Welcome apology and clarification from David Ward MP

David WardEarlier this evening, David Ward MP, on his website, issued the following apology and clarification regarding his remarks on Friday.

This is very welcome.

My criticisms of actions since 1948 in the Palestinian territories in the name of the State of Israel remain as strong as ever.

In my comments this week I was trying to make clear that everybody needs to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.

I never for a moment intended to criticise or offend the Jewish people as a whole, either as a race or as a people of faith, and apologise sincerely for the unintended offence which my words caused.

I recognise of course the deep sensitivities of these issues at all times, and particularly on occasions of commemoration such as this weekend.

I will continue to make criticisms of actions in Palestine in the strongest possible terms for as long as Israel continues to oppress the Palestinian people.

David Ward

Member of Parliament for Bradford East

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist in Newbury and West Berkshire. He is Photo Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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28 Comments

  • That’s fair enough. Glad he’s reconsidered and issued this apology.

    If it were me, I’d also want to draw a distinction between the state of Israel itself and some of its truly appalling leaders over the years. There have been some very reasonable, honourable leaders (Rabin springs to mind, for example) and I wouldn’t blame the entire population of the country any more than the people of the UK are to blame for the actions of Blair or Thatcher. But he does have a valid point about the deliberate oppression of the Palestinian people by the political leadership in Israel in recent years.

  • Totally 100% agree with his revised, corrected viewpoint. No criticism of the (often disproportionately violent) actions of the Israeli state should ever be conflated with criticism of those of jewish faith generally. To do so is to fall into the trap of zionists, who automatically categorise the two together, thus allowing them to paint anything said against Israel as being anti-semitic. After all, if I criticise something done by India, that does not make me anti-Hindu, does it?

  • I would like to share a link which was posted earlier by Suzanne Fletcher within a comment on an article by Julian Huppert about Holocaust Memorial Day and a response to his fellow MP, David Ward.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oCKWDarNdGw
    After watching most of this video, I am none too certain Mr. Ward’s apology is that “welcome” – although, presumably, The Voice judges it to be so.

  • I suppose it was inevitable that even after Ward himself apologised there would still be some who would continue to miss the point completely, and carry on defending what he said …

  • Richard Dean 26th Jan '13 - 8:07pm

    One of the problems does seem to be that we have not learned from the holocaust. Have we understood how a normal society could lead to such things? Where are the unbiased studies that extract principles from events? Do we know how to avoid repeating a holocaust? Do we implement that learning in our politics today?

  • Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. However Israel is repeatedly referred to as a “Nazi” state. In what sense is this true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps? The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nuremberg Laws? The Final Solution? None of these things nor anything remotely resembling them exists in Israel, precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth, understand what Nazism stood for.
    Calling Jews Nazis is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.
    It is claimed that there has been an Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (or elsewhere). Where? When? No honest historian would treat that claim with anything but the contempt it deserves. But calling Jews Nazis and saying they have committed a Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.
    Likewise apartheid. 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.
    If you are going to condemn Israeli persecution you should equally condemn other persecution in the world but Mr Ward just seems to speak out vehemently against the Jewish State. Would Mr ward also condemn the USA for the daily atrocities of drone bombings in Pakistan killing scores of innocent people made possible by British Intelligenge Reports on targeting? Shame on you Mr Ward.

  • Well finally. At least he managed to do it before tomorrow. This should have come on friday, but atleast it has now been made and give it a few days and things will move on.

    It is sad to have read some of the opinions that have been made in defence of the origional comments on the other LDV thread, I would expect that some people would have understood the reason why the origional language was unacceptable.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 26th Jan '13 - 8:39pm

    The motivation and actions of the Nazi regime, and that of some of their Allies, towards the Jewish people’s of Europe, and the motivation and actions of the Israeli State, towards the people’s of Palestine is very different, and drawing a comparison will only lead to even further misunderstanding and disorientation.

    I am not for one minute saying that the behaviour of one is less abhorrent than the other, but there are distinct differences. For one thing, the latter is not driven by ideological hatred of, and a desire to eliminate off the face of the planet an entire ethnic or/and religious group.

    If we are truly trying to build positive relationships between differing communities in this country we cannot afford to become partisan, and demonise one group over another merely because they are somehow ethnically or religiously connected with the citizens of another Sovereign State, that is abusive.

    Demonising all Jews for the intolerance of some in Israel, is akin to that which happened post-9/11 to Muslims, when they were, and many would argue that they still are, irrationally looked upon with suspicion by some as terrorists, merely because they share the same religion of some cranks who shrouded their murderous actions with the respectability of a faith.

    There are many lessons that we can learn from the period that has become known as the Holocaust, so lets try to learn the positive ones, rather than replicating the intolerance that led to the death of almost six million Jews, and that of the millions of other people’s as well.

  • Sweeping generalisations are dangerous as David Ward has found out to his cost. However I hope this gaffe will not detract from the core of his message that grave injustices are taking place in Palestine . Neither side has clean hands but that is no justification to stand aside and condone what is going on . If the West distances itself or worse than that if we intervene with an unbalanced attitude , others such as Iraq will step in and the whole world will find themselves involved. If David Ward has alerted us to realisation that we are sleepwalking into another war, I, for one, will accept his apology

  • Daniel Jones 26th Jan '13 - 9:04pm

    It is good that he has apologised, but as earlier contributors say – perhaps a little too late. The fact he defended so strongly his words until the better part of two days had passed shows, in my view, a great deal of ignorance.

    In answer to Richard Dean, we do study the Holocausts and genocide more widely, and other atrocities, and seek to understand the whys, hows and learn lessons from this. There are many great academic books and articles, and entire fields of study devoted to it. The problem is that there still isn’t a great communication between the academic circles and the Government, or even our party.

  • Richard Dean 26th Jan '13 - 9:12pm

    One of the lessons of the holocaust is that individuals have rights. This lesson was written down in the European Charter of Human Rights. It was hoped that, by explicitly stating what those rights were, questions would be raised when they began to be violated for individuals, and so well before they began to be violated for groups.

    It seems to many observers that the conflict between peoples in and round Israel does involve serious violations of human rights, and that observers do take action, may at some stage need to take stronger action, to prevent this from escalating into the same type of tragedy – for Arabs or for Jews – as happened to Jews in the holocaust.

  • Paul Walter 26th Jan '13 - 9:52pm

    @Sean Blake
    “I am none too certain Mr. Ward’s apology is that “welcome” – although, presumably, The Voice judges it to be so.”

    I erroneously posted this originally under “The Voice” tag and this was corrected soon after publication. Sincere apologies. The “very welcome” comment represents my opinion here only.

  • Richard Dean 26th Jan '13 - 10:22pm

    Another lesson might be that it is dangerous to create social cohesion for a group by fostering a sense of moral superiority over other groups.

    Groups have done this throughout history. Jewish people did it in Moses time, through the idea of a chosen people. That idea was probably essential in order to get people through the ordeal of the Exodus from Egypt. Europeans used superiority to justify appalling behaviours against Africans and Native Americans, who were characterised as savages. Bad leaders in Germany pre-1945 did it through the idea of a pure Aryan race. Victorian capitalists did it to justify their capitalism, through the idea that poor people were uneducated and dishonest. Men did it to women in arguing against universal suffrage on the grounds that women are too emotional to make be trusted with a vote.

    Sociologists do have some rudimentary theories about this, with ideas like folk devils and demonisation. Liberals argue against it through ideas of equality and social mobility. They are ideas that can save lives!

  • Richard, I think you’ll find that there’s a lot of doubt as to whether there ever was an Exodus or whether Moses was a person. Of course, these myths have power and influence people (of all sorts of religions) today, but speaking of them as if they were historical facts, and can be used to explain the ethnogenesis of the Jewish people (an extremely complicated question, by the way – and possibly an insoluble one) is very questionable. At any rate the notion that Jews generally see themselves as “morally superior” is an antisemitic canard, and ought not be raised in this context.
    In Germany and Italy, militant nationalism was an overcompensation for the fact that the German and Italian nations were basically modern inventions. Germany had been, in effect, a haphazard conglomeration of independent states until 1871, and many German-speakers lived outside it; it was starkly divided by linguistic variation and religious differences. Italy had come into existence only a decade earlier, and didn’t even have a common language or culture (literary Italian was a foreign language to everyone outside of central Italy). When you can’t justify national cohesion historically, you invent all sorts of myths (about Kultur, race, and so forth) to take its place. The more divided a nation is internally, the more attractive the myth of nationalism becomes: the argument is not, at least initially, “Let’s go beat the foreigner because we are better than they,” but “Let’s go beat the foreigner because it will distract us from beating each other.”
    There’s a bit of a warning in that, of course.

  • Richard Dean 26th Jan '13 - 10:48pm

    The ideas that the Exodus is a myth and that Moses did not exist would probably be a bit shocking to many, particularly to those whose religions assert that they were real!

  • It’s hardly shocking to students of Ancient Near East history and religion.

  • Richard Dean 26th Jan '13 - 11:37pm

    Ok, David, it’s just shocking to most Christians, most Jews, and most Moslems. But is historical fact, if that is what it is, actually relevant? It is the beliefs of living people that determine their actions, not historical truths.

    My memory is fading, but, like many, I was taught that Moses brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and along the way convinced them they were the Chosen People and delivered to them the Ten Commandments.Perhaps I got confused, but I was also taught that this was what Jews, Moslems, and I think Buddhists also believe.

    If Moses is a myth, what is the status of those Commandments?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chosen_people
    http://jbuff.com/c081502.htm

  • Douglas harper 27th Jan '13 - 2:14am

    David wards comments may have been over the top but the continuing occupation of the west bank can easily be compared to the nazis occupancy of Poland etc to give land to their own people through the barrel of the gun. I am not and have never been anti semetic and support there rough justice of exteemistic violent Hamas leaders as the legal approach is implausible but this is no excuse for the west bank occupation. Balfour regretfully has a lot to answer for. The Jewish nation should have been given part of Germany and austria at the end of ww2 as their homeland this would at least have been just. what did the Palestinians do to deserve the cleansing of their rights?

  • Richard, I did say “Of course, these myths have power and influence people.” But I believed you were trying to make an historical argument about how the Jews “create[d] social cohesion… in Moses’ time”; if so, then the historical reality of your assertion is relevant.
    I really do not know what you may have learned in whatever church you attend or have attended in the past, but my experience is that most ministers, pastors, priests, and rabbis too, emerge from their schooling with a healthy degree of skepticism as to the historical reality of much of the Bible, particularly those parts which claim to describe events prior to or not confirmed by recorded history. Professional historians of the period tend to be even more skeptical. Of course I do not assert that the entirety of the story of the Exodus is false; but rather that it cannot be demonstrated, and therefore cannot be assumed to be true. Indeed, it is difficult to make it work with what we know of the political, cultural, and linguistic history of Egypt and the Ancient Near East.
    We are therefore dealing with a myth — written centuries after the events it purports to describe — whose underlying reality, if any, cannot be ascertained. Certainly the myth records the Jewish belief that they had a special relationship with their God. No doubt the Moabites believed themselves to have a special relationship with Kemosh, and the Canaanites with the deity El. It is not something peculiar to the Jews.
    That the adoption of Yahweh as the national god of the Hebrews (or vice versâ) occurred as described in Exodus may be doubted; it is certain that it took a much longer time than traditionally presented for Yahweh to become the sole deity. But by the time the legal elements of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers were being written, his status as supreme god and giver of laws had been established, or at least was in the process of being established.
    The emphasis in the myth of Yahweh’s “choice” of the Jews is on the special qualities of the God, not on that of the Hebrews. There is nothing in the myth to select a belief in Jewish moral superiority — quite the reverse, in fact. Rather, it is by an act of divine supremacy that Yahweh picks the Jews out of all the nations in spite of their various failings; a not unmixed blessing, according to the Biblical narrative.
    The commandments (by which I suppose you refer by synecdoche to the entire covenant code) are simply what they are. If you believe they come from God, then it hardly matters where or when they were received. If you don’t believe that, then you can consult various works comparing the Jewish legal system with that of the Akkadians, the Hittites, and other peoples of the Ancient Near East.
    But since you prefer to regard all these laws as part of a clever propaganda campaign by Moses (who might not have existed) to unify the Jews in response to a captivity in Egypt (which might not have happened) and an Exodus (which might not have happened), I’m guessing that you don’t have much use for the religious interpretation of these matters. However, most historians of the period would regard your “historical” interpretation as just as mythical as the usual religious interpretation, if not more so.

  • David Ward refers to the Jewish people as a ‘race’. This is incorrect: Jewish people are an ethnic group. I’m not criticising David, but it is important to get this right because the use of the word ‘race’ in this context is not only erroneous but also has unpleasant historical resonances.

  • Richard Dean 27th Jan '13 - 11:19am

    Most people here probably know what is meant by the Ten Commandments, though perhaps not what they are! It’s certainly interesting to learn that Moses may be a myth, but scholars do seem to raise this type of question about a lot of things don’t they? Including about the holocaust. Here is what Wikipedia says:

    The … historicity of the Exodus … has long been debated, without conclusive result.

    Put another way, someone raised a question about whether it was true, and scholars have not been able to decide one way or the other. Clever people, these scholars! :-) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses

  • The crucial point is that theoriginal use of “The Jews” suggests an inability to grasp the most fundamental tenets of Liberalism – that we people as individuals, responsible for their own actions or inactions. The recent Israeli elections show a country split down the middle on whether to make war or peace, “The Jews lumps them all in together. Its directly equivalent to saying “The Palestinians” keep murdering Israelis & other Palestinians. Its getting “The Lessons” of The German Holocaust completely wrong.

  • @ David “Of course I do not assert that the entirety of the story of the Exodus is false; but rather that it cannot be demonstrated, and therefore cannot be assumed to be true.”

    of course it can be assumed to be true! It may be a wrong assumption, but that’s a different point altogether.

  • Dominic, another thread here has referred to “what is wrong with political culture today”. Your comment illustrates another aspect of this, ie that people focus blame on politicians, instead of on people, where after all, the views, prejudices and cultures reflected by politicians, emanate from. Of course Israel’s politicos reflect the views of a lot of people in Israel – they wouldn’t be elected if they didn’t.

  • Richard Sykes 29th Jan '13 - 12:21pm

    The Bradford Telegraph & Argus today reports that “After a meeting with [Liberal Democrats chief whip] Mr Carmichael last night, the chief whip issued a letter saying: “I am strongly of the view that your use of the phrase ‘the Jews’ in this context was unacceptable and I formally censure you for that.”
    Spoken as a (perhaps former) Liberal Democrat voter, would the the party be so brave as to state what it regards as the correct “use of language” in these circumstances? Does the party accept the use of the language “the Jews” with reference to Holocaust victims? Does the party, for example when speaking of WWII, accept the use of the language “the Germans”?
    It is fashionable these days to say ‘yes’ to everyone, but fear will lead you a merry dance, and only reveal a lack of foundation. Will the party ever get to the heart of the matter if it, out of politeness, denies free, factual and reasoned speech?

  • When door stepped by a lib dem candidate my 2 word answer for not voting for them used to be “Jenny Tonge”. David Ward’s myopic one sided apology still leaves my door step conversation still to 2 words.

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