Opinion: Beware conflating offence with racism – Don’t demand David Ward’s expulsion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently saw for the first time the new monument commemorating the sacrifices paid by the men of RAF Bomber Command during World War II. It was a moving memorial, as well as an interesting one. We don’t celebrate the deliberate firebombing of German cities these days: we are thankfully queasy about the thought of the mass targeting of civilians. But the erection of this monument shows that although we – uncomfortably perhaps – understand that those fighting that awful war were compromised morally by their actions, we nevertheless sympathise with those who believed that the missions they flew had some military and economic justification.

I ask people to bear this in mind when considering whether or not David Ward should have the whip withdrawn for his tweets expressing sympathy with Gazans (some of whom are) firing rockets at Israeli cities. Some – many – will find the implications of what he says offensive. But we should be careful about citing offense as justification for the sacking of our political representatives. Especially as liberals.

As others have said, we would not call for the expulsion of an MP who expressed sympathy for Israelis motivated to extend their period of military service in reaction to the rockets fired from Gaza. We do not call for the expulsion of MPs who defend sales of British arms to Israel, even though we know there is a strong likelihood of their being used against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories.

David Ward did not say that the rockets fired by Hamas were brilliant, ethical or an effective military strategy on the part of an oppressed people. He expressed understanding of what inspires some Palestinians to arms. If we sit silently by, year after year as the occupation gobbles up Palestinian land, imprisons its citizens, kills its people and its hopes, then we shouldn’t be shocked to hear such sentiments expressed by Palestinians or those who know them. His comments on this issue are not racist, however undoubtedly hurtful they may be to some Israelis and those with friends living in fear of the rockets. They are an expression of understanding of the way vast numbers of Palestinians feel, along with those who have friends living in fear of Israeli missiles and bullets. Even many who loathe Hamas.

His comments may be unhelpful to the party. They may not contribute to bringing about a ceasefire or addressing the underlying causes of the conflict, though there’s precious little evidence of other British politicians doing either of those things. But his comments fairly represent the reasoned opinions of large numbers of British citizens and Palestinians – many liberals (and Liberal Democrats) among them. If his tweets are offensive, it is for the electorate to sack him should they wish, not his colleagues.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Brown

* Jonathan Brown is the Chair of the Chichester Party, founder of Liberal Democrats for Syrian Freedom, Peace and Reconstruction and is an executive committee member of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine. He is writing here in a personal capacity.

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41 Comments

  • Mick Taylor 23rd Jul '14 - 9:07am

    David’s problem is not what he believes, it’s the unfortunate way he says them. That said, freedom of speech includes the right to offend and we must uphold it. Disciplining him or suspending him from the party would be wrong.
    Israel does indeed have the right to defend itself, but in my view it is going about it in a way guaranteed to fail. It might achieve a short term success but will mainly have created even more people willing to fight and die to get revenge.
    Talking is the only way to solve the problem and both sides seem to be doing their best to make sure that never happens.

  • The trouble is David Ward has made anti-semitic, ie racist, remarks previously. This has to be considered when judging the response to his most recent tweets.

    A politician who has previously expressed anti-semitic views has said he supports a terrorist organisation dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

    That is what people are responding to. Not his empathy with the peoples of Palestine.

  • On a related subject is there any response by any LD politician to the Hamas 10 year truce plan ?
    Or a view on the policies of Israeli politicians Naftali Bennett, Danny Danon and other who make it clear they want to wipe Palestine off the map. Recently Hatnua MK Amram Mitzna compared the policies of Bennett’s Jewish Home party to those of Hamas (an interesting development which, like the 10 year truce, received zero coverage in the UK media).

  • Matt (Bristol) 23rd Jul '14 - 9:44am

    I don’t like how David Ward has said what he has said, but I do not find it racist. He clearly is opposed to the state of Israel’s actions, and yes, he has sympathy with those who feel Israel should not exist, and yes, he has used racial laguage in the past in making his point(s). He clearly feels passionate enough to keep going for ever, and it would have been unrealistic to expect him to keep himself gagged during this time.

    Is it racist to say Israel should not exist? Well, not inherently – you could say a Jewish state should not be allowed to exist, which is at least borderline racist, or you can say that the way Israel was created was questionable under international law at the time and did not respect the self-determination of some of the ethnic groups living in that area already, and that we need to in some way redress this structurally and revisit the events around the foundation of Israel to move forward create peace in the Middle East. That is not racist (although naieve at best and quite possibly inflammatory, if you get a hair’s breadth wrong in your phrasing).

    I hold to neither of the above positions, although I am sympathetic to the view that the peaceful, non-terrorist pro-Palestinian position is often unfairly beleaguered and lacking in clear unambiguous advocates, and that the state of Israel is heavily invested in keeping this so and keeping the outburts of people like David Ward in the public eye and keeping their interpretation to the most offensive sense.

    I am coming to an increasing position of sympathy with the chap who idealistically some time ago argued for the disbandment of both the LD Friends of Israel and the LD Friends of Palestine.

  • “As others have said, we would not call for the expulsion of an MP who expressed sympathy for Israelis motivated to extend their period of military service in reaction to the rockets fired from Gaza. We do not call for the expulsion of MPs who defend sales of British arms to Israel, even though we know there is a strong likelihood of their being used against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories.”

    Thank you. To me, this is the nub of the matter. There might be those on New Labour and Conservative blogs who would be ready to froth from the mouth and take Mr Ward’s comments at utter face value. Failure to look behind the literal (and admittedly insensitive) wording of his tweet is the height of simple mindedness. Anyone with a brain knows that inciting death is abhorrent. But to potentially censure/reprimand an MP who says this while not taking action against others who (hypothetically) might say the same about the IDF (although the government’s position on firmly supporting Israel is clear enough) is utter hypocrisy.

    We all know that any loss of life is tragic, regardless of where it happens and who the victims are. We all know that Hamas are an unpleasant lot with downright Antisemitic and violent beliefs. But the pathetic fence sitting approach of labelling both sides “as bad as each other” misses out the sheer asymmetry in this conflict. That label is beyond its sell by date now. Drawing an equivalence between the military capabilities IDF and Hamas is a get out clause from taking any firm action. Same way a lot of people claimed that the end of Sri Lankan civil war was fought on symmetrical grounds (again I was disgusted by the LTTE’s violence, but won’t turn a blind eye to the repressive SL government that has continued to subjugate the Tamil minority).

    Finally, while David Ward might be the only MP who expressed his view in these terms, have MPs been rebuked in the past for expressing somewhat controversial views about the conflict? The statements of Bob Russell and Gerald Kaufman come to mind.

  • Steffan John 23rd Jul '14 - 10:48am

    Like probably most Lib Dems, I’m generally more sympathetic to the Palestinian side of the big arguments than the Israeli.

    However, if you’re saying ‘If I was Palestinian, I’d probably fire rockets; I am a Palestinian and the West needs to pick one side against the other’, then you’re are not merely calling for ‘understanding of what inspires some Palestinians to arms’.

    Free speech as a citizen is sacrosanct, but that doesn’t mean that a liberal organisation should have no rules on its representatives. On that basis, the Guardian should be obliged to have white supremacist columnists, as to do otherwise is an attack on their free speech.

  • Philip Welch 23rd Jul '14 - 10:54am

    I don’t think it is offensive to believe that, if I found myself oppressed and isolated, I would seek a way to retaliate. I object to the generally passive acceptance that the Israelis are entitled to defend themselves. Is it not time to question whether Israel will EVER achieve peace with its neighbours by pursuing its current policy. If not, perhaps it should be forced to change by the international community. Remember Israel only exists because the international community created it.

  • Matt (Bristol) 23rd Jul '14 - 11:04am

    Geofrey, I crave nuanced, calm language and a good and mutually respectful tone in politics as much as the next person (probably more than the next person),but where does it say in LD rules, that MPs should not speak in ways that are inflammatory, and who is the constitutional arbiter of what is inflammatory?

  • As Caronsuggests in her comment on the discussion about David Ward, let’s discuss the issues and there are some good contributions to this debate so far.
    One of the problems in this debate is that many people, including dare I say, our Leader seem to start from the position that the Netanyahu government is basically ok but erring and Hamas is basically evil. While it is true that Hamas is officially committed to the destruction of Israel it did agree to the Unity government for Palestine which explicitly recognises Israel. Israel has done its best to thwart this new government. It is true that Hamas has some illiberal policies that few in our Party like and I wish it hadn’t responded to all the recent round of Israeli violence with its rocket attacks.
    But if we are going to label Hamas as a terrorist organisation then treat the fundamentally racist Netanyahu government that uses state terrorism to suppress Palestinians in the same vein. This is not a government that Lib Dems should support at all.
    To those even in our Party who think Israel can do no wrong, start reading Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com . Written by Israelis for Israelis who rightly love their country it shows that there are many in Israel who don’t demonise Arabs and who want to be fair to Palestinians. That is the Israel that Lib Dems should be supporting .

    John Kelly is Vice Chair of LDFP

  • Dave Bryanson 23rd Jul '14 - 12:40pm

    “It is true that Hamas has some illiberal policies that few in our Party like”

    I think that must be one of the most spectacular understatement sever seen on this site . “Somewhat illiberal” policies might conceivably include:

    Death penalty for apostates
    destruction of Gaza cinema and introduction of modesty police to ensure no mingling of the sexes (and I doubt if they’re too keen on homosexuality, either)
    public lynching of people believed to be collaborators, as well as tying up their Palestinian opponents and pushing them off buildings to their death
    explicit holocaust denial
    insistence in their charter that the Jews (not Israelis) will be killed until the Jews hide behind trees and even the trees call out for Muslims to kill them

    If Hamas were white rather than slightly swarthy, they would be considered neo-Nazis.

    David ward is a [****] because he is saying he would target Israeli civilians. Supposing he said that as a Russian separatist he might have downed MH17?

  • The pointis that Hamas & The Israeli Establishment are allies as well as enemies, they both want permanent War & neither care how many die. A settlement of any sort threatens both Hamas & The Military/Intelligence/Settler Establishment in Israel. Wards position is no different from expressing sympathy with Dissident Republicans in Northern Ireland.
    I have no problem with Ward remaining a member as long as he has The Parliamentary Whip removed.

  • Matt (Bristol) 23rd Jul '14 - 1:11pm

    @Geoffrey Payne: “Matt – I do not know if David Ward has broken the rules of the party, All I am saying is that he should not have said what he said, it has not helped his cause.”

    Geoffrey, you did seem to by implication call for the expulsion of him from the party:
    “Freedom of speech does not mean that you can say whatever you like and expect to remain a member of the Liberal Democrats. ”

    I am saying that the mechanism by which we determine what is accepatble speech in the party is the rules of the party. Before steps are made to consider disciplining David Ward, we need to consider whether he is being disciplined because:
    – he has clearly broken the party rules
    – he has broke the party rules before, and whilst not explicitly breaking party rules now, he just won’t shut up so we need to nip it in the bud
    – he is making gratuitous cause for others outside the party to criticise us, which is uncomfortable for our leadership

    I don’t know what the rules say, either, but what they do say becomes crucial, because b) and c) above are objectively wrong and inpermissible inn a democratic party which bellieves in fairness, even though, I agree, David Ward is offensive, outspoken, unconstuctive and too casual in his Twitting.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 23rd Jul '14 - 2:08pm

    As a person with not only Sri Lankan, but British (East End) Jewish ancestry I am somewhat concerned, as I am sure others are, about the apparent acts of state sponsored barbarism within Israel and Palestine as well as elsewhere including ‘The Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ (Sri Lanka), and everywhere else.

    I am deeply distressed that our Parliamentarians have in the main avoided saying anything that challenges the barbarity that we are witnessing between Israel and Palestine, and I am even more saddened by those who wish to turn this into a religious/ethnic matter rather than what it is all about power and land. The use of the terms Jew and Muslim are in this situation being used by some to inflame the matters even further. The acts of Israel are no more those of Jews, than the acts of Hamas are those of ALL Palestinians and Muslims, and to say otherwise is ridiculous, and in this case leads to further deaths.

    I have purposely avoided joining either the LD Friends of Israel or the LD Friends of Palestine as these two bodies albeit containing good well meaning people I am sure, seem to be hellbent on blindly supporting the Government policies of their favoured group rather than the peoples of the countries.

    I would tend to agree with Paul Barker when he states “…Hamas & The Israeli Establishment are allies as well as enemies, they both want permanent War & neither care how many die. A settlement of any sort threatens both Hamas & The Military/Intelligence/Settler Establishment in Israel.”

    Can we as Liberal Democrats really remain silent and apparently supportive of such this? I think not, I hope that our Parliamentarians speak out against ALL acts of barbarism and do what they can to resolve the situation.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

  • Jonathan Brown 23rd Jul '14 - 6:39pm

    @g – “A politician who has previously expressed anti-semitic views has said he supports a terrorist organisation dedicated to the destruction of Israel.”

    Showing understanding for embittered Palestinians who support firing rockets at Israel is not remotely the same thing as saying that he supports the goals or sociopolitical aims of Hamas.

    @ bernard & Philip Welch – good points. The Lib Dem Friends of Palestine have put forward a proposal which would reward Palestinian participation in the peace process for a change. I wrote about it last week: https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-violence-and-peace-in-the-middle-east-there-is-something-we-can-do-jonathan-brown-41571.html

    @Neil – I quite agree.

    @Geoffrey Payne – “Freedom of speech does not mean that you can say whatever you like and expect to remain a member of the Liberal Democrats.”

    I agree unreservedly with this. But where do you draw the line that must exist somewhere? We shouldn’t be too prescriptive when it comes to what our representatives can say. Racist, homophobic, sexist remarks should not be tolerated. But these tweets (offensive to many, but utterly common sense to many others) are none of the above. Supporting the Palestinians is controversial – but also entirely within the realms of the politically reasonable. We do not appear to be condemning those who express sympathy for Israelis who want to act in the face of the barrage of rockets from Gaza, after all.

    @ John Kelly – Good points.

    @ Dave Bryanson – “If Hamas were white rather than slightly swarthy, they would be considered neo-Nazis. ”

    If Israelis weren’t Jewish, many would consider the actions of their governments and much of their political debate neo-Nazi, but this isn’t really the point. Both sides to this conflict have more than their fair share of people with odious views, but we shouldn’t accept that the nastiest among them represent the views of all.

    @Paul Barker – good point… Except about asking for David Ward to lose the whip. If he’s not expressing racist views, not promoting violence (his comments today make this even clearer), then he should not be disciplined. I wouldn’t use his choice of words, but many, many – including Liberal Democrats – will not be in the slightest shocked by them.

    @ Ruwan – Excellent points!

  • Jonathan Brown:

    @g – “A politician who has previously expressed anti-semitic views has said he supports a terrorist organisation dedicated to the destruction of Israel.”

    Showing understanding for embittered Palestinians who support firing rockets at Israel is not remotely the same thing as saying that he supports the goals or sociopolitical aims of Hamas

    It’s not ’embittered Palestinians’ firing rockets. It is an organised force with outside funding and supply chains to allow them to build and fire missiles. Hamas.

  • so it would seem according to ‘g’ considers criticism of Israel to be anti-semitic? Well many Jewish people are hostile to the actions of an Israeli government that does not represent many Israelis – it includes very right wing religious zealots and ultra nationalists and is very different from the old Israeli Labour Party that used to run Israel and was far less extreme and intolerant or owning an terrible arrogance to the Palestininians

  • Jonathan Brown 23rd Jul '14 - 8:35pm

    @g – I think you’ve lost me. Why would you not consider Hamas supporters, activists, sympathisers etc. to be embittered Palestinians just because they are organised?

  • Jonathan Brown 23rd Jul '14 - 10:43pm

    Thanks Kerry. I don’t doubt that some at least of the offence taken at these tweets is genuine, but if nothing else, we ought to be aware that the sentiments expressed in them is mainstream. Which is not to say that politicians should blindly follow the crowd. But conflating sympathy with the Palestinians, despite their compromised predicament, with overt support for the worst of Hamas’ terrorism does no one any favours. The tide of public opinion appears to be turning, and kneejerk calls to expel or censure those engaging with the issue risk us being left behind on an issue we have historically had plenty of value to say.

  • david orr

    so it would seem according to ‘g’ considers criticism of Israel to be anti-semitic? Well many Jewish people are hostile to the actions of an Israeli government that does not represent many Israelis – it includes very right wing religious zealots and ultra nationalists and is very different from the old Israeli Labour Party that used to run Israel and was far less extreme and intolerant or owning an terrible arrogance to the Palestininians

    I have never said that. I said that David Ward had made anti-semitic remarks. I did not talk about anyone else nor did I say that criticism of Israel is anti-semitic. For the record, some is, most isn’t. David ‘the Jews’ Ward’s is.

    The failure of many Liberal Democrats here to differentiate between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitic criticism is profoundly depressing.

    Jonathan Brown

    @g – I think you’ve lost me. Why would you not consider Hamas supporters, activists, sympathisers etc. to be embittered Palestinians just because they are organised?

    I was pointing out that Hamas, as an organised Islamist force dedicated to the destruction of Israel funded by outside agencies with similar aims, are more than ’embittered Palestinians’.

  • @ g Keeps on flogging the same old accusation. David Ward is a decent Liberal. He used the word Jews instead of Israelis. That might have been careless although the Israel is a Jewish state. No one thinks twice about the use of Catholics, protestants Islamists without any other purpose than to identify a group of common religion.
    Thank goodness for David Ward expressing his understanding of the plight of the Palestinians.

  • Jonathan Brown.
    We were not morally compromised by bombing cities.

    1. The Soviet Union asked us to bomb Dresden; it was an important transport hub. The German people needed to understand the horrors of war . The German people were indifferent to the mas slaughter in the Soviet Union, the concentrations camps and the appalling treatment of Soviet prisoners- a third died in captivity.
    2. During WW2, 10 million people per year were being killed per year ; the quickest way to end the slaughter was total victory by the Allies.
    3. The Germany army was ware of the slaughter on The Eastern Front and we know because Britain bugged captured German officers.
    4. It took the Soviet Union considerable loss of lives to capture Berlin.
    5. British and American bombing destroyed Germany ability to wage war and kept resources away from western and eastern fronts.
    6. General Pershing in WW1 said that the inability to occupy Germany would mean that some German people could say they had not been defeated and would lead to another war: he was right.
    7. During WW2 , Germany started started mass bombing -Coventry and Rotterdam, the execution of Merchant Navy seaman, resistance fighters and commandos/SOE.
    8. Germany caused mass starvation in Greece.
    9. Approximately 20M of the Soviet Union died, at no time did the German Army stop the slaughter of citizens and prisoners of war by the SS , Police Battalions and Gestapo.
    10. Germany was developing advanced rockets and the atom bomb. The advances in technology by the Germans astounded the Allies after the War. If Germany had been able to put an atomic bomb or even a dirty bomb in a V2 or more advanced rocket, it could have prolonged the war even further. Germany had plans for ballistic rockets t be able to hit New York.How many dirty bombs in V2s would have destroyed London?
    11. German companies and W von Braun used slave labour , causing many people to die or die prematurely.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Jul '14 - 10:40am

    R Uduwerage-Perera

    I am deeply distressed that our Parliamentarians have in the main avoided saying anything that challenges the barbarity that we are witnessing between Israel and Palestine,

    There is not much to be said. At the heart of it each side seems to think the violence they inflict on the other side will cause that side to stop being violent, while simultaneously saying that the violence they experience from the other sides drives them to be more violent out of necessity. Is there not any of them capable of thinking through what a nonsensical argument this is? Is there not one of them who thinks that perhaps the other side thinks as his own side thinks, so the violence inflicted on them just serves to give more violence in return? I’m afraid that since neither side seems capable of working through the logic of this argument, there is not much more anyone outside can do, and it is best that we just leave them to slaughter each other. Or perhaps, both sides are composed of sadists who just love violence. Well, ok, they have it, and perhaps underneath they are enjoying it. Leave them to it.

    I appreciate this sounds harsh, but I cannot see what else useful anyone outside can say or do. It is up to they themselves who are inflicting this violence and then expecting us to feel sorry for them when they get violence inflicted back to come to their senses and see the madness of what they are doing. The more we play up to them by feeling sorry for them (picking your side to feel sorry for), the more they will carry on doing it. We shouldn’t play up to them.

    and I am even more saddened by those who wish to turn this into a religious/ethnic matter rather than what it is all about power and land. The use of the terms Jew and Muslim are in this situation being used by some to inflame the matters even further.

    But both sides consistently use these terms to justify their actions. On one side you have a territory governed by a group which explicitly claims to be motivated by religion. On the other side you have a territory which was explicitly set up to accommodate people of a particular ethnicity. I do not think we can escape from that.

  • Lib Dem Candidate 24th Jul '14 - 1:03pm

    It’s not ‘racist’ to advocate the firing of missiles at Israel. It is, however, highly insensitive, at a time when millions of Israeli people are having to run to bomb shelters because of the Hamas missiles. Would it be alright for me to tweet as a Lib Dem MP: “If I was an Israeli threatened by Hamas missiles, I’d want to kill as many Palestinians as possible in response?” Would it be OK if it was: “If I suffered as Nigerian Muslims have suffered, I’d do what Boko Haram was doing”?

    And how would you like it if, after 7/7, an Israeli MP had tweeted: “If I was a British Muslim, would I have blown up Tube trains? Probably”?

  • Robert Wootton 24th Jul '14 - 1:08pm

    As someone said, there can be no military solution to the Israel/Palestine-Gaza conflict; only a political one.

    The conflict and bloodshed will continue until the people involved agree that Palestine and Israel has a right to exist and the people are free to choose which state they want to live in.

    When mutual respect for the right to life is established between the combatants, then peace will have a chance.

    However, when you are a person involved in the conflict, as a victim or a combatant, it is understandable that no other way seems possible.

    It seems to me that the people involved have not learned from their previous fifty years of history; so they go on reliving it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Jul '14 - 3:35pm

    Lib Dem Candidate

    Would it be alright for me to tweet as a Lib Dem MP: “If I was an Israeli threatened by Hamas missiles, I’d want to kill as many Palestinians as possible in response?”

    I WAS a Briton threatened by IRA bombs. I was in fairly close proximity to the IRA Harrods bomb (visited the place the day before), the IRA Brighton bomb (the Brighton and Hove Young Liberals which I was involved with were planning to do some sort of protest at the Grand around that time, and several of the other IRA bombs listed here. A constituent of mine when I was a councillor was killed by the IRA Canary Wharf bomb.

    If I had reacted to this as the Israelis are reacting, I would have been calling for mass slaughter across the Republican-sympathetic parts of Northern Ireland.

  • If HAMAS remove all weapons, munitions and military centres away from urban areas then there will hardly any civilian casualties . V1s and V2s were fired from rural areas not the towns. The Germans vacated Rome to prevent it being destroyed. The Germans stayed in Caen and it was almost destroyed by the Allies whereas Paris was vacated .

    If HAMAS put military sites next to schools, hospitals or homes then they do not care if there are civilian n casualties.
    No responsible organisation should place explosive material near homes, hospitals or schools as mistakes will happen. Governments and quarries do not store explosives in towns.

    If HAMAS put explosives within urban areas , then they are using humans as shields. If HAMAS want to fight the Israelis they should allow all civilians to leave the area.

    Those who fought in North Africa pointed that the advantage of the combat was that there were no civilians to be caught up in the fighting.

    When it came to N Ireland , the PIRA never fired rockets into N Ireland. Soldiers were shot by snipers lying in S Ireland and some bombs were set off by people in S Ireland. The border is largely rural and PIRA snipers did not fire across the border from peoples homes in S Ireland.

    The PIRA did use riots to move weapons and some women pushing prams were used to move weapons.

    If Israel wanted mass slaughter then they could carpet bomb Gaza. Some of the explosions seen on TV are much large than from a rocket or a bomb and show a weapons store has been hit.

    HAMAS could store and fire weapons and site military centres away from habitation and still attack Israel with minimal risk to civilians but they want people to be killed as it is good propaganda.

  • Jonathan Brown 24th Jul '14 - 7:02pm

    @g – “David ‘the Jews’ Ward’s is. The failure of many Liberal Democrats here to differentiate between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitic criticism is profoundly depressing.”

    In this instance, David Ward’s comments were very clearly not at all anti-semitic. Offensive to those inclined to side with Israel, undoubtedly, but they were political in nature – and race had nothing to do with the point he was making.

    I do think remarks he has made previously have skirted too close to the line, and indeed may perhaps have crossed over it. Looking at what else he has said on the subject then and now I put that down to stupidity and stubbornness (which he did apologise for) rather than to being motivated by antisemitism.

    @Charlie – “We were not morally compromised by bombing cities.”

    By today’s standards the deliberate mass attacks on civilian targets would be considered a war crime. Of that I have no doubt. The fact that we’ve waited so long for a fairly low key memorial seems to bear this out too. Many of the points you raise (such as ‘the other side were even worse’) provide no defence. Some, “the German people needed to understand the horrors of war” sound like they wouldn’t stand up in an International Criminal Court of law, to say the least!

    However, saying that we were morally compromised does not mean that I cannot understand why we did it. Nor does it mean I would not have supported it had I lived through the Blitz. The not entirely tenuous claim that the bombing had a military objective besides the cowing of the German people, would have made it easier to justify support for the bombing. But that’s exactly my point. Expressing understanding of those who’ve lived through decades of oppression in Gaza should not shock us.

    @Matthew Huntbach – “I cannot see what else useful anyone outside can say or do.”

    We can stop appeasing those who promote violence and reward those who work for peace. Not everyone in Hamas is a bad person. Had the years the organisation spent supporting (in deed, if not very explicitly in word) ceasefires and diplomacy lead to a relaxation of the siege of Gaza and some evidence that the occupation might one day end, we might have helped swing the balance of power within the organisation towards those inclined to make a real peace. If we continue to buy produce of illegal settlements, what incentive do we provide to the colonists to stop doing what they are doing? See my previous article (link in a previous comment) for how we could make a positive difference in this conflict.

  • Eh Israel has bombed schools, hospitals, and mosques- in other words Charlie, Israel are the terrorists.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 25th Jul '14 - 9:35am

    According to John Richard Thackrah who has researched and written widely about terrorism one definition is that “terrorism is an organised system of extreme and violent intimidation to create instability within democracies” and that “terrorists seek to launch indiscriminate and unpredictable attacks” to change the politico-economic balance” (Thackrah, 1987).

    With this in mind the actions of both sides could be, and I personally see as acts of terrorism, and worse than this (if that is possible) it is state-sponsored terrorism. The constant blame game that both sides play, which may well have had some credence a long time ago, now merely engenders a victim mentality which subsequently fosters further acts of needless and heartless violence.

    Putting blame to one side, a resolution must be found that is equitable for both the peoples of Israel and Palestine and those of us living outside of this tragic conflict need to accept our responsibility in this process by not giving further support to the escalating violence that is killing innocent people on a daily basis.

    I call upon the LD Friends of Israel or the LD Friends of Palestine to lead the way in bringing the two waring factions together by demonstrating to everyone that they themselves can work in a harmonious manner. After all both groups are meant to be supporters of ‘liberal’ principles.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair

    Thackrah, J. R. (1987) ‘Terrorism: A Definitional Problem’ in Wilkinson, P. and Stewart, A. M. (1987) Contemporary Research on Terrorism, Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Jul '14 - 10:09am

    Jonathan Brown

    We can stop appeasing those who promote violence and reward those who work for peace. Not everyone in Hamas is a bad person.

    Lobbing rockets into Israel whose sole purpose is to get the Israelis to come back and kill huge numbers of your own people, so you can then have their bodies to wave around and say “Look at poor, poor us” is bad. I am disgusted by Hamas. Anyone who associates themselves with that disgusting organisation and its love of violence and constant expression of hatred is a bad person.

  • Jonathan Brown
    Stalin asked Britain to bomb Dresden which happened in February 1945. The Red Army had two more months of hard fighting. This looking back and moralising about war after the Soviet Union suffered, 20M deaths undermines what was achieved.

    Very little precision bombing occurred . The only precision bombing was
    1. The Dam Busters Raid.
    2. Mosquito raids s at low level.
    3. 6T and 10T bombs dropped by Dam Buster at end of War

    When 617 squadron tried to use precision bombing on a canal at low level , they suffered massive losses. When bombing from 20,000 ft at night , there is no precision.

    10m people a year died in WW2, 27300 per day ; the quickest way to stop slaughter was the defeat of Germany and Japan. By 1945, the death rate in the camps was horrendous.

    Ask the veterans of the Red Army whether Dresden was war crime.

  • Jonathan Brown 26th Jul '14 - 1:00am

    @Matthew Huntbach – “Lobbing rockets into Israel whose sole purpose is to get the Israelis to come back and kill huge numbers of your own people, so you can then have their bodies to wave around and say “Look at poor, poor us” is bad.”

    I completely agree with you. My point is that Hamas is more than just some fundamentalists with rocket launchers. The movement / organisation – by the very fact that it won an election and rules a part of Palestine – includes teachers, doctors, nurses, students, the odd Christian, people with a whole variety of political views. Not all of them think that firing rockets is the solution. Some of those who are less than vocal in their opposition to Hamas’ rockets are quiet now only because compared to the hundreds of deaths being caused by the Israeli assault, they have more pressing things to worry about.

    I don’t actually believe that Hamas is motivated exclusively by a desire to provoke the Israelis into inflicting civilian casualties, but that still doesn’t excuse the deliberate use of rockets against civilian targets. The principle holds equally true for both sides.

  • Stephen Baker 5th Sep '14 - 3:08pm

    It is quite extraordinary that no one has mentioned, or indeed even seems to have been aware of the fact, that every time a Hamas rocket is aimed at an Israeli city like Sderot, which has been happening for decades now, Hamas is committing a war crime under international law by deliberately targeting civilians. The same was true of Hamas suicide bombers targeting Israeli public busses. The problem with interpreting David Ward’s identification with those war crimes as an expression of sympathy for the undoubted suffering of innocent Palestinians is that it suggests that the Lib Dem’s have taken sides against Israel on the basis of prejudice rather than principle or humanitarian concern. Of course it is possible that most Lib Dem’s are simply not aware that Hamas’ incessant resort to war crimes, and refusal to renounce violence, are some of the reasons the British Government have designated them a terrorist organisation. But is ignorance any defence here? Not, I would suggest, when subsequently Lib Dem leaders, echoing the language used to define breaches of international law, implicitly accuse Israel of possible war crimes in Gaza by acting deliberately disproportionately. If for decades Lib Dem’s consistently ignore the war crimes that Israel is reacting to, or indeed apprear to condone them, but then feel the need to speak out against the possibility that Israel’s far more deadly response may constitute a war crime too (proportionality in war is a complex and widely misunderstood concept which requires investigating whether those committing an act correctly balanced military necessity against an assessment of any likely collateral damage based on the information available at the time), then that too risks suggesting, to those who don’t question Israel’s right to exist, that prejudice is once again masquerading as principle.

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