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Baroness Tonge's unfounded accusations of Israel may have deserved for her to be disciplined again..

To: The Editor, The Times,

letters@thetimes.co.uk              May 7 2007


Sir, In February, Baroness Tonge accused the Israeli army of breaking into a Palestinian school at Abu Dis in the West Bank to "beat up" the boys. Accepting the allegation unquestioningly, she demanded "pressure" on the Israeli government to investigate.

As Lady Tonge's colleague Lord Steinberg reported, their Foreign Ministry (unpressurised) looked into the case and the army's report found no units near Abu Dis. Nor were the Border Police involved. The Israel Defence Forces have strict rules of conduct, enforced by courts martial, regarding Palestinian youths - even when they hurl rocks and petrol bombs, shield adult snipers or smuggle suicide belts through checkpoints, having been schooled, from kindergarten through to militaristic "summer camp," that Paradise awaits if they blow themselves up.

Baroness Tonge's charges were shown to echo allegations by a body called the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association. As Dr Jenny Tonge, a Liberal Democrat MP before her ennoblement, she had been disciplined by her party's leader, it will be recalled, for earlier questionable comments on the Middle East. She has also openly proclaimed her empathy with Palestinian suicide bombers (who have maimed and murdered many Israeli schoolchildren).

Now, however, an opportunity has occurred for Baroness Tonge to establish her unswerving interest in protecting Palestinians at school. An unmistakably genuine case of assault on a Palestinian school has, I see, been reported by the news agency Independent Media Review last weekend. Gunmen attacked a UN-funded (UNRWA) school in Rafah, Gaza, with grenades and machine guns, while the UN director of relief operations, John Ging, himself was at a celebration there. One person was reported killed and six injured, including pupils and relatives. Journalists covering the event were also beaten up by "masked gunmen," added the report, and a religious group nearby demonstrated, claiming that the celebration broke Islamic law and threatening violence.

Baroness Tonge could, I suggest, underline her integrity by getting her teeth into this quite unarguable attack on a Palestinian school, witnessed by UN personnel and journalists (although it happens to be one of the many cases where Palestinians have assailed Palestinians). Perhaps she could begin by demanding "pressure" on the Palestinian administration to investigate, and maybe keep us informed of the results.


e-mail w.leaf@ntlworld.com
Wembley, Middx

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