| Israel’s past it’s sell-by date: Jenny Tonge and Ehud Olmert – Can You Spot The Difference?

Jenny Tonge and Ehud Olmert – Can You Spot The Difference?

~ Mehdi Hasan 

Calling for, or worrying about, a one-state solution isn’t new, novel or controversial.

Gotcha! Don’t you love it when journalists corner a politician or pundit with anoutrageous or offensive quote, which makes afore-mentioned politician/pundit look mad, bad or both?

I don’t. I find it frustrating, juvenile and, above all else, lazy. It tends to happens a lot when the issue under discussion is controversial and/or sensitive: e.g. the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Jenny Tonge, Lib Dem peer and ex-MP, is under fire right now for saying,according to the Guardian, “Israel will not last for ever”. Labour MP Ian Austin has said Nick Clegg must

make Baroness Tonge withdraw these remarks.

Martin Bright, political editor of the Jewish Chronicle, tweeted:

I can only assume Nick Clegg will finally remove the whip from Baroness Tonge. That would be consistent with what he has said in the past

Even Ed Miliband’s weighed in with a tweet:

No place in politics for those who question existence of the state of Israel. Nick Clegg must condemn Jenny Tonge’s remark & demand apology

(n.b. One wonders what Marion Miliband makes of young Edward’s remarks.)

Admittedly, Tonge has made some pretty dodgy remarks in the past about Israel and Israelis – which cost her a position on the Lib Dem frontbench – but this latest controversy seems rather manufactured. Her comment, in full, doesn’t seem so controversial:

Israel is not going to be there for ever in its present form.

Shock! Horror! Tonge doesn’t think Israel “in its present form” – that is, as a Jewish and democratic state that also happens to illegally occupy Palestinian land while denying Palestinians both self-determination and voting rights – can survive. After all, the demographics make a one-state, non-Jewish, binational state almost inevitable.

Hmm, I wonder who else has taken a similar view? Oh yeah. That’s it: Ehud Olmert, Israel’s former prime minister, who once talked of how “the State of Israel is finished” if it continues on its current, rejectionist trajectory. Outrageous, eh?

Here’s the then Israeli premier’s full quote from Haaretz in November 2007:

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.

An article on the BBC news website was devoted to Olmert’s words. Guess what it’s headline was?

Olmert warns of ‘end of Israel’

So condemn Tonge for her comments on the future of Israel if you want to. But you’ll have to condemn Ehud Olmert too. Funny old world, isn’t it?

And, on a related note, the truth is that a single, secular, binational, one-state solution is now a mainstream, much-discussed alternative to the Middle East status quo. Polls show it has the support of a third of Palestinians and, astonishingly, even a quarter of Israelis. It also has the backing of, among others, the late Edward Said, the late Tony JudtIlan PappeShlomo Sand,Virginia TilleyMeron BenvenistiAhmad KhalidiAli AbunimahNoam ChomskyJeff Halper and Sari Nusseibeh. Oh, and, perhaps a little reluctantly, me too.

© New Statesman 1913 – 2012


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3 thoughts on “| Israel’s past it’s sell-by date: Jenny Tonge and Ehud Olmert – Can You Spot The Difference?

  1. My what fuss people make when someone just says a word of the truth. It’s one thing if they disagree but they insist on censoring and essentially firing Baroness Tonge for a very brief candid comment not delivered with rancor. This fuss is of course because the words were not in Israel’s favour. Apartheid walls and censorship won’t stop the future from arriving.


  2. I am worried because I would have thought that a pre-requisite for a politician is to be able to provide a differing point of view. We do have a word for a nation that insists on serving the rights of only one people, perhaps it should be bandied about when discussing certain nations.


  3. Yes how True, SooZu and Toby!

    Mind Equality for ALL Citizens before the Law is a non-negotiable democratic value, which only Israel seems clearly hell-bent on ignoring – to the extent of consequently jeopardising its own existence – with intrinsically racist policies so abhorrent and backward no other nation on earth would tolerate them, given that now we’re all apparently living in a post-colonial era!

    Nobody can hold back the tide, like aprtheid S. Africa, of the current of world public opinion, for Justice is long overdue to resolve the Palestinian Question.


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