07 - 02
The Liberal Democrat MP who used Holocaust Memorial Day to accuse “the Jews” of atrocities against the Palestinians faced further punishment last night after asking whether he could repeat the criticism using the term “Jewish community” instead.
Bradford East MP David Ward was formally censured by his party after writing, ahead of 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 still remains on the politician’s website.
And last night, as chief whip Alistair Carmichael pledged that that action against Ward would “escalate significantly” if anything of “this sort ever happens again”, Ward wrote to the Jewish News: “Can you ask the Board of Deputies if they’re 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 an email exchange with the Jewish News – in which Ward 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?”
The latest slur came as the Jewish News learnt that community leaders, including representatives of the Jewish Leadership Council, are to meet senior Lib Dem figures over the Ward issue in Downing Street today.
Even before the MP’s words to the Jewish News, community leaders insisted the party had not gone far enough in taking action against him, with some even calling for the whip to be withdrawn.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 – pushed for “further action”. It added that the continued presence of the original offending statement online, “hardly inspires confidence in the sincerity of his apology. The continuing presence of the 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. Ward’s behaviour serves to demonstrate his defiance of the leadership of the Liberal Democrat party and of its censure. It also renders his undertaking worthless.”
In an exclusive article in this week’s Jewish News, 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. 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, no one would attribute that end to them. And it was intolerable because the Jewish community, like the rest of us, will never forget Nazi cuelty, and deserve better than to be lumped together and called “the Jews”.
Carmichael stressed that the censure was the most serious measure available to him. 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.”