Has it all gone Jenny Tonge for David Ward?

Gentle reader, I appear to have received some flak for writing this – quite possibly merited. So, I’ve tried to edit it for clarity…

David WardA press release from the office of David Ward MP reached Liberal Democrat Voice yesterday;

“Bradford East MP, David Ward, has criticised Israel on the day he has signed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, in doing so pledging his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who died during the Holocaust and in subsequent genocides.

Sunday January 27th will mark the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history. In the weeks running up to the day, the Holocaust Educational Trust placed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, giving MPs the chance to honour those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and encouraging constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today.

Commenting, David said:

Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am 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.

We don’t usually pick these up, to be honest, as we don’t entirely see that as our role – we’d rather have something a little personalised in truth. However, with today’s attack on him, courtesy of Guido Fawkes (and I really don’t have to heart to expose our readers to the generally vile standard of comments, so no link provided), we rather do need to comment I have chosen to do so.

As usual, in any matter related to the Israel/Palestine debate, elements of the pro-Israel lobby, (or troublemakers in Guido’s case) have chosen to interpret these remarks as being a direct comparison of the holocaust with modern events in Gaza and the West Bank. If you’re minded to do so, you probably will. On the other hand, if you lean towards a pro-Palestinian position, you might welcome any recognition by a politician that the Israeli government is behaving in an unacceptable manner.

For me, David’s words act as a reminder that some pretty dreadful wrongs have been committed against both sides (and there are those who seek to equate them in terms of scale), and suggest that past events should influence future behaviour. It’s called nuance, and in an increasingly black and white political discourse, I welcome his attempt to demonstrate some respect towards both sides in this seemingly never-ending dispute, even if he has failed to express himself well.

According to Guido, the Party has commented;

This is a matter we take extremely seriously. The Liberal Democrats deeply regret and condemn the statement issued by David Ward and his use of language which is unacceptable.

Perhaps someone at the centre thinks that. I’m not entirely sure that, in its entirety, I do…

UPDATE: the story has now been picked up by the BBC.

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88 Comments

  • Describing someone comparing the Holocaust to Gaza and telling people what “the Jews” should feel as ‘nuanced’ is pretty shocking, as is invoking the ‘pro-Israel lobby’ and describing concern over anti-Semitism as a ‘bandwagon’. Am pretty sure that if Ward had said how “the Muslims” should feel there’d be an article of real outrage here. Hard not to conclude, as ever, that the LibDems have a bit of a problem in this area…

    Took two goes to write this comment without spluttering. Really expect better from LDV.

  • The problem here isn’t about Israel/Palestine, it’s David Ward’s insistence that “the Jews” be held to a special moral standard because they were VICTIMS of the Holocaust. Gay people were also victims. Imagine if he had said that “the Gays” hadn’t learnt the lesson of the Holocaust?

    It’s worth noting that Ward’s clarifying statement to the Commentator makes things worse too.

  • This has left me speechless, David Ward’s comments are really appalling: the combination of half-brained allocation of collective responsibility to an entire ethnic group, the implicit ahistorical parallels, the appalling timing… I can’t believe that we’re having to explain why this is idiotic and wrong all over again. Incredibly depressing.

  • Amazingly badly chosen language by David Ward. “The Jews”, really? Just like saying “The blacks” it’s the sort of phrase that should be consigned to embarrassing parts of the past, not still used today.

  • Mark, the fact that you are unable to see the problem in David Ward’s statement is a sad statement about you. The issue is the collective grouping and blame of the whole Jewish population. David Ward’s clarification is even worse. when he says , “It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated”.

    Imagine grouping other ethnic groups for collective responsibility and blame.

  • Neil Bradbury 25th Jan '13 - 12:39pm

    I wonder what he could say that was critical of Israel that would not be jumped on? Does seem like a rather clumsy statement but I think David was trying to give a balanced view. He has taken the time out to spend a lot of time involved with Holocaust Memorial Day. The state of Israel shouldn’t be put on a higher level of expectation for human rights than others due to the Holocaust. As a democracy it should be though. Even by the lower level it is failing. I think it is fair comment to say that a state founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust , with a substantial number of its founders victims of that tragedy could be expected to try to avoid persecution of others. I don’t expect Japan to be a leading anti nuclear weapons state but it logical that it is.

  • Every time someone comes out with something as patently wrong-headed as this we have to wade through a legion of largely unthinking bien pensant commentators who suck in air through their teeth and puff “oooh, is this because someone criticised Israel?” – to which the response has to be “no, people criticise Israel every day, there’s lots to criticise I’m sure, this is about feeding nakedly racist narratives and thinking you can get away with it because it’s about Jews”.

    I’m sorry if that sounds intemperate, but this is two days before we mark the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where over a million were murdered and it’s very tiring to have to explain this time and again. And if anyone thinks that you can’t criticise Israel without being antisemitic (or being publicly accused of) then I’m afraid you really are foolish. Plenty of MPs manage it, most weeks.

  • I don’t usually comment on the Israel/Palestine situation for the reason I don’t know enough about it and I find it quite hard to call. But to hear quality members of our party indicate they are thinking of resigning over this saddens me – commenting that they feel under attack. I don’t think any of us should be doing that.

    I’m encouraged to comment today, because I feel if we don’t stick up for our friends being able to express their view, then it’s waiting around while I watch others be just vile to my friends who are expressing resentment towards David Ward and his piece.

    Why are we doing this to each other – why when people with differing opinions on other issues stick at telling each other to join other parties, does this issue let the worst come out?

  • I agree with David. It’s not just a question of the specific words he used. He is seeking to make all Jews collectively responsible for “atrocities” purely on the basis that they are Jewish. There’s no way that should be defended.

  • “I don’t usually comment on the Israel/Palestine situation for the reason I don’t know enough about it…”

    Don’t let that hold you back Louise, no one else does.

    I’ve got no problem with David Ward having the right to express his view, I just think it’s incumbent upon people with a sense of decency to point out that it’s stupid and wrong.

  • Andrew Martin 25th Jan '13 - 12:59pm

    Unseen, how many times have those who seek to defend Israel’s extraodinarily repressive policies towards Palestinians used the Holocaust as their justification? Would the self-called “Jewish State” exist without the Holocaust?
    The language may not be ideal but the principles appear sound to me.
    Anyone who dares to criticise Israel and defend the poverty-stricken and dreadfully oppressed Palestians is immediately attacked with critics implying anti-Semitism, but what of the converse? Imagine someone who made a comment as crude and extreme as to say this was a case of Israel v terrorists – would they receive the appropriate degree of criticism? I doubt it.

  • One of the issues, with this “debate”, of course, is that the whole concept of Israel, the declarations prior to its establishment, the motivation of Begin and others who fought for it, was as “a homeland for the Jews”, the concept of Zionism also, so there is a defence in all that to the type of comment that David Ward makes. Israel was created, therefore, from an ethnic/religious standpoint. However, David’s comments are not sensitive to those who feel that antisemitism is being applied – that doesn’t, of course, mean he is being antisemitic.

  • If David Ward has a brain, he’ll retract his statement, apologise and if he feels strongly, reclarify it as the Israeli government, rather than Jews as a collective. The absolute worst thing would be to get defensive and try to present this as an attack by the pro-Israel lobby. It’s not. It is a clumsy, stupid and by every recognised definition, anti-semitic statement, whether David Ward MP intended it to be or not.

  • James Hardy 25th Jan '13 - 1:03pm

    I think it is always a mistake to conflate Jews and Israelis, while Israel was set up as a Jewish state, not all Jews are Israeli (nor even supporters of Israel) and not all Israelis are Jews.

    I don’t think that either the Jews or the Israelis (or “the gays”) are being held to any “special moral standard”. The moral standard of not committing atrocities and war crimes is pretty much agreed to be universal, no matter what the history of your particular group of people. I condemn such acts whether committed by anyone: Arab, Israeli, or other.

    I believe in Holocaust education, to teach people that hate, discrimination and violence are terrible things and must not tolerated in a civilised world, because it is my hope that people who learn these lessons will then not commit any acts of intolerance.

    I think what David was expressing, is a regret that a nation that has a great deal of Holocaust education for obvious reasons seem not to have heeded these lessons to their fullest. And I agree with those sentiments, though since both the Holocaust and the Israel/Palestine dispute are such emotive issues, a better choice of words should have been used.

  • David Allen 25th Jan '13 - 1:07pm

    When I read this, I recall Shirley Williams commenting on the Israel – Palestine issue on “Any Questions”. She managed, eventually, to express very powerful concern on the way the Palestinians have been treated. But to get there – and, no doubt, to avoid the opprobrium visited on David Ward – she had first to go through her own life history of respect for Judaism, plus a generic condemnation of terrorism, plus a host of caveats and balances about the bad things Palestinians do. It was lucky the chairman did not cut her off for exceeding the time limit. Only a superb verbal craftswoman like Shirley could have managed it.

    And the question that strikes me is – Why? Why is it that being totally PC to the extent of pedantic excess doesn’t matter on most topics, but it matters immensely if you dare to say anything against Israel?

    Yes, Ward’s comments fail the totally and utterly PC test. Big deal. The Party should not have condemned him in the way it did.

  • “However, David’s comments are not sensitive to those who feel that antisemitism is being applied – that doesn’t, of course, mean he is being antisemitic.”

    It is antisemitism in the most literal sense. It implies that all Jews are responsible for atrocities, purely because they are Jewish. It is a condemnation of an entire racial group, purely on the grounds of race. Unfortunately there are no two ways about it.

  • Leon Duveen 25th Jan '13 - 1:15pm

    Let me state clearly that the behaviour of some Israelis is analogous to that of Nazis. I speak as someone who has lived in Israel & served in the IDF. What is happening in the occupied territories is not only a disaster for Palestinians but it is corruption generation after generation of young Israelis .
    My problem with Ward’s statement is the use of the “the Jews . . . ” implying all Jews everywhere are responsible for the deeds of a minority of Israeli Jews on the Wets Bank. No only is it offensive for many Jew who work hard to bring reconciliation to a very troubled area to hear such language but it is counter productive as such language can be used by the very people he tries to condemn as proof they don’t need to listen. Yes he should be condemned for an immoderate and inconsiderate statement, if any one had blamed “the Muslims . . .” for the deeds of al-Quieda, then everyone would rightly be up in arms.

  • It seems to me that David Ward has made a fairly mild comment about Israel behaviour, and that if he had said Israeli or Zionist instead of carelessly using the word Jew, many of the above comments would look silly.

    The comments appear to subscribe to the view that so much wrong has been done to Jews in the last century that it is now unacceptable to make any critical comment about Jews or Israel. I did not expect this nonsense from a LIb Dem community.

  • “Yes, Ward’s comments fail the totally and utterly PC test. Big deal. The Party should not have condemned him in the way it did.”

    Sorry, but you’re quite wrong. This isn’t a question of not being ‘PC’.

    There’s plenty to criticise the Israeli government for, and there’s no reason for politicians to give a lengthy eulogy of Judaism before doing so, if they don’t want to. They just need to avoid condemning “the Jews” en masse. Why that should cause any difficulty for a liberal politician is beyond me.

  • Callum Leslie 25th Jan '13 - 1:23pm

    I’m all for criticising Israel, but it’s just factually incorrect to blame “the Jews” for what’s going on in Gaza.

  • Iain Sharpe 25th Jan '13 - 1:44pm

    I suppose the quick answer to Neil Bradbury is that (a) it is probably safernot to pick National Holocaust Day to criticise Israel and (b) he is less likely to cause offence if he doesn’t invoke the Holocaust.

    David Ward’s comments are ill-advised on so many levels. First the sense of them is that ALL Jews, not just s upporters of Israeli policies in Gaza and the West Bank, are inflicting atrocities on the Palestinians, which comes close to being a racial slur rather than a political or humanitarian view.

    Secondly, although Ward is far from the first to do this, there is a nasty David Irving-ish implication to his comments. They come close to suggesting that Jewish people should in some way have been “taught a lesson” by the Holocaust to be nicer to people. This is demanding an exceptionalism of Jewish people that is not matched by others. If we look at the history of Europe in the last 150 or so years, the reaction of peoples and nations to suffering and perceived wrongs suffered at the hands of others has been a (by no means always successful) wariness and determination not to let it happen again. This is true of the aftermaths of the Franco-Prussian, First and Second World Wars. In each case magnanimity might have been the wiser course, but it wasn’t the one pursued. Whatever the wrongdoings of the present Israeli government, it is not a good argument to use the Holocaust as a justification for the criticism.

    Thirdly, given the sensitivities of this issue, elected representatives are just best advised to be cautious in their use of language when discussing it, however sincere their concerns. It is perfectly possible to criticise Israel and the policies of its government in a way that is not offensive or inflammatory.

    Before anyone starts, I should stress that the above in no way implies my support for the policies of Israel in Gaza or the West Bank – far from it.

  • The wording is clearly the biggest problem with the comment that David Ward made but the sentiment is something he should not be reprimanded for. BBC’s article on this story is sensationalistic nonsense and the Lib Dem’s should hang their head in shame for condemning this man for airing his opinion (which quite frankly was about as soft an opinion you could have on the disgraceful acts in the name of zionism you could have).

  • David Allen 25th Jan '13 - 2:16pm

    “politicians …. just need to avoid condemning “the Jews” en masse.”

    I think a lot of people condemned “the Germans en masse” for what happened in the Holocaust, even though they no doubt recognised that some Germans did very brave things to try to prevent it. The recognition was that Nazism had permeated the culture, that those who turned a blind eye were morally at fault, and that culpability was not restricted to the guards at the concentration camps.

    Arguably, something rather similar can be said of the majority of the Israeli population. Yes, Ward could have expressed himself with more care. More importantly, the Party in its response could have expressed themselves with a sight more care. The Party response looks desperately one-sided on Israel – Palestine, when it should be even-handed.

  • And the problem of having a specific Holocaust Memorial Day is that it creates a negative focus. By having a Holocaust Memorial Day we forget this, and this corrupts our ability to remember what did happen and how it happened.

    Every day should be a Holocaust Memorial Day – it wasn’t just about Auschwitz, it wasn’t just about mass murder and the desacration of humanity, it wasn’t just about one group of people or another and it didn’t all happen on just one day.

  • David

    Your comment might have some point if he had said “the Israelis”, but he didn’t. Most Jews don’t even live in Israel.

  • Replace “the Jews” with “the Israeli government” and you have an opinion (that could perhaps have been saved for a different time) that is not really that controversial. The choice of words though does make a racial / religious stereotype that is both unfair and insensitive.

  • Tom Richards 25th Jan '13 - 4:29pm

    Pretty ill judged language – and not really the time to be making comments like that about Israel.

  • Mark Seaman 25th Jan '13 - 4:43pm

    And so what religion are the groups in Israel that seek to deny Palestinians Statehood, call them ‘Cockroaches’, and refuse to accept any steps towards a lasting peace ? Thor worshippers perhaps ?
    I think the reaction to David Wards comments follow the usual response to any critisism of the State of Israel, i.e. play the anti-semitic card.

  • paul barker 25th Jan '13 - 6:18pm

    “The Jews”.
    Theres the problem. If he had said that it was a tragedy that some Jews in Israel reproduce Nazi attitudes in the way they treat Palestinians, that might have been a bit insensitive but just about acceptable.
    As it is I think its too late for apologies, the Party should start disciplinary procedures, begining with suspension, ie, temporary withdrawal of the whip.

  • May I respectfully draw attention to the following please.

    * The UN view of the Palestinian Territories can be seen at
    the following URL: http://unispal.un.org/pdfs/OCH….

    * The West Bank and East Jerusalem is occupied Palestine (bilaterally recognised by 132 na-tions in the world including India, China, Russia, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Ice-land).

    * Palestine is officially a non-member State and recognised by the UN. 138 nations supported Palestine last November in its successful bid for statehood. France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Greece, Cyprus and Malta were among many European nations to support Palestine. Their vote for Palestine was important as were those cast by India, China, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand who supported Palestine too. The Secretary General of the UN and Vatican Church welcomed the re-birth of Palestine.

    * However, Palestine (West Bank and East Jerusalem) is still illegally held and sadly Israel’s Prime Minister Mr Netanyahu has ignored the ruling of the International Court of Justice (subse-quently supported by the UN and EU) with respect to the “separation barrier”. This “wall” is 3 times the length of the Berlin Wall.

    * UNESCO’s recognition of Palestine in 2011 was supported by France, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Norway, Greece and other European nations.

    * Please also see UNSC Resolution 478 concerning Jerusalem. The 4th Geneva Convention is applicable to all the Palestinian Territories.

    * International law and UN Resolutions (over which there are over 150) are ignored by Israel’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

    * UN Resolutions specify Israel’s illegal hold of the Palestinian Territories to be a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention and as such is a War Crime under international law. More so now, that settlements are being placed in another nation.

    Yours sincerely
    Anthony

    *** UN Security Council Resolution 478 (1980) of 20 August
    1980 – BINDING
    The Security Council, recalling its resolution 476 (1980);
    reaffirming again that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible;
    deeply concerned over the enactment of a “basic law” in the Israeli
    Knesset proclaiming a change in the character and status of the Holy City of
    Jerusalem, with its implications for peace and security; noting that Israel has
    not complied with resolution 476 (1980); reaffirming its determination to
    examine practical ways and means, in accordance with the relevant provisions of
    the Charter of the United Nations, to secure the full implementation of its
    resolution 476 (1980), in the event of non-compliance by Israel ; Censures in
    the strongest terms the enactment by Israel of the “basic law” on
    Jerusalem and the refusal to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions;

    http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL….

    *** Resolution 694 (1991) – BINDING
    Adopted by the Security Council at its 2989th meeting on 24
    May 1991
    The Security Council,
    Reaffirming its resolution 681 (1990),
    Having learned with deep concern and consternation that
    Israel has, in violation of its obliga-tions under the Fourth Geneva Convention
    of 1949, and acting in opposition to relevant Security Council resolutions, and
    to the detriment of efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace
    in the Middle East, deported four Palestinian civilians on 18 May 1991,
    1. Declares that the action of the Israeli authorities of
    deporting four Palestinians on 18 May is in violation of the Fourth Geneva
    Convention of 1949, which is applicable to all the Pales-tinian territories
    occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem;
    2. Deplores this action and reiterates that Israel, the
    occupying Power, refrain from deporting any Palestinian civilian from the
    occupied territories and ensure the save and immediate return of all those
    deported;
    3. Decides to keep the situation under review.

    *** Resolution 672 (1990) – BINDING
    Adopted by the Security Council at its 2948th meeting on 12
    October 1990
    The Security Council,
    Recalling its resolutions 476 (1980) and 478 (1980),
    Reaffirming that a just and lasting solution to the
    Arab-Israeli conflict must be based on its resolutions 242 (1967) and 338
    (1973) through an active negotiating process which takes into account the right
    to security for all States in the region, including Israel, as well as the
    legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people,
    Taking into consideration the statement of the
    Secretary-General relative to the purpose of the mission he is sending to the
    region and conveyed to the Council by the President on 12 October 1990,
    1. Expresses alarm at the violence which took place on 8
    October at the Al Haram al Shareef and other Holy Places of Jerusalem resulting
    in over twenty Palestinian deaths and to the in-jury of more than one hundred
    and fifty people, including Palestinian civilians and innocent worshippers;
    2. Condemns especially the acts of violence committed by the
    Israeli security forces resulting in injuries and loss of human life;
    3. Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide
    scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth
    Geneva Convention, which is applicable to all the territories occupied by
    Israel since 1967;
    4. Requests, in connection with the decision of the
    Secretary-General to send a mission to the region, which the Council welcomes,
    that he submit a report to it before the end of October 1990 containing his
    findings and conclusions and that he use as appropriate all the resources of
    the United Nations in the region in carrying out the mission.

    24th April 2012 – UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said:
    “I strongly condemn the Israeli government’s decision
    yesterday to turn three illegal outposts in the West Bank into settlements. I
    urged the Israeli government in my statement on 5 April to remove – not
    legalise – outposts across the West Bank”.

    Furthermore, I would like to refer you to specific serious concerns raised by the International Court of Justice (2004) – with relevance to the ‘security barrier’ – which was viewed with alarm by the international community. Incidentally the reference to the illegality of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem was also reinforced when the International Court of Justice also found the following (indeed the EU supported the UN vote pertaining to the ‘security barrier’):
    * That the separation barrier is intended to assist the settlements, the establishment of which violates Article 49 of the Convention. Also, the court pointed out that the restrictions placed on the local population located between the barrier and the Green Line are liable to lead to abandonment of the land, which also constitutes a violation of Article 49. In addition, the opinion stated that taking control of private land to build the barrier injured
    private property owners, and thus violated Articles 46 and 52 of the Hague Regulations of 1907 and of Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
    * The illegality of the barrier under international human rights law. In this context, the court stated unequivocally, and contrary to the position held by Israel, that international human rights law applies in its entirety in occupied territory, along with humanitarian law. The court ruled that the separation barrier violates rights set forth in conventions to which
    Israel is party. The court mentioned the rights to freedom of movement and the
    right against invasion of privacy of home and family, which are enshrined in Articles 12 and 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the right to work, to an adequate standard of living, health, and education, which are enshrined in Articles 6, 11, 12, and 13 of the International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights.

    http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?pr=71&code=mwp&p1=3&p2=4&p3=6&ca

  • “Why I Believe Israel Is Committing War Crimes”; “They (Palestinians) are treated like dirt by the Israelis”; “The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt from gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.” These are not the utterances of some right-wing anti-Semite, but of Sir Gerald Kaufman, brought up as an orthodox Jew and a Zionist. In his 2009 House of Commons speech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMGuYjt6CP8 ) Sir Gerald described the persecution suffered by his family under the Nazis, yet over many years he has had to suffer vicious personal attacks from the British Jewish establishment , including being described as a “self-hater” by a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Barely any, if any, prominent British Jew has dared support him. This is what happens to a man with impeccable links to the founding fathers of Israel, so David Ward was indeed a brave man to take on the Israeli lobby.

  • The basic facts are that he used the term “The Jews” it was pointed out to him that his is an in appropriate use of language.

    He has repeated the use “The Jews” rather than clarifying to say he is referring to the Israeli Government, so this is more than a careless use of language.

    From his behaviour today he is unwilling to put down the shovel.

  • Leon Duveen 25th Jan '13 - 9:39pm

    No-one here is disputing the actions taken by successive Israeli Government, especially those in the last few years, are illegal and that the way a sizeable minority of Israelis Jews treat Arabs in a way that is directly analogous to the way Jews were treated by Nazis. The point at issue is the language David Ward used and, in spite of the furore it has generate, has not had the grace to apologise for the offensive it has caused. By including the phrase “the Jews. . . ” with no clarification is grossly offensive to the many Jews both in Israel & outside who are appalled by the way the Palestinians are treated and work hard to bring about peaceful co-operation between the two peoples.
    If those leaping to Ward’s defence cannot see this then, they are just as blinkered as those on the other side who brook no criticism of Israel without calling it anti-Semitism.

  • David Ward’s choice of words are ‘unwise’ to say the least .
    However, it is the ‘Jewish Lobby’*, in both the US and UK, that enables Israel to act in a disproportionate manner to its ‘Arab’ citizens and neighbours. Does anyone suppose that the actions of Israel in Gaza, the laws allowing discrimination as to where non-jews can live** and the steady expansion of ‘settlements’ could continue without such external lobbying?
    References to ethnic minorities makes me wonder how US and UK politicians might act were they being subject to racial screening by local committees to decide if they might be ‘guilty’ of being “ill-suited to the community’s way of life” or “might harm the community’s fabric” in a country other than Israel.

    *In his Dictionary of Politics (1992), Walter John Raymond describes the term “Jewish Lobby” as “A conglomeration of approximately thirty-four Jewish political organizations in the United States which make joint and separate efforts to lobby for their interests in the United States, as well as for the interests of the State of Israel.” He also notes that “among those organizations which are most actively involved in lobbying activities at federal, state and local levels of political and governmental institutions are: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the American Jewish Committee… and the B’nai B’rith.

    ** – Two new Israeli laws affecting Israel’s Palestinian Arab residents would promote discrimination and stifle free expression, Human Rights Watch said today. One would authorize rural, Jewish-majority communities to reject Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and other “unsuitable” applicants for residency, and the other would chill expression regarding a key moment in the history of Palestinian citizens.The Knesset passed both laws on March 23, 2011. One officially authorizes “admissions committees” in about 300 Jewish-majority communities to reject applicants for residency who do not meet vague “social suitability” criteria. The measure anchors in law a practice that has been the basis for unjustly rejecting applications by Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel as well as members of socially marginalized groups such as Jews of non-European ancestry and single-parent families.The second law would heavily fine any government-funded institution, including municipalities that provide health and education, for commemorating the “Nakba” – the Arabic term to describe the destruction of Palestinian villages and expulsion of their residents after Israel’s declaration of independence – and for expression deemed to “negate the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

  • First, it should be noted that despite not being one of our most well known MPs, David is a good man and does have good intentions in this area, even if his way of expressing it was not the best .

    Secondly, his choice of language here was a poor Rightly or wrongly, this is a very contentious issue where one wrong word can end careers. He needed to state exactly what he meant so that people could not distort his meaning or detract from his sentiments. Now, whatever he said, someone here was going to get offended so trying to protect peoples’ feelings in this issue is pointless, but that does not mean one should not be tactless because at least then, those willing to listen will understand your view, even if they choose not to agree with it.

    Thirdly, he is not asking for ‘Jewish’ or Israeli groups to be made to follow a stronger moral code. This clearly distorting his meaning. He clearly means that one would hope that those who have suffered some of the worst war crimes in history would be advocating peace and justice, not committing their own war crimes. Now, I believe there are many, both in and out of the Israeli communities around the world, who completely stand against the Israeli Government’s extremism and the fact that Isael is losing more and more support every day shows this; so it was clearly a poor choice of words for David to make this statement in such a sweeping manner. I think we can all agree that he should have aimed his words at only the Israeli Government and those committing these crimes in their name; however, distorting his meaning to make it seem even worse than it is, is just as erroneous a use of words.

    Finally, I think Julian (MP) has already made a very well worded and well thoughtout response to this, which hopefully will calm the tensions so that we can concentrate on the real issue here and not the tiny issue of an ill-thoughtout statement by an MP in the UK,

  • @Graham: Regardless of whether you agree with this sentiment or not; the fact remains, it is not just what you say that is important, but the way you express something is also important. David’s words here can easily be misconstrued or misunderstood, which detracts from the point he is making and will those with their own strong views or those who maybe do not fully appreciate this situation shy further away from his stance.

    Furthermore, whatever failings you believe the Jewish Establishment in the UK has, does not justify anyone else’s failures. IE David’s poor choice of words do not justify people like Guido Fawkes in the responses they make.

    However, we cannot escape the fact that now David is seen to be suggesting all ‘Jewish’ people are for the attacks on the Palestine. You may believe they do agree with it, personally, I lack the knowledge of their community to say who within their communities supports or does not support these acts, but what I do know is, if David’s words have made those who do not support these acts no friends as this drawn a wedge between us and the very people who can really influence the Israeli Government in this area.

  • @Mark Seaman
    “And so what religion are the groups in Israel that seek to deny Palestinians Statehood, call them ‘Cockroaches’, and refuse to accept any steps towards a lasting peace ? Thor worshippers perhaps ?”

    Those that crashed planes into the twin towers were Muslims yet anyone with more than half a brain cell recognises that not all Muslims are terrorists. The idiots who bomb abortion clinics in the USA are generally Christians yet anyone with more than half a brain cell knows that not all Christians are terrorists. You talk of playing the anti-Semitic card but by labelling “the Jews” as being responsible for the reprehensible crimes of the Israeli state that is entirely what has been done.

  • “Those people who criticise David Ward’s choice of words ,while expressing their opposition to Israeli policy, seem more concerned with form rather than substance. It is surely the Jewish establishment in the UK (and especially the US) whom they should be criticising, for unless the Jewish establishment in the West is prepared to follow the example of Gerald Kaufman and speak out publicly, and in the strongest terms, against Israeli policies the Israeli Government will regard their silence as tacit support.”

    That’s an absolutely appalling attitude. If you are opposed to the policies of the Israeli government, then criticise the Israeli government.

    Don’t attack a whole section of the population on the basis of their race, just because of an assumption you are making about their attitudes, which can be grounded in nothing more than racial prejudice. Would your default position be an assumption that all Muslims support Al Qaeda, unless you’ve heard them explicitly condemn Al Qaeda, just because they are Muslims? That would be ludicrous.

  • Tony Greaves 26th Jan '13 - 1:34am

    There is another issue here and it is about the way in which “the party” – or some anonymous persons claiming to be “the party” feel able at whim to denounce elected Liberal Democrats in a way which in my view is arrogant, cowardly and illiberal. It happened recently to Graham Watson and no doubt it will happen to others who go off-message in sensitive areas.

    How interesting that critics of David Ward attack the semantics and not the substance of the utterly unacceptable way in which Israel is acting towards the Palestinians. We all know that Gaza is a prison camp (they called similar areas ghettoes in different places in the past) and forcing people there to live in squalor and poverty. We all know that Israel is engaged in a long-term policy of ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and in the short term this is leading to an apartheid style situation there (but worse – at least in South Africa the blacks were able to travel to go and work for the whites).

    It is not “the Israeli Government” that is the problem – it’s the state of Israel as an institution. You can argue about whether or not it’s racist or some other base, but the outcome is the same. It’s Israel that continues to proclaim itself as a Jewish State, and then complains when other people call it that. The 2-state solution is dead in the water and the most important reason is that it is rejected by Israel which is doing (as a government, a society and an economy) everything it can to pre-empt it ever happening.

    The Holocaust commemoration is exactly the right time to challenge Israel and those Jewish people the world over who find it so hard to face up to the massive and tragic irony of what is going on.

    Tony

  • seems that David Ward is not the only one who isn’t careful with his use of language:

    ‘The surge of illegal African migrants into Israel “threatens national security and identity,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
    “If we do not stop this, 60,000 infiltrators could become 600,000 and possibly even jeopardize Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish democracy”‘

    http://www.jta.org/news/articl

  • @ Liberal Al

    I think you have missed the problem of David’s communication. When this first broke I could see it was stupidly worded, and assumed he would clarify to remove the references to “the Jews” and specifically clarify that his comments referred to actions of the Israeli government. I still would have thought it an unwise choice of occasion to say these king of things.

    I think the BBC news editors seemed to think the same as they stayed quiet on the story for a while after it broke, I assume to wait for the clarification when they could run the “LidDem MP expresses himself badly” story.

    Instead David doubles down gives statements continuing to refer to “the Jews” and then gives interviews including one when Sky news specifically askes if he is really referring to “the Israli State” and he chooses to continue to refer to a racial and religious group.

    As I said stupid.

    We can all make these kinds of mistakes; express ourselves poorly and then when criticised react overly defensively. But I hope after sleeping on it he will realise the best response to expressing yourself poorly is to clarify the meaning not to double down.

    As Mark Pack said above if the term used was “The Blacks” you would think someone sounded like a caricature from History. I also imagine that there would be no list of people coming out to defend them on a LibDem forum.

  • * appologoes 60 Years ago should have read 80 years ago.

  • Jenny Tonge. 26th Jan '13 - 7:05am

    I do not usually add to the masses of indignation that is published on LibDem Voice, but I must point out that Israel insists that it is the JEWISH State of Israel , which leads to some people assuming that what Israel does is endorsed by all Jews.
    Many Jewish people support the Palestinian cause and those of us who try to bring the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli government to the attention of the citizens of this country.
    We must not be deterred by the sickening and self righteous indignation that comes from the Zionist Lobby .
    David is a fine MP and understands the issues, and deserves our support.

  • @ Jenny tongue.

    If David Ward understands the issue, why did he not just issue a clarification, rather than become defensive and restate his highly offensive position. He has stood by his comment of “The Jews” as a collective.

    This is not a Zionist Lobby issue (as convenient as it would be to make them a scapegoat and deflect attention from David Ward MP’s words).

    David Ward MP has had countless times to clarify his statement and has not. Presumably, in his eyes, a British Jew, a citizen of this country, who has no vote in Israeli elections, pays no taxes to Israel, who has less influence on Israeli policy than him, an elected politician, is to blame. We should remember that attacks on Jews in this country rise during tensions in the Middle East., so at all times, we should be using correct language to stop a collective ethnic blame.

  • Helen Dudden 26th Jan '13 - 9:48am

    There are many Jews who do not accept the situation as it stands in Gaza, I have met many . Believing in something, still leaves you to be a individual in your right. It is unfair to make a judgement.

  • Why doesn’t the Lib Dem Party stand up for the Palestinians ?

  • “It is not “the Israeli Government” that is the problem – it’s the state of Israel as an institution.”

    It gets worse. Greaves apparently opposes the state of Israel itself, rather than opposing its actions – and caps it by pronouncing that Jewish people the world over need to be challenged.

    What is it with politicians?

  • The best that can be said for your comments Mr Hoffman, is that they are inflammatory, and not worthy of a liberal comment forum.

  • @Phyllis
    I think you’ll find that the Lib Dems, of all the mainstream parties, have a very good record at highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people. In this case though, the MP, through his sloppy language, accused an entire religious group of being responsible which is clearly not true. Worse he has not retreated from his stance when challenged when he could so easily have apologised for the wording and explained he meant to state Israel not the Jews….

  • Guido Fawkes 26th Jan ’13 – 11:40am…..Bizarre of Mark Valladares – clearly a keen reader – to say he won’t link to Guido because of the comments. ….

    Bizarre indeed when you preface your comments with such ‘moderate’ language as ” It could be argued Jihad Jenny went for less”…

  • Martin Pierce 26th Jan '13 - 12:11pm

    I thought about David Ward’s comments, and also what Julian Huppert has also written on LDV which are well worth a read (and don’t seem to have brought the party HQ down on him like a ton of bricks) quite a bit before posting this. Julian puts it all very well – as he always does – I am proud that he is my MP. But it also seems to me that there’s not much more than a cigarette paper between the essential criticism of Israel that both make (albeit Julian puts it rather more elegantly). It is certainly easier to be allowed to say these things if you have a Jewish background as he does, but I think we need to allow other people to speak as they find (Jenny Tonge too – a former MP of mine too when I lived in Richmond of whom I’m also inordinately proud, who famously put a picture of the West Bank wall on the front cover of her annual report to voters one year). The main criticism I would have of David is that he referred to ‘the Jews’ rather than the Israeli state – although it’s an understandable elision given that the state of Israel was set up as a homeland specifically for Jewish people. Anyone who has followed David will know he has spent time out in Israel/West Bank and seen at first hand what the conditions are that Palestinians live in – as has Julian – and it seems they have come to similar conclusions. I agree with David Allen that the response of the party seemed disproportionate and – as with Jenny – overly keen not to upset Israel, and underly keen to set out a robust critique of what Israel is doing.

  • Michael Parsons 26th Jan '13 - 12:57pm

    Since Israel is proclaimed as a homeland for “Jews” linking the two seems reasonable. Many Jewish people have grave doubts about Israel (apparently including Orthodox Jewish believers?) and our Party’s hair-trigger reaction to criticism of Israel and its illegalities and the “Palestinian Holocaust” might well seem to be a betrayal of liberal commitment to International Law and to freedom if speech (Brother, I disagree with every word you say but would die for your right to say it). It is also a betrayal of just the people many in this discussion are defending: the Jews as such; for when a they speak out t- andyou can read that easily in The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering [Paperback] Norman G. Finkelstein they come under attack. Finkelstein appears to have been hounded by activists – driven from employment , every attempt made to traduce and silence him.. Right or wrong he has a right to be heard. The name “holocaust” is pretty blasphemous anyway, since it means “a sacrifice to the Gods of animals by slaughter and fire ” more or less, I would have thought such a commemoration would warm the cockles of the heart of any participant in pogroms.

    Perhaps too we should widen the range of people whose sufferings might be commemorated as a holocaust? What about Cambodia? or Rwanda still waiting for legally qualified assistance to cope with thousands of cases.?

  • “Since Israel is proclaimed as a homeland for “Jews” linking the two seems reasonable.”

    But it’s not a question of just “linking the two”, is it? The question is whether it’s reasonable to accuse “the Jews” collectively of responsibility for the actions of the Israeli government, purely on the basis of their race.

    Are David Ward’s apologists really saying that is acceptable?

  • Charles Beaumont 26th Jan '13 - 2:20pm

    Mark V writes: “wading into the Israel/Palestine debate should be done with the utmost care and an understanding” and yet somehow he didn’t ‘notice’ that using the term “the Jews” might be offensive or even controversial. I speak Arabic and have lived all over the Middle East and many would characterise my instincts as Arabist but I took one look at Ward’s comments and thought “what the hell?!” First, don’t say “the Jews” when you mean “the Israelis”. Second, you can talk about inflicting atrocities but if you don’t even mention atrocious actions taken by the other side, you’ve allowed anyone to accuse you of bias. Third “on a daily basis”. Really?! It’s loose, ill-thought out, ignorant, unbalanced stupidity and Mark V should be able to figure that out. I have no idea whether David Ward is anti-Semitic but he certainly didn’t think hard before writing this.

  • Charles Beaumomt 26th Jan '13 - 2:41pm

    A simple thought experiment: substitute “the Jews” for any other non-defined group identity that that has suffered discrimination over the years (e.g, “the Blacks”, “the Muslims”, “the Asians”) and then see if it sounds rather, er, uncomfortable.

  • @Michael Parsons
    “Since Israel is proclaimed as a homeland for “Jews” linking the two seems reasonable. ”

    No. Al-Qaeda tell the world they are the true path of Islam does that make Al-Qaeda synonymous with Muslim ?

    It’s a racial stereotype of the type generally used by the ignorant (we assume he is not) or those wishing to offend or sensationalise..

  • Chris Beney 26th Jan '13 - 3:13pm

    My newspaper, the Independent, often refers to Israel as ‘the jewish state’. That always jars with me but it is technically true. Some people say David Ward should have said ‘the israelis’ instead of ‘the jews’. I understand that. But in referring to the holocaust I took it he was referring to those killed who were jews, not to those who were homosexuals or others. Saying in effect ‘Have you not, as jews, learned?’
    My brother-in-law is an israeli but not jewish, David Ward was not referring to him or his like, though he and his family happen to be very upset by the sufferings of the palestinians. So jew rather than israeli was in order, but open to misunderstanding.

  • Is it just possible that Mr Ward’s slim majority, large number of Muslim constituents and upcoming proposed boundary changes might have had something to do with his outburst? Surely not!

  • Charles Beaumomt 26th Jan '13 - 4:49pm

    Mark V, fully accept an innocent mistake. We’ve all made them. Maybe it’s because of personal familiarity with these issues, but I do find it surprising that an MP and a well-connected party activist could have fallen into such an obvious error. And the arguments that it’s a “Jewish state” so that’s OK are mind blowingly stupid and anyone who proposes it should be ashamed. If Saudi Arabia beheads a Philipino (as happened a few months ago) would we say, ‘once again the Muslims have enacted a horrific punishment after a totally inadequate judicial process. After all, it is an Islamic state.” Well, you could say that but it would clearly Islamophobia.

    Why is this a difficult concept to grasp?

  • Isn’t he just saying that all Jews, whether they live in Israel r not, should be the first to condemn what is happening in Palestine , given their history? We knw that there is a powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US and elsewhere. It’s not just about the Israeli government,, is it?

  • @ ColinW

    Ah, now I have seen the light two wrongs definitely make a right…

  • @ Phyllis

    Why? Why should one racial or religious group be compelled to act for any reason. People are individuals and can should be treated as such not “expected” to say or do certain things based upon crimes inflicted against their families or people who may be of no identifiable blood relation to them.

    Basic liberal stuff, people are individuals are have the right to be treated as such.

    @ Charles Beaumomt
    Quite right, Mark V missed something and when it was pointed out to him he accepted it and adjusted his argument in light of the new evidence. The problem is that David Ward had his error pointed out to him and did not accept his error instead reinforced it.

  • Charles Beaumont 26th Jan '13 - 6:15pm

    Phyllis: jews “should be the first to condemn … given their history”. So you’re saying that a group that has been victimised has a heavier obligation to call out other’s victimisation. I don’t follow. Perhaps Anglican Christians should be first to condemn as it’s the established religion of the UK, a country that did more than most to enable the state of Israel to come into being. Except of course most Anglicans aren’t in fact English…

  • He has now made the statement he should have made on Sky…

    http://davidward.org.uk/en/article/2013/654558/david-ward-mp-s-update-on-israel-palestine-comments

    If only he had done so earlier we could all have been talking rightly about the horrific situation he was trying to highlight.

  • Anthony Hawkes 26th Jan '13 - 8:15pm

    It is right and proper to support the right of Israel to exist. It is also right and proper to condemn the way that Israel treats the Palestinians. I thank Anthony (not me) for taking the time to list some of the many UN resolutions concerning Israel. I do not know anyone who has visited Palestine, including Mr Ward, who has not come back very angry with the injustice of it all. While his words may have been intemperate, I am extremely glad that Mr Ward has enough conviction to highlight a situation that is simply not acceptable.

    I have read Mr Ward’s apology and it seem fine to me. Is there anything left to argue about?

  • The apartheid claim regarding Israel is a fallacy. For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled how things were in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is.
    The most obvious focus for apartheid would be the country’s 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Baha’is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world center; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli law. Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population).
    In Iran, the Bahai’s (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren’t your members boycotting Iran? Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews – something no blacks were able to do in South Africa.
    Israeli hospitals not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theaters.
    In Israel, women have the same rights as men: there is no gender apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home.
    Irony is just now the Arab League actively encouraged Israeli Arabs to get out there and vote which is more than most Arabs can do in their own countries….

  • In his effort at damage control, David Ward has now said:: “In my comments this week I was trying to make clear that everybody needs to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.”

    Lesson of the Holocaust #1: When someone slanders the Jews, take it seriously.
    Have the Lib-Dems learned the lesson of the Holocaust? If they have, they’ll Kick David Ward out of the party.

  • It’s all in the timing. Appalling timing and crass insensitivity. Oh yes, and playing to the gallery in his constituency.

  • Richard Dean 27th Jan '13 - 1:52am

    Perhaps in the light of a liberal Sunday morning, Brian, you may realize that your comment is rather more insulting to Jewish people than you may have thought when making it.

  • “We can all make these kinds of mistakes; express ourselves poorly and then when criticised react overly defensively. But I hope after sleeping on it he will realise the best response to expressing yourself poorly is to clarify the meaning not to double down.”

    Psi, I often agree with you and once more I do here; I did not misunderstand, I realise the problem was not just a poor use of language, but then he his refusal to correct himself. However, I feel that as you state here, Ward’s refusal to correct himself was more out of defensiveness and probably outright panic than anything else. I just wished to point out to the previous poster why usage of one’s language is important and not just people being pedantic. Anyway, thankfully, he has now corrected himself.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '13 - 8:59pm

    Charles Beaumont

    So you’re saying that a group that has been victimised has a heavier obligation to call out other’s victimisation.

    Obligation, no, but I think there is a sort of expectation that people from a group which has suffered in some way when they were the underdogs would have a particular sensitivity to this issue when they are in control. Human nature being what it is, this never seems to be the case.

  • @Mohammed Shafiq
    Mohammed please explain to me why you use the term apartheid for Israel?
    For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled how things were in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is.
    The most obvious focus for apartheid would be the country’s 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Baha’is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world center; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli law. Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population).
    In Iran, the Bahai’s (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren’t you using the term apartheid re Iran? Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews – something no blacks were able to do in South Africa.
    Israeli hospitals not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theaters.
    In Israel, women have the same rights as men: there is no gender apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home.
    Irony is just now the Arab League actively encouraged Israeli Arabs to get out there and vote which is more than most Arabs can do in their own countries….

  • @Mohammed Shafiq
    Mohammed please explain to me why you use the term apartheid for Israel?
    Please see my previous comment on why this term is totally inaccurate.
    Thanks

  • David Ward has so done a Jenny Tonge. Dear readers please see Daniel Finklestein’s piece on page 19 of yesterday’s The Times for the clearest explanation of why, you will ever see.

  • Well said David Ward. It’s about time somebody in the Lib Dems tell the truth about Israel’s and brutal occupation of Palestine. If that offends the pro-Israel lobby so much the better.

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