Peers round on Jenny Tonge, as Lord Winston says grandchildren need guards

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Peers round on Jenny Tonge, as Lord Winston says grandchildren need guards

Leading Jewish scientist speaks of his concerns at security following the mass shooting in Pittsburgh as Lords criticise the anti-Israel baroness

Lord Robert Winston 

Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Lord Robert Winston Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

A leading Jewish scientist has told how his four young grandchildren have to go to school with a guard as he spoke of his concern following the mass shooting at a US synagogue.

Fertility expert and broadcaster Lord Winston stressed the need to tackle hate speech as peers condemned the attack that killed eight men and three women in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

The suspect, Robert Bowers, who was shot by police at the scene, allegedly told officers that Jews were committing genocide and he wanted them all to die.

There was also criticism in the House of Lords of Baroness Tonge, who has been accused of anti-Semitism after a social media post in which she suggested the actions of the Israeli government were to blame for the synagogue massacre.

Yesterday, Jewish News exclusively revealed that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, for whom Tonge is patron, wrote to her to express our deep concerns at her post and is in the process of considering any further steps.”

Tory former cabinet minister Lord Pickles said her comments would “cause great pain in Pittsburgh”.

Communities minister Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth said the issues “must not be conflated”.

Baroness Jenny Tonge’s controversial Facebook post

Lady Tonge, a former Liberal Democrat MP who quit the party in 2016 after being suspended over allegations of anti-Semitism, failed in her repeated attempts to intervene, leaving her visibly frustrated.

A number of other members also indicated the non-affiliated peer should have been given a right of reply.

There were also demands by the former terror laws watchdog, Lord Carlile of Berriew, for internet firms to take responsibility for removing inflammatory online comments or face action.

Peers heard there was “clear evidence” the suspect in Pittsburgh had previously posted anti-Semitic comments on social media.

Earlier, Lord Bourne had told peers: “No one should be afraid to practise their faith and our places of worship should not be places that engender fear.

“We will not let fear overcome us. Hatred will not win.”

Speaking in the upper chamber, Lord Winston said: “I have four grandchildren who went to school this morning in two Jewish schools where they have to go with a guard – the youngest is four, the next one is six, one is seven and one is eight – and so this is a very close issue.”

The Labour peer asked the minister: “Does he not agree that the real issue is hate speech and not guns?”

Lord Bourne said: “Hate speech is at the root of this.”

He stressed the Government’s determination to tackle hate crime.

Lord Pickles called on the minister to condemn the “the words of Baroness Tonge in suggesting that the murders in Pittsburgh were caused by the actions of the Israeli government”.

He said: “That clearly will cause great pain in Pittsburgh and falls foul of the International Holocaust definition of anti-Semitism.”

Lord Bourne said: “I do so pretty unreservedly. These issues must not be conflated in the way that the baroness sought to conflate them.”

Lord Carlile said: “Given the clear evidence that the perpetrator of the Pittsburgh outrage posted anti-Semitic comments on the internet… is it not time the Government took the internet service providers to one side and say to them that it is their responsibility to remove this kind of outrageous material, or that the Government will have to do it for them with the support of both Houses of Parliament?”

Responding, Lord Bourne said: “We are seeking action here. Some are more willing to assist than others, but it is clear that they do have an overriding responsibility. What has happened in Pittsburgh simply underlines that.”

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