David Ward apologises for his tweet and calls for more action by world community to end humanitarian crisis in Gaza

David WardDavid Ward has apologised for last night’s tweet,  saying that he does not condone firing rockets into Israel. Here’s his statement in full:

I utterly condemn the violence on both sides in Israel and Gaza.

I condemn the actions of Hamas, and my comments were not in support of firing rockets into Israel. If they gave the opposite impression, I apologise.

However, while I defend the right of Israel to exist and defend itself, I will continue to speak out for the rights of the Palestinian people who are facing untold suffering. More must be done by the world community to end this humanitarian crisis and protect the families living in Gaza. I can understand their plight and desperation.

A cease fire in this conflict is essential. If we are to end the suffering, and establish a safer society for people in Gaza, the first step must be an end to violence on both sides.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said:

This is a categorical apology from David Ward. In light of this apology, the party and the whips will decide in due course if further disciplinary action should be taken.

The disciplinary process requires a meeting between the MP and the Chief Whip. Given that the Commons is now in recess, it is unlikely that that will happen in the immediate future.

It’s worth reminding ourselves what Nick Clegg had to say about the Israeli action in Gaza on last week’s Call Clegg:

No one can feel indifferent to the spectacle of this overcrowded, desperate, sliver of land, Gaza, where so many thousands of people are suffering.

I will always defend, and I’ve done it on this programme before, Israel’s right to respond, and to defend itself in the face of violence that is designed to terrorise Israeli citizens.

I’ve spoken out repeatedly about Israel’s very legitimate demands that Hamas and others recognise Israel’s right to exist, and to exist peacefully within its own borders, and provide security to its own citizens.

I really do think the Israeli response appears to be deliberately disproportionate, it is amounting now to a disproportionate form of collective punishment.  It is leading to a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is just unacceptable.  And, I really would now call on the Israeli Government to stop.

He added:

As someone who is a long standing defender of Israel’s right to defend itself, of Israel’s right to defend its values and its own citizens, it is not in the long run Israel’s own interests to see this festering humanitarian crisis get ever worse in Gaza.

Because, all it does, of course, in the long run, is act as a, kind of, almost as a sort of incubation, if you like, it incubates the next generation of violent extremists who want to do harm to Israel.

I was very annoyed by Ward’s tweet because it gets everyone talking about him and not about the actions of the Israeli Government which are about as brutal and callous as it’s possible to get. The UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights says that they may even amount to war crimes.  That’s where the debate should be focused.

Other Liberal Democrat parliamentarians seem to manage to convey their opposition to the Israeli Government’s actions much more effectively. I’d recommend following our Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece or Stephen Williams MP.

As is usual on posts about this issue, all comments will be pre-moderated.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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39 Comments

  • Daniel Jones 23rd Jul '14 - 3:06pm

    I fail to see how we can once again follow this pattern of ‘David Ward says something immensely stupid and offensive on the middle east, claims he is misunderstood when people take the actual meaning of his words, refuses to apologise, is rollocked and made clear the matter is serious, he admits a grudging apology (which sometimes he recants) and is allowed to get off freely’. But I’m sure we will, and I’m sure many members will be quite happy that David Ward gets away to be offensive another day under the Lib Dem bird and damn the damage he does to our party and to the cause he claims to support.

  • Clumsy and crass but not worthy of all this harrumphing. Macmillan-Scott’s comments were worse.

  • Matt (Bristol) 23rd Jul '14 - 3:19pm

    Daniel, whilst you have justificaiton for your irritation, there are other parallels with deeply, offensively outspoken individuals in other parties. How much tight power do you want a party to have over its MPs to protect its ‘message control’? At what point does it stop being a liberal party?

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Jul '14 - 3:23pm

    There is a fine line between trying to understand why people do as they do, and actually condoning it. I can very well see that if I were on either side here, the horrible things done by the other side might push me into doing horrible things back. I would hope that I would be able to rise above it, but that’s easy to say when you’re looking at it from the outside, isn’t it? I can see David Ward’s words in that sense, yes.

    To me, Twitter’s a disaster, because of the way it forces you to drop all subtleties and deeper explanations. I suggest don’t use it.

  • Kevin White 23rd Jul '14 - 3:36pm

    I would be utterly appalled if any further action was taken against David Ward.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 23rd Jul '14 - 3:45pm

    If anyone’s wondering what Stewart was referring to, former MEP Edward McMillan-Scott called the editor of the Jewish Chronicle a “prat” and made some quite rude comments about the Board of Deputies of British Jews. http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/07/lib-dems-david-ward-and-edward-mcmillan-scott-on-bombing-israel-and-disputatious-jews/

    McMillan-Scott has since deleted the tweet and apologised to Board of Deputies.It’s clear that they have previously crossed swords though, from his most recent tweet and he feels aggrieved by it all.

  • Russel McPhate 23rd Jul '14 - 4:03pm

    I think Matthew has it right, both in his understanding of the original tweet and his criticism of using Twitter to comment on such issues. What David Ward says is not all that different to the last paragraph of Nick’s quote from Call Clegg except that is probably more accurate. These conditions, created by Israel in Gaza, do not just “incubate” extremists they create them from ordinary Palestinians. Understanding this process is crucial to advancing peace and reconciliation in the region and it is not helpful if every time someone draws attention to this they are castigated – no matter how simplistic and unsubtle Twitter renders their pronouncements.

  • To me, Twitter’s a disaster, because of the way it forces you to drop all subtleties and deeper explanations

    Well said Matthew

  • My advice to the party – stop pampering to the lib dem friends of Israel – allow members to express their views on Palestine without removing the whip from anybody who dares to critercise Israel.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 23rd Jul '14 - 5:55pm

    Andi,

    Most of the party is critical of Israel. It’s about where you draw the line. I can’t fault what David said in his statement or in Parliament yesterday but he has made some really inappropriate tweets on three separate occasions now. He should follow Meral’s and Stephen’s examples. They keep the scrutiny on what Israel is doing and are so much more effective.

  • Philip Rolle 23rd Jul '14 - 6:11pm

    David Ward now says his comments were not in support of firing rockets into Israel. But that is clearly untrue. They very obviously were.

    If NIck Clegg does not remove the whip for this, it will strain credulity.

  • Leon Duveen 23rd Jul '14 - 6:25pm

    The choice is not be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine but being for peace or for the continuation of endlees cycles of violence.
    Neither side has much to be proud of from this current round, Israel can’t destroy Hamas and Hamas cannot help the people of Gaza by provoking Israel. We As a party should get behind the various mediation efforts to stop the violence from both sides and work to find a lo g term solution that meets Israel’s security needs and Gaza’s neeb for the blockade to be lifted.

  • Carol – let me tell you were I think we should draw the line. We should realise that Israel has been block aiding gaza so they cannot send ships out to bring materials in and an airport to bring people in (they do not need the egypt and israel crossing in to do that, they just need the port open and airport open but israel will not allow them because they want their land, gas, materials etc……rather than towing the pro israel lobby line and penalising those who speak out against israel, perhaps people should be critizing israel for its illegal blockade.

  • David was only saying what many are thinking….Hamas is an evil bunch but Israel does itself no favours by continuing to stretch its boundaries and providing Hamas with justification. Just as other people have said in the past, one can understand ,if not condoning rocket firing as a means of making ones point.

  • Tony Greaves 23rd Jul '14 - 7:09pm

    Politicians should simply not use Twitter. Full stop.

    But when the PM announces changes to his government on Twitter, what hope is there for a return to sanity?

    Tony

  • Stephen Hesketh 23rd Jul '14 - 7:53pm

    Tony Greaves 23rd Jul ’14 – 7:09pm
    “Politicians should simply not use Twitter. Full stop.”

    To be honest, I just don’t see the attraction unless you have a problem with filling your time or keeping your fingers and thumbs still!

    I sometimes see the LDV Team tweets and think “Why?”

    The fact that these are also placed above Bloggers, Recent Comments and Flock Together leaves me bemused.

  • Helen Dudden 23rd Jul '14 - 7:58pm

    So this MP gets away with it again.

    For many years I have been a part of this religion. There are the Jews for Gaza.

    Not understanding what is happening, so unlike those on your page I can’t comment. There is enough comments coming from your web page.

  • Matthew – Can I, just for a moment, break site rules, and be a little rude? I don’t think you could manage less than 140 characters for tweet length! I am of course, a fine one to talk, and I don’t like Twitter and don’t use it either.

  • Michael Parsons 23rd Jul '14 - 8:32pm

    In any conflict both sides have claims to justification, otherwise they wouldn’t fight. But perhaps seeing the Gaza conflicts as a “two State, two sides” thing is already outdated. The Jewish population in Israel itself, let alone Palestine as a whole, appears to be in a minority already. The idea that the area can be a State just for Jews, or run by Jews, (racist or not as that may be is not at issue here) seems untenable for the near future. The idea that a Palestine under democratic majority ( so non-Jewish?) rule should offer a home for Jewish people just as England does might be the more sensible solution to work for? The sooner attacks on or from Gaza are superseded by national unification the better, Federal or otherwise, it would seem. Same for Ireland?

  • jedibeeftrix 23rd Jul '14 - 8:50pm

    does david understand what a proportionate response would be? Perhaps, but i rather think he believes israel should not respond at all:

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danhodges/100281103/israels-critics-dont-want-a-proportionate-response-in-gaza-they-want-no-response-at-all/

  • Right now a lot of Palestinians have no clothes as the IDF have bombed their homes so are walking around naked. At the forthcoming lib dem conference in September, I asked all lib dems to attend without wearing clothes to highlight the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza.

  • Clegg made a balanced comment on the situation. He began with a criticism of Hamas, then followed with what could be viewed as a greater criticism of Israel.

    Ward made an unbalanced comment. He took sides.

    Now, if we were talking about the Second World War, I would prefer to hear an unbalanced comment. I would not be very impressed by a commentator who chose to point out that since Mr Churchill did some bad things like the bombing of Dresden, both sides should be criticised.

    Much the same applies to the Israel – Palestine conflict.

  • Barney Rubble 24th Jul '14 - 9:16am

    Caron,
    you say “Most of the party is critical of Israel”,
    but is there any criticism voiced by senior party members of the prominent Israeli politicians who are effectively calling for Palestine to be wiped off the map eg Naftali Bennett and Danny Danon etc

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 24th Jul '14 - 9:33am

    Getting it right (in my opinion): Nick Clegg gets it right for balanced comment, Matthew and others for pointing to the dangers of Twitter, and Michael for posing an interesting beacon for working towards a future together in Palestine and Israel (this last not looking possible while violence continues as it is).

    I have friends in both countries and we all want peace and reconciliation. Unfortunately, the forms of democracy don’t seem to work for the majorities of both societies. This pains us all, especially as the more violent elements seem to become the leadership in the more volatile parts of the world. It should worry us all that volatility itself draws voters to the more extreme political parties. How does that work out?

    Peace-loving people need to step up more and campaign openly for peace; we all have to re-learn how to campaign for moderation, respect and all the finer values we cherish – in a public way. Unfortunately again, generally the negative attitudes including violence get most media attention but not peace and moderation. So the media also feeds extreme views by putting focus on the bad news instead of on the good news. How to adjust the balance of reporting?

  • Nick Tregoning 24th Jul '14 - 9:41am

    Twitter cannot transmit nuance easily. Consequently, it is a distorting lens by which to view another person’s thoughts on any complex issue. David Ward’s comments are badly expressed, granted. What he is trying to express isn’t. Is it really so incomprehensible that an individual who feels oppressed over a considerable length of time might not resort to violence against the person or persons doing the oppressing? Is it therefore incomprehensible that whole groups of people might feel the same way? Many who percieve their situation to be hopeless, their lives constrained at every turn, and their suffering to be endless, will take up arms in anger and desperation. Can we really say that we would not do so in similar circumstances ? I can’t.
    Not everybody is a Mahatma Ghandi.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Jul '14 - 10:18am

    Tim13

    Matthew – Can I, just for a moment, break site rules, and be a little rude? I don’t think you could manage less than 140 characters for tweet length!

    Of course I could. If I had more time I could write at a much shorter length.

    What you see on LDV from me is what comes out first, stream of consciousness stuff. If I were submitting it say to a newspaper letters page I would spend ages trying to cut it down while thinking carefully about how it comes across and making sure I’ve kept the sense and any necessary caution.

    If I had to express things in 140 characters, I could, although it would require very careful thought as to how to use it. However, what seems to happen usually is that people just send these short things without much thought.

  • Barney Rubble –
    Never have I heard Naftali Bennett “effectively calling for Palestine to be wiped off the map “. On the conterary, he offers full state in the Gaza stip, and “self-govrenment” in the west bank. That is, short of a sovriegn state by not having a military force, basiclly. It is defently not the Lib-Dem fav’ solution, however, it is far from “effectively calling for Palestine to be wiped off the map “.
    I’m affraid it is only in the Hamas charter where you can read horrible things about the future of “the jews” (as they call it), hardly will you find something like that everywhere is Israel.

  • Barney Rubble 24th Jul '14 - 10:53am

    Abdullah,
    well people in the West may not know that this is Bennett’s view – that says more about western media I’m afraid than Bennett’s unsavoury opinions. Certainly his Knesset colleague MK Mitzna knows his views and has compared the policies of his Jewish Home party to those of Hamas ! http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/182205#.U9DVDONdW3E
    (notice that Netanyahu says Mitzna’s views are dishonest but tellingly does not contradict them by giving an instance of Bennett accepting Palestine’s right to exist).
    Bennett has been very clear : “I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state,” he says of the Palestinians. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/01/21/the-party-faithful
    If you know of some occasion where he has renounced that opinion I’d be interested (as I say Netanyahu apparently couldn’t find one)
    and yes there are “horrible things” even in Israel
    “Israeli Peace Demo Violently Disrupted, Dozens Injured as Counter-Protesters Yell “Death to Arabs””
    http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/21/israeli_peace_demo_violently_disrupted_dozens
    or Ovadia Yosef – In 2001 Yosef was quoted as saying of the Arabs: “It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.”

  • With all do respect to Mr. Mitsna’s comparison, the fact that he said something, does not make it correct.
    To compare well between the two movements you should read thier charter, the laws they offer, and so on…
    Did you do so? I did, it is nothing alike.
    Of course, there are many “horrible things” in every country.
    I ment, no political party equivalent to Hamas is found on the Kenneset.
    However, Hamas has recieved some 45% of the votes in the last election held (2006). The “horribles” in Israel never recieved enough votes to get in…
    In any event, in the interviews you sent, Bennet refers to the west benk (it is done after to 2005 withdrawl from Gaza). And Mr. Yosef is allready dead, so I don’t think he is relevant.

    In general I think that if Gazans wants to lift the blockade (and so do I), they have to stop Hamas from firing rockets and digging attacks channels into sovriegn Israel. Blockade wasn’t there before Hamas came to power. They should topple the Hamas regime, like it was done in many arabs countries. And then demand opening the border with Egypt, starting to reheb. thier (de facto) country. We in europe (and UK in specific) should back them up and provide them with money and thechnology. This will enable long lasting peace between Israel and Gaza.

  • Barney Rubble 24th Jul '14 - 12:35pm

    I’m afraid, with respect, Abdullah you’ve nowhere given any evidence that shows Bennett (or Danon) accept Palestine’s right to exist – I’ve given plenty that they don’t – just saying Mitzna is wrong does’nt make it so

    “The “horribles” in Israel never recieved enough votes to get in…”
    well Bennett is a government minister – and Yosef – although now dead – was the spiritual leader of Shas when it was part of the government.
    re the blockade – there have been many rocket ceasefires in the last few years – none have led to the end of the blockade
    in fact as an Israeli study shows “Previous cease-fire agreements, like the one brokered by Egypt in June of 2008 were shattered by extrajudicial assassinations carried out by Israel.”
    http://blog.thejerusalemfund.org/2014/02/israelgaza-cease-fire-dynamics-breakdown.html

  • Lib Dem Candidate 24th Jul '14 - 4:11pm

    One fundamental problem is that Hamas is to Palestinian politics what the Klu Klux Klan is to American politics. Hamas deliberately uses innocent Palestinians as human shields and deliberately sites missiles under hospitals, mosques, etc – both acts that are war crimes in the eyes of the law, as is the act of indiscriminately firing missiles at Israeli civilians.

  • So if you want one example of how radical Hamas is, here a quotation from its charter:
    (warning- it is a hard to read text):
    “The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, ‘O Muslims, O god’s slave, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'”

    If you could find a paralel in “the jewish home”‘s charter, I’ll receive the comparison, If not, than, I guess, it is not correct to compare the two.
    So even if they oppose two states solution, (but leaning for self govrenment), there is still no room for comparison.
    Should there be an Israeli party waiting for the judgment day to kill all muslims, getting 45% of votes, I’ll agree with you.

    As for Yosef, his party Sash, was the hinch of the Oslo accords coalition, (led by late PM Y.Rabin), so any comparison, between them and Hamas is not relevant.

    As for “extrajudicial assassinations “- this is the opion for very small minority of the law community. The vast majority, like prof. A.Dershowitz of Harvard law school, see “targeted eliminations” as a ligitimate military strategy under Intl’ law. (Read his book “The case for Israel”). The method is widely use by NATO forces in Afghan, and coalition in Iraq. See of example the “targeted eliminations” of : Osama Bin Laden, Abu Musaab al Zarqawi, Uday and Qusai Hussin, and many others. This means that this method is approved by the NATO legal dept. and by the many other westren countries.

    Anyways, there is a group, openly calling for eliminating “all jews”, buying rockets and digging attack tunnels. Do you think in is fair to ask the Israelis to wait until they are attacked ? No wonder they imposed a blockade, we would have done the same. Pres, Kennedy did the same.
    I think it is a fair thing is the ask the Gazan to get rid of Hamas, as a step towards peace.
    Indeed, the comparison to KKK is a correct one….

  • Helen Dudden 25th Jul '14 - 8:06am

    The further comments by McMillan-Scott, did only further to offend.

    I would say to anyone who is being paid a generous amount out of the public purse, should rethink their attitudes.

    I hope this man is reminded that it his responsibility to be non-judgmental in his workings and this goes for all the MP’s involved. He should also look to what is happening in other countries.

    After 21 years, so glad I left your Party.

  • well, Abdullah, ths closest you’ve got to answering my point is this
    > So even if they oppose two states solution, (but leaning for self govrenment)
    I’m afraid they are clearly leaning for Palestine to be wiped off the map, no suggestoin in that plan of anything different – that “Bantustan” self government won’t work in Palestine and it didn;’t work in South Africa, Its certainly well short of a viable Palestinian state – you only seem to be agreeing with me !
    Frankly (many ) Israelis (inc politicians) want the land but not the people – if they could get away with ethnically cleansing the Palestinians to Jordan they could – ineassassinated minster Rehavam Ze’evi “repeatedly called for Arabs to be transferred out of the state and is notorious for using the line: ‘Let the Arabs go back to Mecca'”.
    Some 46 percent of Israel’s Jewish citizens favor transferring Palestinians out of the territories, while 31 percent favor transferring Israeli Arabs out of the country, according to the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies’ annual national security public opinion poll
    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/more-israeli-jews-favor-transfer-of-palestinians-israeli-arabs-poll-finds-1.50646

    and, with respect, you’re simply deflecting from the point with your attempts to quote from the Hamas charter to show that Hamas are a bad lot.
    Yes I’m afraid to answer that point that there are plenty of unpleasant elected people in the Knesset again we can start with Bennett who not only wants the Palestinian state destroyed but gloats:
    “I’ve killed many Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that,” and of course, to save his career and to attempt to paint himself as respect able he then claimed ‘oh I meant in miltary ops’

    And I’ve already discussed Ovadia Yosef spiritual leader of Shas and his hatred of arabs !

    Or Moshe Feiglin, deputy epaker of the Knesset, who lauded an extremist settler, Baruch Goldstein, over his killing of 29 Palestinian Muslims in a mosque in the Cave of the Patriarchs — a massacre Feiglin called “an act of resistance”

    or Rafael EItan Chief of Staff of the IDF, and later as Knesset member and government minister “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle.”
    I could go on .. what other democracy has elected politicians making these statements !
    you can argue about comparisons with Hamas and the degree of horribleness and whether its in an official charter or not but really you should be roundly condemning these politicians in the same way we condemn Hamas.

    So my point remains we remember Blair being “repulsed” when Ahmadinajad made remarks re Israel – where is the disgust and condemnation and even better action from any senior LD or other UK politician re these Israeli statements and policies ???

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Jul '14 - 10:02am

    Helen Dudden

    After 21 years, so glad I left your Party.

    But McMillan-Scott was not speaking on behalf of the party. Party members express views across the range on this matter.

    I really can’t stand this attitude towards politics which just assumes every political party is run on Leninist lines, so if any party member happens to say something it is assumed that person must be expressing The Party Line, so whatever it is that person said, it must be The Party Line and therefore what must be the opinion of every other member of the party, or rather they don’t have opinions, they just robotically follow what The Leader tells them.

    It was something that alway got me so annoyed when I was actively involved in campaigning for the Liberal Democrats. Whenever I expressed my opinion on something, the assumption was that whatever it is I said must be “The Liberal Democrat position”, when that was never the case. I am in the Liberal Democrats because its general policy line follows (or at least used to follow until the Orange Bookers took over the leadership) my own opinion. However that never meant what I said was said because it was “The Party Line”. Quite often even when I was a keen and active member of the party, my opinion on a particular issues was not the official party policy. If I ever did express support for a policy that was the one held by the Liberal Democrats it would always be because I had myself thought it through and come to that conclusion, not because I switched my opinion to support it as it was “The Party Line”.

    So, what, actually, do you mean by your comment, Helen? Why do you follow up mentioning a comment by an individual member of the party, which is not in accord with any sort of official party policy, and is not the general opinion held by most members in the party, with this denouncement of the party as a whole? If McMillan-Scott was typifying more general attitudes in the party, ok, you would have a point. But he isn’t, is he?

  • Helen Dudden 25th Jul '14 - 6:50pm

    Hello, only meeting McMillan-Scott on one occasion in London when it was concerning the EU, I could not comment.

    But a little surprised, he should be addressing his issues, in such a distasteful fashion.

    He rose to the defense of David Ward and I thought that not thoughtful.

  • Jonathan Pile 25th Jul '14 - 8:45pm

    David Ward was right to apologise for comments which seemed to advocate violence but expressed righteous dismay at the targeting of civilian children by a democratic military power. Neither side is right in this . There can be no peace until the rockets stop firing. Perhaps it is time for Egypt to send troops to Gaza to protect civilians and end rocket attacks and to end the cycle of violence and protect Palestinians . It might give Hamas pause for thought and end a futile and destructive stand off . Any public authority in Gaza needs to reject terror .

  • Helen Dudden 26th Jul '14 - 4:03pm

    I understand he has apologized on two occasions for similar comments and escaped with staying within the Government.

    He should be removed from office, end of subject, as with any other MP who wishes to make comments in the same fashion.

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