David Ward: “if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes”

A year ago David Ward, Lib Dem MP for Bradford East, had the party whip temporarily withdrawn after he accused “the Jews” of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel”. Though he apologised for blanket-labelling he said he would “continue to make criticisms of actions in Palestine in the strongest possible terms” and has tonight lived up to his word on his Twitter feed:

david ward tweets

His tweet, “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes”, has echoes of Jenny Tonge’s 2004 comments that she could consider becoming a Palastinian suicide bomber. She was sacked from the front bench by Charles Kennedy for that remark, and eventually resigned the whip in 2012 after testing the leadership’s patience to snapping point.

David Ward’s defenders will say his tweet is, at worst, a clumsily worded attempt to empathise with the plight of Palestinians. But he must know there are far better ways of empathising than by appearing to condone the murder of Israeli citizens.

He must also know that his words, this empty ratcheting up of the rhetoric, achieve nothing for the cause of peace in the Middle East.

He should apologise, but I doubt he will. If he doesn’t, he’ll leave Nick Clegg with little choice but to withdraw the whip, permanently this time. David’s comment wasn’t an off-the-cuff ad lib in a public meeting, this was a deliberately worded tweet. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion he’s spoiling for a fight, trying to out-Galloway Galloway, the neighbouring Bradford MP.

I’ll leave the last word to the New Statesman’s George Eaton who put it best tonight:

(As ever when the topic involves the Middle East, all comments will be pre-moderated before they appear.)

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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75 Comments

  • We should not take any side, but be contemptuously dismissive of both. The liberal position is to oppose violent extremism wherever it comes from.

  • Although it is offensive, it is not as offensive as drawing equivalence between the two sides in making a meaningless statement about both sides searching for peace whilst ignoring the fact that the sides are not equivalent – one side has killed hundreds of times as many innocent people. It is the asymmetry and injustice of the conflict that causes so much anger to be justifiably directed at Israel. Yet, we have mainstream politicians and media drawing equivalence between the two sides. That is far more offensive to anyone of a rational disposition. It is politeness that allows Israel to commit the crimes it does. I am more offended at Stephen Tall’s politeness towards a fascist, muderous regime.

  • Thanks to help from The USA, The Israelis have a very effective missile defence system, the main effect of firing rockets is to kill Palestinians. Hamas know that & fires them anyway. Wards position is either implausibly stupid or utterly cynical.

  • Why is his comment so much worse than saying ‘if I lived Israel would I join the IDF’, a force that has fired over a thousand rockets into a densely populated civilian-dominated area, killing hundreds of civilians in the last week alone? As a LibDem who has visited both Israel and palestine, I find the media and proposed leadership response almost as disproportionate as the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

  • I think many who are politically active here are invaded just the sort of people who, if they grew up under occupation and siege for decades, would indeed end up firing rockets at Israel. Liberal Democrats included.

    The situation is at this point entirely of the stronger side’s making, however much I disagree with Hamas’ ideology and it’s murderous and counter-productive tactics. I can understand, even sympathise, and still condemn them. Just as we must condemn the Israeli government’s horrendously disproportionate actions also.

  • By the tone of the debate so far, I’m pretty sure we’re going to get this issue sorted in no time.

  • “an insult, most of all, to those Palestinians who don’t fire rockets”

    If (fill in whatever name you like) lived in Tel Aviv, would he join the Israeli “defence” forces, and fire on Gaza, knowing that the IDF are killing far more innocent civilians than the Palestinians are doing? He/she would be forced to do so. There would be no “probably” about it, because Israel uses conscription.

    So the angry remark about “Palestinians who don’t fire rockets” comes across as an incoherent gesture of support for one side in this conflict, the side which is doing almost all of the killing.

    If this party can tolerate the pro-Israeli tweet but not the pro-Palestinian tweet, then it will be taking sides in the conflict, and supporting the Western-aligned rich militarily dominant side against the poor and oppressed who are getting killed.

  • I always find it puzzling how people such as David Ward who clearly feel free passionately about the Palestinian cause can also cause it so much damage by ill thought out and ill timed comments. Speculating about personally firing a rocket to kill someone else doesn’t help the Palestinian cause, it harms it.

  • Richard Dean 23rd Jul '14 - 12:01am

    Apparently the present totals in the last 2 weeks are:

    Around 600 Palestinians killed and more than 3,600 wounded, mostly civilians
    About 30 Israelis killed, mostly soldiers

    Is this really any way to resolve a problem?

    http://www.ksat.com/content/pns/ksat/news/2014/07/22/mideast-crisis.html

  • Any normal person who was made to live under a brutal and illegal military occupation would take up arms to gain freedom and dignity. Thank you David Ward for speaking out against the inhuman rouge State. Much better than Camerons failure to condemn Israel.

  • The rockets fired by Hamas have no guidance system and are therefore weapons of terror. No civilised government stores weapons in built up areas. If Hamas wanted to protect it’s own people they would not fire weapons nor store ammunition in built up areas . If Hamas wanted to protect it’s people it would build bomb shelters as Israel has done to protect it’s people from incoming rockets.

    If rockets and ammunition were kept in areas away from people , then there would be less casualties. More Arabs have been killed by Arabs than by Israelis. More Palestinians have been killed by Jordanians than by Israelis. If Arabs wanted to help Palestinians , then they would grant them citizenship. I do not here of Arabs protesting about the workers being Killed In Qatar or any other Arab country due to dangerous work practices. I do not here of muslims and arabs protesting the slaughter of 1.5M in S Sudan or actions by Taliban , ISIS , Muslin Brotherhood , etc, etc.

  • The comment probably isn’t helpful but if I really consider the question “if I was Palestinian would I fire a rocket”; the truth is I’ve never lived in a war zone, lived under siege and never had my country invaded. I have no idea what I would do in those circumstances but I can’t say with certainty I would remain the peace loving idealist that I am and that seems to me to be the point the tweet is making.

  • Pretty much agree with Joel’s comment above.

  • A couple of points that I hope nobody will find offensive.

    1 — I grew up at a time when it was considered by some to be treason or associating with terrorists to take part in political action against the status quo in Northern Ireland. We were criticised in the same way that David Ward is being criticised today. Forty Years later and Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are recognised as being principled contributors to the peace process. Free speech seems gone in greater peril now than it was all those years ago.

    2— it is nonsense to say that – “…he’ll leave Nick Clegg with little choice but to withdraw the whip, permanently this time. “. There are lots of choices which might include congratulating David Ward for being honest, open and doing his best to represent a very strong wave of opinion especially amongst ordinary people who cannot understand why the establishment always closes ranks around Israeli aggression. Or do the Liberal Democrats no longer believe that their MPs are at their best when they think freely and act in accordance with their beliefs.

  • Somewhat shocking comments on here. I’d have to say that as a liberal, no matter what one’s personal prejudices on the Israel-Palestine conflict, we should be on the side of liberals. No liberal in Palestine has ever advocated deliberate attacks on Israeli civilians (obviously the reverse is true as well). David has therefore made very clear that “if born in Palestine” he would be in clear opposition to the moderate forces in Palestine we should be supporting.

    I strongly suspect/ hope that I would be a liberal no matter where I was born. Anyone who would confidently say otherwise isn’t someone I would consider a political ally. Despite appearances, I don’t think this is a question of where one stands on the Israel vs. Palestine question – Someone could be pretty extreme is their support of moderate Palestinian forces (and dislike of the Israeli govt) and would still condemn these statements.

  • Roger Martin 23rd Jul '14 - 3:30am

    As Nick Clegg said back in 2009, the blockade of Gaza needs to be lifted.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/dec/22/lift-the-gaza-blocade-nick-clegg

  • Place Gaza under UN control.Very difficult to achieve but the only way to stop this endless cycle of violence.

  • Nick Barlow 23rd Jul '14 - 7:00am

    Yes, David Ward’s comments are crass and stupid, but there are others out there cheering on Israel as the IDF kills civilians who receive no criticism.

  • What i find puzzling is Mr.Ward’s focus on this issue. There are some 180,000 killed in Syria.
    There are so many 1000s killed in Irak (ISIS). Still Mr.Ward focuses on a conflict with less then 1000 killed. Go figure.

  • Tsar Nicholas 23rd Jul '14 - 7:19am

    Imagine Twitter being around in 1902.

    The Liberal leader Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman tweets “When is a war not a war? When it is carried on by methods of barbarism in #South Africa.”

    No doubt Mark Pack and Stephen tall would be among those condemning Sir Henry’s vile language and calling him for him to go.

  • Tony Dawson 23rd Jul '14 - 7:29am

    @Charlie :

    “If Arabs wanted to help Palestinians , then they would grant them citizenship.”

    So, if a foreign people (say the Russians, since this is topical) come to Britain and herd all the British people into a ghetto in (say) Stoke on Trent and built a wall around it, Charlie thinks that if the British people appealed to the USA for assistance, their answer should be to grant us all citizenship of the USA.

    Simple.

    VERY ‘simple’.

  • Tony Dawson 23rd Jul '14 - 7:33am

    @Geoff Crocker:

    “What I find puzzling Mark is how you and Stephen fail to understand why someone under siege and blockade and in a national prison camp might not fight the force imposing this atrocity.”

    Why do you find this strange, Geoff? Most ‘commentators’ have never experienced life in a war zone or a concentration camp. Their ideas of ‘solutions’ are created from a cozy middle class ‘western’ perspective.

  • Peter 23rd Jul ’14 – 2:52am
    During the second world war, the UK government armed, equipped and trained people all over Occupied Europe to “attack civilian targets”.
    Was the government on the side of Liberals in occupied Europe ? I would suggest yes they were.

    During the apartheid period in South Africa it was members of the then SA Liberal Party who organised and in some cases carried out attacks on civilian targets. Indeed one was hanged for so doing.

    It is just too easy to criticise people who take a principled stand on a controversial issue and say they are not acting as
    Liberals.

  • Incitement to kill someone else can never be approved of, that’s no way to reach resolution. But is that really what he means to do? Consider life for the Palestinians in a world where Israeli forces can decide they want the land your village is on so they drive a road through your olive groves, or between you and your olive groves, or between you and your only water source, or a huge wall. And that is ignored by the world, the world’s press, the world’s politicians. It happens all the time, right now. So better to say I can see why people feel driven to extremes. Israeli families, ordinary folk in places such as cosmopolitan Tel Aviv go out for a family day with the man of the house toting a sub-machine gun because he feels his family need protecting. Is this ghastly show of aggression reported? Frowned upon? Criticised as no way to reach a peaceful resolution? We in the world carry the guilt of the 2nd WW and the holocaust it shadows our judgement of the extreme right-wing Zionist government. We need to turn to Jewish people who also hate it and there are plenty brave souls who do. This is wrong what the Israeli government does, plain wrong.

  • So, what is the Lib Dem message on this issue? That the indiscriminate slaughter of hundreds of civilians by Israel is acceptable? – because that is what is implied by Clegg’s silence and it is a million times more offensive than David Ward’s comment.

  • “What i find puzzling is Mr.Ward’s focus on this issue. There are some 180,000 killed in Syria.
    There are so many 1000s killed in Irak (ISIS). Still Mr.Ward focuses on a conflict with less then 1000 killed. Go figure.”

    Could it be that David Ward is really more concerned with the political situation in Bradford than with any of those conflicts?

  • At least David Ward has raised the profile of Gaza’s plight in the media…

    Even where peaceful ‘co-existence’ is promised by Israel the Arab population have their homes confiscated, ( East Jerusalem ).. new settlements imposed upon them, etc.

    How much worse is their plight in Gaza…To those stuck there it must feel like the Warsaw ghetto felt to Polish Jews…Would we condemn any agression, no matter how ineffectual, from that ghetto?

    Israel uses illegal mass reprisals for any infraction and yet the world wonders why extremists groups, like Hamas, have no shortage of recruits and grow ever stronger????

  • I recommend people read the biography – ‘Jo Grimond – Towards the Sound of Gunfire’ written by Michael McManus.

    Page 74 includes this quote from a letter from the young Grimond in 1949 to Lady Violet Bonham Carter, who had been roundly rebuked by the party leadership for drawing attention to the plight of Palestinian refugees —
    – ” As you know I am passionately anti-Zionist.   I always thought that they had the weaker case and their behaviour passes all bounds .. .. .. [Byers] must be mad, as your previous correspondence with him indicates . . . If you do quit the party I wonder what Archie and Samuel will do?   Even if Archie stays I do not think it will be worth going on unless he will come out and lead.   We can’t go on with Clem and Byers .. . The Orks and Sehts look bleaker than ever!”

    Parallels between Violet Bonham Carter in 1949 and today are I hope obvious.

    In the end she won, Byers was made to look foolish and Jo Grimond was not forced out of the party by establishment figures.

    Not that any of that will provide much comfort to the Palestinians in Gaza today, still refugees 63 years later, still having their land stolen, still being bombed into submission, burying their children who have died at the hands of the Israeli military.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 23rd Jul '14 - 8:24am

    Though I was born before WWII I’ve always supported peaceful principles and policies. I can understand David Ward’s anger towards Israel and his support for Palestine. And I have always believed that Israel’s doctrine of ‘an eye for an eye’ is not helpful as it feeds on itself and perpetuates violence. So, though understanding David, I would hope he can see that his tweets do not actually support the peace process but, in a way, perpetuate what he is against. Re-think please, David.

    We all want peace in all countries of the Middle East and no amount of firing at each other will bring the objective about. All violent people have to learn to sit down and talk – to reduce the tensions built over many years. Every time ‘an eye for an eye’ operates the peace process is set back for more years – as those who remain alive are being given more reasons to hate each other.

  • Jonathan Brown 23rd Jul '14 - 8:38am

    As a party that believes in free speech we should set the bar pretty high when it comes to restricting our MPs can say. Expressing understanding for the desires of a bombarded and starved people for resistance may be offensive to some, but it’s a rational thing to do. He does not express approval for the killing of civilians, or say that Hamas’ rockets are ethical or effective. He says that he understands why an occupied and desperate people would fight. We may not like it, but we should not be surprised to know that many Palestinians feel like this. We should not be unaware that many British people will understand this. His comments are not racist, however hurtful or uncomfortable some may find them.

  • Israel is illegally occupying Palestinian land an cramming Palestinians into the Gaza strip. It has been flouting UN resolutions since the 6 day war. Israel is supported in this illegal occupation by the USA for what appear to be domestic political reasons. The Palestinian rockets seem to me to be a futile gesture born of understandable frustration. I cannot understand liberals supporting Netanyahu because there is no equivalence here.

  • Neil Jennison 23rd Jul '14 - 8:45am

    Having read many of the comments here, it seems that Ward is by no means alone in his views in your party.

    I would just remind you that Hamas has the stated intention of destroying Israel and killing Jews because they are Jews. Also it was Hamas that killed the innocent Israeli students and it is Hamas that is lobbing hundreds of rockets at civilians in Israel.

    The fact they are largely unsuccessful is thanks to the US Iron Dome shield, not because of any generosity of Hamas. Israel, by contrast, is rightly trying hard to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. Notice a difference there?

  • It is heartening to read most of these comments which reflect the views of most Party members that I know that the Israeli government is the fundamental cause of the problem. The provocations meted out in the last year alone are endless: some 60 mainly unarmed young people shot by the Israeli Defence Force including cold blooded sniper attacks, constant stealing of Palestinian land for settlement building, frequent incidents of settler violence against Palestinians under the protective watch of IDF troops, collective punishment of Palestinians in the West Bank following murder of Israeli youths, racist and inflammatory statements by Israeli cabinet ministers etc. The list goes on and most of what Israel does to the West Bank is against international law.
    Add to all this the continuing siege of Gaza which has created a humanitarian catastrophe. So it really is hardly surprising that Palestinians have fought back and the demands of Hamas are entirely reasonable. http://www.ldfp.eu/2014/07/20/report-hamas-offers-israel-10-conditions-for-a-10-year-truce/
    I really do not understand why coalition ministers feel the need to say that “Goliath” must defend itself (as long as it doesn’t kill too many people in the process) while implying that “David” must just put up with it. As Nick Clegg has pointed out in not very widely reported remarks http://www.ldfp.eu/2014/07/20/british-deputy-pm-israels-gaza-response-collective-punishment/ the Israeli reaction has been deliberately and grossly disproportionate.
    The term “Terrorist” is too commonly used to describe the actions of those on the other side. If Hamas is a terrorist organisation then so surely is the IDF – another example of the state terrorism so prevalent in the Middle East.

  • In the context of trying to dissuade young British muslims from going abroad to take up arms,I’d have thought David would have been better explaining why firing rockets into Israel was not the answer.
    Whilst the disparity between the death tolls is stark, we shouldn’t forget that this is a reflection of a difference in military capability not intent.

  • Neil Jennison “Israel, by contrast, is rightly trying hard to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. ”
    Where have you been? 640 dead,thousands injured, attacks on a church, hospitals, on groups of people fleeing from their homes, old peoples homes……..

  • Tony Dawson 23rd Jul '14 - 9:06am

    @Neil Jennison :

    “Hamas has the stated intention of destroying Israel and killing Jews because they are Jews”

    Totally different to, Knesset member Yelet Shaked who last week called for the slaughter of all Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.” She said:

    “They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists,”

    “They are all our enemies and their blood should be on our hands. This also applies to the mothers of the dead terrorists.”

    @Neil Jennison :

    ” Israel, by contrast, is rightly trying hard to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties.”

    And the tooth fairy will bring me a million pounds tonight. Did you not see Jon Snow’s interview with the Israeli propaganda chief about the use of forbidden weapons in\ civilian areas?

    http://www.channel4.com/news/the-israeli-military-does-not-target-civilians-video

  • Richard Harris 23rd Jul '14 - 9:09am

    David Ward has made a very reasonable comment. If my family were often hungry and thirsty and now facing continuous bombardment then I would probably take up arms too, and I would hope that most people would consider the same action if they found themselves in the living nightmare the Palestinians do. Presumably any ghetto imprisoned Jew during the war that considered violent action to survive was also wrong and should have taken the more noble approach of waiting for diplomacy to work? …thought not.
    My goodness, we would have a very different Europe (and certainly no modern Israel) if our population and political leadership had taken the decision not to fight in 1939.

  • Neil, if Israel is “trying hard to avoid Palestinian casualties”, it is not making a very good job of showing it.

  • “Steve 23rd Jul ’14 – 7:56am

    So, what is the Lib Dem message on this issue? That the indiscriminate slaughter of hundreds of civilians by Israel is acceptable? – because that is what is implied by Clegg’s silence and it is a million times more offensive than David Ward’s comment.”

    Nick Clegg has not been silent and has spoken out against Israel’s current action on numerous occasions. Listen to last week’s call Clegg. He argued that, like any state, Israel has a right to defend itself from attack by that the current response is out of all proportion – as such, he is saying that the actions are unnacceptable.

  • Liberal Neil 23rd Jul '14 - 9:22am

    Neil Jennison – if the Israeli government is sincere in its aim to avoid civilian casualties it would have stopped its offensive and reviewed why its operation had gone so badly wrong so far.

  • Tony Dawson. The Israelis have not herded people into a ghetto. In 1948 , the arab armies wishing to destroy Israel , broad on the radio a message to Arab to leave their homes: this has been admitted by a few arabs. The arab armies expected to destroy Israel, only the Jordanian Army won any victories. The arab armies in 1948 wanted to sweep Israel into the sea, this was a war of extermination: only Jordan gained any land. Those arab countries which supported the extermination of Israel in 1948 should give citizenship to Palestinians.

    Being an arab in israel brings more freedom than being an arab in most arab countries and certainly more freedom than being Jewish or Christian. Beduin serve in the Israeli. No muslim in Israel will be killed for apostasy yet this is supported in most muslim countries .

    Since 1948 . The Palestinians have caused problems in Kuwait in the 1950s, Jordan in the late 60s/early 70s and Lebanon in the mid 70s and supported S Hussein in the invasion of Kuwait in the 1990 which has resulted in them being expelled from various countries.

    Israel has wanted to stop weapons entering Gaza which are used to kill their citizens: appears reasonable to me. Egypt has also restricted weapons entering Gaza. In 1990 Sudan threatened to fire missiles into Egypt in support of Iraq: Egypt promised extreme retaliation: Sudan backed down. Why should Israel accept missiles being fired into it’s country when Egypt did not

    The Egyptian government suggested a ceasefire , Israel accepted, Hamas declined. If Hamas only fired and stored weapons away from human habitation there would be fewer Palestinian casualties. Western governments do not have large ammunition stores in built up areas for health and safety reasons.

    Why are people not angry about Hamas treatment of those living in Gaza- they kill those who oppose them ? Hamas came to power by overthrowing the PLO and murdered various members.

  • Dear All,

    An interesting article. However, I would have liked Stephen to comment on Israel’s use of flachettes which was reported in the Guardian and the Independent. The UN Humanitarian Affairs has stated that a child is being killed in Gaza every minute.

    Moreover the occupation of the Palestinian Territories is unacceptable. David Cameron has referred to Gaza as a prison and Nick Clegg on LBC last week stated that Israel was engaging in what amounted to collective punishment – this punitive measure is a war crime.

    There are over 150 UN Resolutions including UN Security Council Resolutions 476 and 478 which demanded that Israel rescind its decision to annex East Jerusalem and stated that its decision was null and void.

    Israel has ignored the ruling of the International Court of Justice (2004) and has reacted angrily to the EU settlement guidelines and the EU stance on the Palestinian Territories and East Jerusalem.

    The UN recognised Palestine as a state in 2012. 138 nations supported Palestine including China, India, Russia, Malaysia, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Mexico, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Norway, Belgium, Greece, Serbia and Cyprus. Palestine has been accepted to UN agencies which Israel has responded by increasing colonial settlements in the Palestinian Territories which are illegal under international law.

    God bless.

    Anthony

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 23rd Jul '14 - 10:10am

    There’s false dichotomy developing here, that if you don’t agree with Ward’s comments, you must automatically be in support of the Israeli Government’s actions.

    This is simply not true. I deplore what Israel has done, not just now, but over many years in Gaza. I’ve marched on the streets to protest about it. Here’s one example: http://carons-musings.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/gaza-protest-in-edinburgh-emotional.html

    In that article I pointed out that the Israelis would do much more for the cause of peace if they spent the money that they’re spending on weaponry on sanitation, electricity, schools, hospitals in Gaza and afforded the people there some dignity and human rights. Five years on, we still see appalling loss of life in Gaza and unremitting suffering amongst its people. This is not a situation that any liberal should tolerate in my view.

    It’s high time that the UK and the US withdrew support for the Israeli Government’s actions and told it to change its ways on threat of sanctions against it. I’m not going to hold my breath about that happening.

    Where I part company with David Ward is that he has created a situation where everyone is now talking about him and not about the Israeli Government bombing innocent civilians and killing children. It’s not as if this is the first time. My instinct is to say that this is the third time he’s done this. It doesn’t help, and would he please just close the door on his way out.

    Both Meral Ece and Stephen Williams, who is, after all, a minister, have been much more effective on social media by highlighting both Israel’s excesses and the fact that the media are now starting, just starting, to get it. Check out their Twitter feeds:

    Meral: https://twitter.com/meralhece

    Stephen: https://twitter.com/swilliamsmp

    Also note that Nick Clegg condemned the actions of the Israeli government on Call Clegg last week.

    I don’t know what’ll happen to David Ward. If he has the whip withdrawn, I am not minded to waste too much time and energy defending him. Not the third time round. However, if it were to happen, I’d want it to be accompanied by a pretty hard-hitting statement about the actions of the Israeli government. We must not give them any wriggle room. What they are doing and have been doing is unjustifiable.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Jul '14 - 10:49am

    John Tilley

    I grew up at a time when it was considered by some to be treason or associating with terrorists to take part in political action against the status quo in Northern Ireland. We were criticised in the same way that David Ward is being criticised today. Forty Years later and Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are recognised as being principled contributors to the peace process.

    Sorry John, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness gave their full support to terrorism which was completely unnecessary. The terrorism they promoted just caused the conflict to be prolonged and deepened the divide. The random planting of bombs which Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness gave their full support to was in no way necessary to draw attention to the problems of discrimination that existed in Northern Ireland, nor was it necessary to make the case for Northern Ireland becoming incorporated into the Republic of Ireland. It is quite likely that had it not been for the IRA, orange unionism in Northern Ireland would have gone the same way it has gone in Scotland and Liverpool. I suspect that had it not been for the IRA deepening the divide, support for remaining in the UK would have ebbed away as Northern Ireland suffered the de-industrialisation and loss of jobs that Liverpool and Scotland suffered under Margaret Thatcher’s government, and Ireland would by now be united.

    I am sickened and disgusted every time I see the grinning faces of the SInn Fein people on one side and the DUP people on the other. While I accept the DUP did not directly condone violence, their intolerant and extreme behaviour and language certainly helped deepen the division. Both these parties led the rejection of the assembly proposals of the 1970s, allowing the violence to continue for decades, but now preside over something which is much the same, having by their repulsive behaviour done away with the more moderate parties that once received most support in Northern Ireland.

    Under the religion that Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness claim to practice, the support for the violence they gave is termed a “mortal sin”. I can see no other way of interpreting the Catholic Church’s line on what is “just war” but that. As a Catholic myself, I have no respect whatsoever for Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness, I find them an embarrassment to my religion, and I believe they and all their supporters should have been excommunicated. Yes, I do mean all those who voted for Sinn Fein, since Sinn Fein gave unqualified support to the IRA’s violence. The terrorists it supported also did such things as inflicting mutilation after kangaroo courts on juvenile offenders for minor misdemeanours for which we would think a suitable punishment would be a short period of community service. These are not decent or civilised people.

    Why should we think Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are people to be respected just because they called a halt to the violence they themselves perpetuated? My respect will only go to those in Northern Ireland who stood throughout against the use of violence.

    Having said this, of course if Britain were to have responded to the IRA as Israel is responding to Hamas, it would have bombed West Belfast flat, along with other places where the IRA was welcomed. Hamas are disgusting for launching rockets whose sole effect is to draw this disproportionate response. Israel is disgusting for the disproportionate response. Both sides seem to think they can act as they do, and then we’ll feel sorry for them because of the violence they have brought on their own heads. My respect goes only to those who oppose the violence of their own side, never to those who make excuses for it.

  • I’m very much in the “both as bad as each other” camp. The only reason the Israelis kill more people than the Palestinians is that the Israelis have far better military hardware.

    Instead of playing a blame game, we should be focusing on how to get out of this mess. Sadly, with around two thirds of both Israelis and Palestinians opposed to any kind of two-state solution, all I can see happening in the future is endless killing.

  • Sorry Caron but you’re way off beam. David Ward really should learn to stop making crass remarks because he is supporting a cause that has much justice behind it. However, giving offence is part of the right of free speech. Withdrawing the whip from one of our MPs or expelling him because you or anyone else have been offended by what he says is just not on. Nick Clegg should respond by condemning the way David tweets on this topic and then move on. My advice to David would be before you tweet on this subject get someone else to look at it first. Saying the same thing in a more sensitive way would be far more effective in getting your point across. When you become the message, you’ve got it wrong.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 23rd Jul '14 - 12:20pm

    Mick, I never said anything about offence. In fact, I talked about Ward becoming the story which is pretty much what you have said.

    Can you please quote where I’ve said that Ward should be expelled because he’s caused offence?

  • Quoting Johanthan Brown,

    “Expressing understanding for the desires of a bombarded and starved people for resistance may be offensive to some, but it’s a rational thing to do. He does not express approval for the killing of civilians, or say that Hamas’ rockets are ethical or effective. He says that he understands why an occupied and desperate people would fight. We may not like it, but we should not be surprised to know that many Palestinians feel like this. We should not be unaware that many British people will understand this. His comments are not racist, however hurtful or uncomfortable some may find them.”

    Yes. Very well put. I think it follows that Ward has considered with some care what he should and should not say. He has striven to express his disgust for the way the Israelis are behaving in a way that does move the debate forward, but avoids the pitfalls of either apparent racism or moral approval. He is entitled to seek to move debate forward, as opposed to simply reiterating things like “deplore what Israel has done”. The latter is fair comment, but since we have all said things like that many many times, it does not really advance the debate.

    How does “if I lived in Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes” advance the debate? It makes it defiantly clear that Ward understands the extreme pressure the Gazans are under, and that they inevitably feel they have no option but to fight back. It is saying to the Israelis “Don’t kid yourselves that your stance has any credibility with your enemy, and that you will eventually persuade them to ‘see reason’ and stop sending rockets. They won’t. You will have to be the people who ‘see reason’. ” That advances the debate. If we all make it clear that Ward is not a lone voice – as so many are indeed doing here – then we help Ward to advance the debate.

  • Caron Lindsay:

    “Can you please quote where I’ve said that Ward should be expelled because he’s caused offence?”

    Well Caron, what else did you mean by the veiled threat:

    “My instinct is to say that this is the third time he’s done this. It doesn’t help, and would he please just close the door on his way out.”

  • Simon Hebditch 23rd Jul '14 - 12:50pm

    Of course, David Ward speaks as he sees things and this can sometimes lead to too much hyperbole. However, his basic thesis is accurate. If there is to be a two state solution in the Middle East then there has to be an end to the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israel. No peace talks will work until Israel agrees, explicitly, that an end to occupation post the 1967 war is clearly on the negotiating table. At the same time. there needs to be a complete end to further settlement building including extensions to existing developments as a gesture of good faith.

  • For me his first tweet is a view held by many, about many different conflicts, including Syria (for example). It was expressed very badly perhaps, possibly due to the limitations of Twitter, but even in the context of past comments it could be seen as forgivable. “If you live in a place where you feel you are being oppressed, you are far more likely to take up arms in perceived self defense” would have been far more politic, if he felt the need to comment, I think.

    His second tweet is harder to explain away though. It is perhaps possible to see a very small degree of commonality between some of the actions of the state of Israel in Gaza and the actions of the Nazis during the Holocaust, but the sheer difference in scale, and the very personal nature of the Holocaust as it affected the Jewish people, makes drawing such comparisons wholly inappropriate, completely counterproductive, and deeply offensive.

    Beyond the implied comparison, the suggestion that one should unilaterally choose a side in any conflict is a completely simplistic view, which denigrates the suffering of every individual involved in the horror that is war. If there were grounds for his second tweet, in any form, it was to argue the opposite viewpoint that the international community needs to be extremely wary of picking sides in this, or any, conflict.

    Of course, I don’t know the context within which his comments were made. Was he distressed at the time? Were there any medical or neurological issues/reasons? Was this a political gambit aimed at securing publicity or ensuring re-election? Is this a deeply held view that he felt obliged to express? It is clear to me however that, had this view been that of “the man/woman on the street”, it would not have occasioned anywhere near as much comment.

    This raises, therefore, the spectre of “bringing the Party into disrepute”. This concept is the context in which his comments will be judged by HQ, unless he has broken the law (and I’m not aware he has). This is also a concept that is extremely hazy and difficult to judge as being inherently “liberal”, in my view. Which is probably why, whatever the outcome of any investigation, his tweets will cause harm not just in the media and in Israel & Gaza, but within the Party as well.

  • Green Voter 23rd Jul '14 - 1:11pm

    @Charlie
    “Israel accepted, Hamas declined.”

    Not that surprising given that Israel is continuing its land grab

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 23rd Jul '14 - 2:33pm

    @David Allen – Not because he’d caused offence, because he had, for the third time, made a really unhelpful intervention that did nothing to improve the plight of the Palestinian people and in fact removed the focus from the actions of the Israeli Government.

  • Fully support David Ward in this. He only gets any airtime when provocative, and so being provocative helps, in my view, even if there are Zionist donors who are unhappy.

    Cf Bob Russell, MP, who pointed out that Israeli high command are committing war crimes last week. This is true, but the Government don’t want to acknowledge it, so they ignore him, and he got bugger all publicity.

  • Green Voter.
    Israel has left Gaza. The post 1973 border occurred because Egypt and Syria attacked Israel and lost. Do not attack a country, threaten mass extermination and complain when one loses. The only arab country which tried to arrange peaceful co-existence with Israel pre- 1948 was Jordan and it is the only country which has defeated Israel.

    Egypt has tried to broker a peace deal, Israel has accepted , Hamas has declined. Hamas has stored munitions in urban areas, fired rockets from urban areas and not built bomb shelters for it’s people. HAMAS has constructed tunnels , built rockets to kill Israelis but not built bomb shelter for it s people. I never realised the significance of Golda Meir’s comment ” We will never have peace until the arabs love their children more than they hate us. ”

    If HAMAS could undertake the following:-
    1. Fire rockets beyond blast radius of buildings. One of Hamas’ rockets destroyed a power line
    2. Move all military centres away from homes.
    3. Store all munitions beyond blast radius of buildings and within properly designed stores.
    4. Build bomb shelters for people .

    It would appear that people expect Israel to suffer rocket attacks fire by HAMAS from urban areas and not retaliate .
    The reality is that HAMAS is prepared to accept civilian deaths for propaganda purposes : if it did not it would follow procedures 1 to 4.

  • Kevin Maher 23rd Jul '14 - 6:02pm

    I have been moved by the dignified response of the Dutch in particular to the atrocity over the Ukraine. I can’t help but wonder what the response would have been by the Israelis if this had been an El Al plane, or in a nightmare scenario if the missile had been launched by Hamas.

  • Ruth Tenne
    As an Israeli human rights activist , I wholly agree with David Ward’s stance and solidarity with the resistance movement of Hamas . I am not alone in publicly stating my agreement with David ward’s proclamation and his deep understanding of the motives that drive the resistance fighting of Hams . Many Jews and Israeli peace/human rights activist take a similar view and express solidarity with the Palestinian people and with Hamas’ courageous resistance to Israel’s strangulating blockade on Gaza which deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights and livelihood.

    Indeed, the late Marek Edelman ,who was one of the survived leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto insurrection (1943/4), has written a letter in 2002 – addressed to the leaders of the Palestinian Military, paramilitary and guerilla organisations – in which he expressed his solidarity with the Palestinian resistance movement . “Edelman had always resented Israel’s claim on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising as a symbol of Jewish liberation. Now he said this belonged to the Palestinians” ( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/marek-edelman-last-surviving-leader-of-the-1943-warsaw-ghetto-uprising-against-the-nazis-1798644.htm) .

    Ruth Tenne

  • If HAMAS had not overthrown Fatah in 2007 in Gaza, there would not be rockets entering Isarel. There are no rockets entering Israel from the West Bank. Approximately 118 died and 500 were injured when Hamas overthrew Fatah.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Gaza_(2007)
    The PNA were on the way to to developing an effective government in Gaza between Hamas and Fata until the former took power using armed force.

  • Jonathan Brown 23rd Jul '14 - 6:58pm

    @Gary Fuller – “His second tweet is harder to explain away though. It is perhaps possible to see a very small degree of commonality between some of the actions of the state of Israel in Gaza and the actions of the Nazis during the Holocaust, but the sheer difference in scale, and the very personal nature of the Holocaust as it affected the Jewish people, makes drawing such comparisons wholly inappropriate, completely counterproductive, and deeply offensive.”

    I presume you’re referring to his ‘Ich bin ein Palestinian’ tweet here. A reference not to the Nazis but to JFK’s declaration of solidarity with West Germans kept under seige by the Soviet Union.

  • Michael Seymour 24th Jul '14 - 7:19am

    What a load of nonsense, all he did was express an opinion. Are we all to be gagged and muzzled? I do worry about our attitudes to having an opinion. Should we not as a party, Grow Up!

    Should we not be more concerned with the attitudes and military might of the Israeli’s.

  • Mick Taylor 24th Jul '14 - 9:41am

    @Caron Lindsay: And?…
    Are you saying that expressing views with which some disagree and many view as very badly written is grounds for expelling or disciplining an MP who won an inner city seat for the Lib Dems for the first time in more than a generation and whose Liberalism in beyond question?

  • Great to see Liberals considering a wide range of views and endorsing free speech!

    His second tweet stepped over the line, but having reading both it seemed to me like a badly phrased statement of empathy. I’ve heard a lot of people say similar things in the past few days having watched the news and reached that point of putting yourself in someone elses shoes.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Jul '14 - 10:41am

    Mick, when it’s the third time they’ve done the same thing, it gets exasperating. It doesn’t look like he will be disciplined, and I won’t be shouting for him to be, but neither would I make too much effort to save him if he had been. Let’s get the focus off him and on to the suffering in Gaza for which there is only one culprit, the Israeli Government.

  • Caron Lindsey
    How should the Israeli government respond to the 11,000 rockets fired from Gaza? In WW2, the British were able to identify and destroy some of the V1 ramps. However, the V2 were mobile and fired from the countryside. The destruction of Peenemunde and the advance through N Europe was the only way to stop the V2s hitting London, by pushing their launch location out of range.

    Should the Israeli government allow weapons to be smuggled into Gaza?

  • Lib Dem Candidate 24th Jul '14 - 1:21pm

    In decades to come, historians will view British progressive opinion’s vilification of Israel as we now view British progressive opinion’s past lauding of Stalin.

  • You have to admire the people defending Israel? It’s not easy defending a country who are murdering men, women and children in their hundreds, but they’re giving it their best.

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