage, Israelis Decry Pace of Mideast Talks (Reuters);
- Israel warns U.S. on road map; U.S. dispatches diplomat (Reuters);
- Defiant Sharon says won't quit in Israeli scandal (Reuters);
- Musharraf, Israel's Peres meet in Davos (Reuters);
- Israel Unveils System to Beat Bus Bombers (Reuters);
- Israeli Troops Kill Palestinian Boy Near Gaza Fence (Reuters);
- Armitage: US peace efforts stalemated (Associated Press);
- Shalom: Arab leaders more willing to meet with Israel post-Saddam (Associated Press);
- Israel reveals anti-bomber bus (Associated Pres);
- Weisglass to Rice: Annexation is not part of disengagement plan (Haaretz);
- Richard Armitage blames Israel and PA for stalemate in Mideast peace efforts (Haaretz);
- Amid bribery allegations, Sharon says he will complete his full term (Haaretz);
- British MP: I understand desperation of suicide bombers (Haaretz);
- U.S. envoy Wolf to return to region in roving' role (Haaretz);
- NATO wants to upgrade ties with Israel, other Mideast nations (Haaretz);
- Securing the buses (Haaretz);
- Sharon vows to stay in power until 2007 (Jerusalem Post);
- Resignation or removal of a prime minister (Jerusalem Post);
- 56 Islamic states can testify on fence (Jerusalem Post);
- British MP says she understands suicide bombers (Jerusalem Post);
- Egypt to resume cease-fire efforts (Jerusalem Post);
- Rajoub in Cairo to plan Sulleiman's PA visit (Jerusalem Post);
- 11-year-old killed in Gaza (Jerusalem Post);
- Transport Ministry approves new bus security system (Jerusalem Post);
- US, Israel agree to high-level talks (Jerusalem Post);
- 'Janes': US gearing for showdown with Syria (Jerusalem Post)