The BBC reports on the outcome of a meeting between David Ward, MP for Bradford East, Nick Clegg and Alistair Carmichael:
Liberal Democrat MP David Ward has had his party’s whip withdrawn over controversial comments he made in the lead-up to Holocaust Day in January.
Mr Ward said “the Jews”, who had suffered during the Holocaust, had inflicted “atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel” within a few years.
He also posted a tweet at the weekend, calling Israel an “apartheid state”.
Mr Ward is said to be “disappointed” by the Lib Dem leadership’s decision.
The MP for Bradford East wrote on his website in January that he was “saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps, be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza”.
It appears that the whip has only been temporarily withdrawn until the autumn.
UPDATE: 1.51pm – below is the letter sent by chief whip Alistair Carmichael to David Ward:
David Ward MP
House of Commons
17th July, 2013
Thank you for coming to see Nick, Simon and me this afternoon.
You will recall that we discussed the report of your two meetings with the group convened by Simon, which included Jewish colleagues. As Nick indicated to you, that report was a largely positive one. In particular we were all pleased to note that you appreciated the need to use language in this debate that was proportionate and precise.
It was therefore with immense disappointment that we were presented with your public comment made on 13th July on Twitter in the following terms:
“Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?”
We were in unanimous agreement that questioning the continued existence of the State of Israel fails the test of language that is “proportionate and precise”.
We want to be clear with you that in this process we are not concerned about your views and opinions on the policies of present or previous Israeli governments, nor the situation in the Israeli-occupied territories, nor the strength of feeling with which your views are held. As we have sought to impress upon you repeatedly, we are having to decide on whether language you chose to use in January and February, and now this month, is language which brings the party into disrepute or harms the interests of the Party.
During the meeting, we put it to you that your most recent statement – which specifically questions the continuing existence of the State of Israel – is neither proportionate nor precise. Unfortunately, we considered your explanation to be unconvincing and it did not satisfy us that you understood the importance of conducting the debate on this issue at all times and in all places in terms that are proportionate and precise.
We wish to reiterate that this is not about telling you what your views should be. Indeed, we have all visited the occupied territories and we have all experienced an instinctive and liberal reaction to the humanitarian suffering we have witnessed. You will know that Nick, Simon and I have a consistent track record of being outspoken about illegal settlement activities of Israeli governments and the threat this poses to the two-state solution for which the party has long argued.
It is also immensely frustrating for us to find ourselves constantly responding to questions about disproportionate and imprecise language from you. These interventions cause considerable offence rather than addressing questions of political substance about the plight of the Palestinian people and the right of Israel’s citizens to live a life free of violence. It is extraordinarily difficult to gain traction in that debate at an effective political level if the expression of our concerns is undermined by the way your language misrepresents the view of our party.
Whilst we understand you have your own views about this process, which has been long and complicated, we also hope you recognise that we have given you every opportunity to reconcile the expression of your views with the party’s policy on a two-state solution. Unfortunately, you have not been able to do that.
Therefore, it is with regret that I have to inform you that we have decided to suspend the Liberal Democrat whip from you. This period of suspension will be with immediate effect until 13th September inclusive. I very much regret that it has been necessary to take this action.