Jenny Tonge, not hitherto one of my favourite people I have to confess (I've always considered her a rather smug 'do-gooder'), has made some heartfelt comments about the state of mind, and of desperation, which might lead people to commit what are known as 'suicide killings'. She went so far as to say:
|"If I had to live in that situation - and I say that advisedly - I might just consider becoming one myself."|
I fully accept that Jenny Tonge could probably have phrased her comments better, but it is just ridiculous to say, as has the Israeli ambassador Zvi Shtauber:
|"I can tell you one thing, we must stand up against such remarks, which are an incitement against the state of Israel and against Jews."|
Similarly, the reasons given by Liberal Democrat Party leader, Charles Kennedy, in commenting upon her 'sacking' as Liberal Democrat spokesperson on children:
|"Her recent remarks about suicide bombers are completely unacceptable. They are not compatible with Liberal Democrat party policies and principles. There can be no justification, under any circumstances for taking innocent lives through terrorism."|
- strike me as a rather too obvious bowing to comment in the media. His final sentence is quite correct, of course - it can never be justified. But it can, perhaps, in extremis be understood.
I leave some final comments (and before I am roundly attacked, I do not equate the current policies of the Israeli government with those of any totalitarian government, past or present) on this matter:
- personally I could easily understand Jewish victims, or potential victims, of the Nazi holocaust in the late 1930s and the 1940s upto 1945, having decided to attack their tormentors in ANY way available to them. Indeed, a common saying by those who founded the only democratic country in the Middle East, the State of Israel, is "Never again!", and I cannot quarrel with that either;
- whether the current circumstances on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean justify the ruthlessness (whatever the level of desperation) of the so-called suicide killers is a topic worthy of debate, but the reaction to the comments of Jenny Tonge seemed to me to be totally out of proportion and deliberately to misconstrue what seem to me to be views reflecting the genuine compassion she shows, albeit (in my view) clumsily expressed. The expression of sincerely held views must be permitted, roundly condemned if necessary by reasoned argument, but attempts to curtail discussion by the utterance of unsubstantiated allegations about the motivations of the person making the original comments is equally abhorrent;
- I think both Israel (with Ariel Sharon) and the Palestinians (with Yasser Arafat) could be better served with other leaders;
- of course, Ariel Sharon IS the demoocratically elected leader of his country whereas Yasser Arafat, however popular he may be, is not;
- both sides really do need to consider what is in the best interests of their peoples for the future and whether their current policies, as directed by their current leaderships, meet these interests.