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The Bradford MP David Ward was formally censured by his party’s chief whip after writing, just days before Holocaust Memorial Day, that he was saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust could, within a few years of liberation, be inflicting atrocities on the Palestinians in the new state of Israel and continue to do so.”
But despite issuing an apology for “unintended offense” and a written pledge not to use the words “the Jews” again in that context, the offending statement remains on the politician’s website 11 days on. And last night he wrote during an email exchange with the Jewish News: “Can you ask the Board of Deputies if they are in agreement that I should replace the words “the Jews” with “the Jewish community” – if so, I am perfectly happy to do so.”
Earlier in the exchange – in which he was given no less than three opportunities to say when the statement would be removed from his site but failed to do so – he asked: “Can you provide me with a more acceptable choice of words that I could use to criticise the treatment of the Palestinians.”
Jewish News understands the party called a meeting this morning with community leaders including representatives of the Jewish Leadership Council to try to draw a line under the matter and seek further active engagement following the original comments and censure. But they quickly realised that this would be insufficient after seeing the paper’s front page exclusive this morning.
And in a statement issued at midday, community leaders – from the Board of Deputies, CST, Holocaust Educational Trust and JLC – said: “Earlier this morning we met with Government Chief Whip Alastair Carmichael MP and Liberal Democrat Party Chief Executive Tim Gordon, at their request. The Chief Whip has assured us that Mr Ward’s latest comments will be dealt with as a fresh issue. It was made clear that this will be pursued in the context of Mr Carmichael’s commitment that if “anything of this sort” ever happened again the consequences for Mr Ward “would escalate significantly” beyond the official censure already imposed.”
They added: “During the meeting we repeated our bewilderment that the original statements remain on Ward’s website and our view that his prior apology has no credibility.”
In an exclusive article in this week’s Jewish News, penned before the latest controversy, Carmichael says both Ward’s language and timing were “unacceptable”. He writes it was “intolerable because it is inaccurate and offensive to equate and link all Jewish people with the actions of the Israeli Government and the state of Israel. It was intolerable because the Holocaust was a particular crime against humanity that involved the attempted extermination of a people. Whatever view we take of the actions of the Israeli government, nom one would attribute that end to them. It was intolerable because te Jewish community, like the rest of us, will never forget Nazi cruelty, and deserve better than to be lumped together and being described as “the Jews”.
Disagreeing with those that claimed the censure amounts to no more than a slap of the wrists, he stressed that it was the most serious measure available to him “alone” and is the first time he had made such a move. But he added: “I have also made it absolutely clear that nothing of this sort must ever happen again. If it were to, the already serious consequences for David Ward would escalate significantly.”
Even before the MP’s words to the Jewish News, community leaders had insisted the party had not gone from enough in taking action against him, with some even calling for the whip to be withdrawn.
While stopping short of such a call in a statement on Monday, the Board of Deputies – which has written to Nick Clegg over the matter – urges “further action” by the party. It added that the continued presence of the original offending statement online “hardly inspires confidence in the sincerity of his apology. Moreover, the continuing presence of the offending statement appears to amount to a breach of the undertaking he gave to the Chief Whip to refrain from using the phase “the Jews” in this context.”David Ward Faces Fresh Lib Dem Action Over JN Comments by Justin Cohen