Lib Dem Chief Whip on David Ward: “I do not intend to take further action in relation to the tweet”

David WardThree weeks ago, Lib Dem MP for Bradford East David Ward tweeted: “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes”. The following day he issued an apology, saying:

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.

That wasn’t quite the end of the matter, though. The Lib Dem disciplinary process required a meeting between the party’s Chief Whip, Don Foster, and David. That’s now taken place, and it’s been decided there will be no further action. The Yorkshire Post has published the statements issued by both:

In a statement released on Wednesday Mr Foster said: “In light of that apology, the assurance by David Ward that he would do all he could to ensure comments he made would be in a form that would be difficult to misinterpret, and that he will continue – in relation to the Israeli/Palestinian situation – to condemn violence on both sides and support moves for a cease fire, I do not intend to take further action in relation to the tweet.

“I am conscious that this decision will not satisfy some people. To them I would say, at a time of considerable international unease in the Middle East, comments have been made by politicians from all parties that have been unwelcome by some or other section of society.

“The question I have had to answer is not, did the comments by David Ward cause offence to some people (within the party or outside), but did they bring the party into disrepute?

David accepts that his tweet did cause offence to some people. He recognises that the use of Twitter as a form of communication can lead to misinterpretation and accepts the need for greater care in the future. However, I do not believe it was in any way anti-Semitic or motivated by anti-Semitic intentions and I do not believe his tweet brought the party into disrepute.”

Mr Ward told The Yorkshire Post he is happy to draw a line under the matter.

“This has been looked at very closely by the chief whip, and I’m delighted he has come to this conclusion,” Mr Ward said.

“The situation in Gaza is very difficult, it is a very controversial situation, I know everyone has a view on it but I’m happy that the chief whip has taken this decision, particularly in light of the anti-Semitic slurs which were made against me.

“I appreciate what is happening in Gaza is a controversial subject, and that people are generally either on one side or another and comments deemed to be critical by one side are regarded as unacceptable by the other.

“It is difficult to get into those arguments but the chief whip has taken all this into account and now I would like to draw a line under this.”

At the time I said I thought David Ward should immediately apologise or have the whip withdrawn. He did apologise so Don Foster’s decision seems reasonable. But David’s track record of making needlessly inflammatory statements generating all heat and no light is stacking up. Hopefully there won’t be a next time.

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

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  • He lives to offend another day, as he surely will.

  • The dude said a stupid thing in the heat of the moment. It happens. He’s allowed his opinion.

  • Meral Hussein-Ece 13th Aug '14 - 10:31pm

    David Ward has apologised. Almost 2000 civilians in Gaza have been killed. 470 children, 450k made homeless, schools, hospitals bombed, UN sanctuaries shelled in contravention of international law, & some people focus more about what someone tweeted in the heat of the moment. I seem to recall Cherie Blair saying something about what she could well have done if she lived in Gaza. Whatever happened to the freedom of speech we heard so much about recently? Or is that just selective?

  • This time he actually stopped and put down the shovel, which is a step forward. Time to move on.

  • The comment was unacceptable because Hamas is committed to the destruction of a democratic state and every Israeli person in it. This is what is never mentioned in the media. Read the Hamas Charter. Comments that justify Hamas’s firing of rockets also justify Israel’s retaliation. Until Hamas stop firing rockets and embedding their launchers amongst dense civilian populations the carnage in Gaza will never end. If Hamas was not committed to Israel’s total destruction the blockade of Gaza could be lifted. Israel is not just going to stand by and allow Islamic fundamentalists to complete what Hitler started. That is why all politicians should be sensitive in their remarks in this appalling situation.,

  • @Meral Hussein-Ece

    You seem to recall wrongly about what Cherie Blair said.

    Her comment is reported [by the BBC] to have been “As long as young people feel they have no hope but to blow themselves up, we’re never going to make progress, are we?’

    That is not at all the same as her ‘saying something about what she could well have done if she lived in Gaza.’ as you claim.

  • Which constituency did Cherie Blair represent again….
    There’s a huge difference between a member of the public saying something & an elected member of Parliament.

    It’s another case of LD good, everyone else but especially Labour, bad I’m afraid folks.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 14th Aug '14 - 9:27am

    I don’t into to get into extended exachanges on the Israeli line on Hamas, which inevitably justifies the wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians because the people of Gaza voted for Hamas eight years ago. Never mind they are the occupiers, & responsible for the security of the people they are occupying, and slowly starving. First- Israeli aggression way precedes this, and second, justifying this appalling collective punishment because of Hamas is in breach of the Geneva Convention. Here’s the Jerusalem Catholic Patriarch’s views on this: My colleagues Lord Alderdice and Lord Steele have eloquently & with great wisdom written that just as the UK had to talk to the IRA, who did not recognise N Ireland and sought the destruction of the British democratic establishment, then if they want peace, Israel will have to talk to Hamas.

  • Hilton Gray 14th Aug '14 - 9:58am

    As a UKIP supporter I have to agree with the outcome of this review. The point is that a man is entitled to his opinion no matter how “offended” some people may be with it, what was under scrutiny here was – did he bring the party in to disrepute? Now given the general mood world wide regarding the situation in Gaza, the answer would have to be, no. It does not matter one jot that Hamas is a terrorist organisation – and that they most definitely are! The wanton destruction and death rained down on the ordinary, unarmed citizenry of Gaza amounts to terror warfare as well, so neither side can claim the moral high-ground, and yet it is the people of Gaza paying the price for this evil lunacy! From personal experience I can tell you that there is no more powerful persuader against war than to see it up close. John Snows comments on Channel 4 when he got back from Gaza are a typical response to seeing the horrors of dismembered children, it doesn’t matter whether you are an Israeli supporter or a Palestinian supporter seeing the bodies of dead and wounded children etches itself in the brain and forever changes your perspective.

  • To All Commenter’s: Can we please refrain from talking about “offence” as if it were a crime! It is not a crime to offend someone. You have a right to be offended and I have a right to offend you, one mans meat and all that.

  • Good decision!

  • Meral Hussein Ece
    “just as the UK had to talk to the IRA, who did not recognise N Ireland and sought the destruction of the British democratic establishment, then if they want peace, Israel will have to talk to Hamas.”

    Quite apart from all the virulent anti-Semitism in the Hamas charter, which arguably goes so far as to call for genocide against the Jews (I’m not sure the IRA ever went quite that far), Article 13 of the charter states, rather unhelpfully :-

    “‘[Peace] initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement… Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam… There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.”

    Frankly I think your efforts would be better expended trying to get Hamas to ditch this kind of rubbish. Or better still, persuading the Palestinians to ditch Hamas altogether. Because at the moment, Hamas are one of the biggest barriers to the peaceful negotiated settlement we all crave.

  • @ fHilton Gray
    If Hamas really cared about the dead and wounded in Gaza then surely they would stop provoking the Israelis into retaliation?

  • I have previously recommended to readers of Lib Dem Voice the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It is the nearest thing to a liberal newspaper that I have seen in Israel. It is very pro Israel and very pro Peace. Its journalists are mostly Jewish, but it does have contributions from Arab and other writers. As an example in order to give those who are interested a liberal Israeli view of Hamas I would recommend the following article by Peter Beinart . Haaretz certainly is not a cheerleader for Hamas but it does try to understand it.

  • Don Foster made the correct decision and personally I am getting increasingly cheesed off that even within our own party people who dare to criticise Israel are immediately branded anti-Semitic.

  • A Social Liberal 14th Aug '14 - 5:20pm

    For once I agree with John Kelly. They did an interesting piece just a couple of days ago highlighting that the former interior minister of Hamas admitted that the terrorists used human shields intentionally

  • Tony Dawson 14th Aug '14 - 8:21pm

    Not just that, Robert. Note all the references in this series of postings to Hamas. The three youths ‘kidnapped’ (sic) and murdered, used as an excuse by Netanyahu & co foe escalation, including the burning to death of an Arab boy and beating up of his American cousin, were not taken by Hamas. David Ward never said he agreed with or supported Hamas. There is a massive and co-ordinated PR attempt to make those who criticise the Zionist stance today to try to link them with (a) Hamas and (b) anti-semiticism.

    The cynical exploitation of the dead youths by the Israeli political machine is probably best-described by award-winning Journalist Shlomi Eldar. Not quite the Reichstag fire but the same sort of thing. Pretending to look for ‘abductees’ for weeks, whipping up public hysteria, when the authorities knew they were dead ‘live’ on telephone as it happened:

  • @Stuart
    Likud as the lead party in the governing coalition in Israel does not want the two state solution. It does not want to negotiate with Hamas or anybody else. Just look at the Gaza solution of choice from Likud Knesset MK Moshe Flelin
    Politicians on both sides of the divide have let down the people of the region. Until external groups condemn violence from both sides, and stop bolstering the extremists on both sides, a solution will be impossible.

  • @Tony Dawson
    Saying that the three murdered youths were “not taken by Hamas” is a bit like saying someone murdered by the Continuity IRA was not murdered by the IRA, at least if this other article by Shlomi Eldar is to be believed :-

    According to Eldar, the boys were in fact murdered by members of a 10,000-strong “clan” described as a “rogue Hamas branch”. The exact status of this clan within Hamas is hazy; they are supposedly “known for identifying with Hamas”, and the Hamas leadership has refused to disassociate itself from them. However, according to Eldar, the clan has a long and ignoble history of defying the Hamas leadership by carrying out atrocities designed to cause maximum outrage in Israel whenever Hamas shows any sign of moving slowly towards a position of sanity and negotiation.

    Which is exactly what appears to have happened this time. Within two weeks of the establishment of a Palestinian unity government, seen widely as a positive step for the region, the three boys were murdered and all hell let loose. However stupid and indeed evil the Israeli government may have been in its reaction, there’s no getting away from the fact (if Eldar is correct) that this outcome is exactly what the perpetrators of the original killings had intended.

    And so it goes on and on. Both sides acting insanely, and both with no shortage of apologists in the west who are happy to take the side of one bunch of murderers against another.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem 14th Aug '14 - 10:54pm

    @ Geoff Crocker
    No. If you use cynically use human shields in the sure knowledge that your provocation will result in your enemy’s retaliation resulting in the death and injury of the shields that must be a war crime.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 15th Aug '14 - 10:10am

    @ Geoff Crocker

    “Is the UN to blame for offering such safe havens?”
    Of course not. But Hamas is to blame for continuing to fire rockets. Knowing that their rocket launchers are embedded in dense civilian populations and that the UN. Has established safe havens. To continue to fire rockets in such circumstances knowing that it will provoke a devastating response resulting in huge numbers of dead and injured must be a war crime when a ceasefire had been arrived at. The Liberal Democrats are all too ready to condemn Israel but are always happy to let Hamas off the hook. As for negotiating with Hamas the Hamas Charter expressly asserts that peace negotiations with the enemy will never be on the agenda and that the organisation is committed to the destruction of the Jews. Israel did the right thing and forcibly uprooted and removed its settlers from Gaza. It was rewarded by thousands of rockets being fired at its territory. In such circumstances what on earth do you think could be a proportionate response other than to try to destroy the launch sites for the rockets? If Hamas had not fired rockets and we’re genuinely prepared to consider a two state solution and not used its civilian population as human shields the appalling carnage could have been avoided.

  • @Geoff Crocker
    “Israel has another choice – to get to the negotiating table with Hamas.”

    So all Israel has to do is negotiate with people whose charter totally rejects the idea of negotiation, and furthermore calls for the “obliteration” of Israel.

    Can you see a flaw in your plan?

  • Mack(not a Lib Dem) 15th Aug '14 - 9:13pm

    The Haaretz article does not justify your central proposition that it is morally acceptable to use human shields to engage militarily with your enemy in the expectation that their moral sensibilities will prevent them from retaliating and then claim the moral high ground when your enemy does retaliate and causes massive casualties. That is cynical, immoral and a war crime. The Israelis cannot be blamed for Hamas’s immorality. The Haaretz article ignores Hamas’s connection to the Muslim brotherhood and it’s intention to create a caliphate. That’s precisely why Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt support Israel in its battle with Hamas and , like so many other countries, refuse to engage with the organisation. You may think me an uncritical supporter of Israel: I am not. I would like to see Israel behind its 1948 borders but giving succour to Hamas is never going to achieve that when Hamas is committed to the obliteration of Israel and incorporating Israeli land into a caliphate..

  • Mack(not a Lib Dem) 15th Aug '14 - 11:40pm

    @Geoff Crocker
    The ending of the blockade is Hamas’s short term aim but their long term aim is the destruction of the Jews. If the blockade is lifted an obstacle to their long term aim will have been removed. That is why Hamas always stresses it’s short term aims. They know that people are sympathetic to them even though they may be unsympathetic to their long term aims. Hamas’s threat is real, it is not rhetoric. Ask the relatives of those Israeli men, women and children who were blown to pieces by the so called martyrs and their suicide bombs which only the Israeli wall stopped. It seems to me that you do not appreciate the true nature of Hamas. The Israelis do: that is why the blockade will never be lifted until Hamas is defeated. The Israelis will never talk to Hamas.

  • Mack(not a Lib Dem) 16th Aug '14 - 8:37am

    @ Geoff Crocker
    “Hamas has little voice where it’s rockets are placed”

    Yes it does. It could chose not to place them at all, thereby saving the lives and limbs of the people it asserts that it cares so much about.

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