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Issue 286, Friday 22 February 2013 - 12 Rabi' al-Akhar 1434

David Ward censured for criticising Israeli treatment of Palestinians

By Aishah Ali

David Ward, MP slammed for criticising Israel’s treatment of Palestinians

A Liberal Democrat MP was formally censured by the Party’s Chief Whip for making comments about the “persecution” he felt was “inflicted on Palestinians.” David Ward, Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, made his comments ahead of the Holocaust Memorial Day last month. His remarks were made relating to a post on his website about signing a book of commitment that was placed in the House of Commons by the Holocaust Education Trust. His comments read: “Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps, be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.” A formal complaint about his comments from the Holocaust Educational Trust was sent to the Liberal Democrats. He received a written warning and his Party “condemned” his “use of language” which they said was “unacceptable”. In an interview on Sky News, Ward defended his comments by saying “it was a statement of fact.” He further added, “I’m accusing the Jews who did it, so if you’re a Jew and you did not do it I’m not accusing you. I’m saying that those Jews who did that and continue to do it have not learned those lessons (from the Holocaust).” Later in his blog he apologised saying, “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.” He added: “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.” Responding to an email that was sent to Lib Dem Leader, Nick Clegg, over the Party’s response to Ward, the office of Clegg said: “It is perfectly right that politicians should feel able to criticise the actions of a state in the strongest terms. The Liberal Democrats have regularly and vocally expressed criticisms of Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza, just as we have condemned terrorist attacks conducted against Israel.” It further stated that, “However, whatever his strength of feeling, the language David used was not acceptable. The way he used the term “the Jews” caused considerable offence. As you may know, many Jewish people around the world have raised concerns about the actions of Israel. Instead of wrongly denigrating an entire people, any criticism should have been made regarding the activities of the state and its government.”

Professor of linguistics and philosopher, Dr Avram Noam Chomsky, endorsed on February 8 comments by Ward and dismissed claims that his comments are anti-Semitic. “I agree that there’s nothing remotely anti-Semitic in his remarks, which are in fact familiar in Israeli discussions,” said Chomsky. Ward thanked supporters by tweeting, “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to the thousands who have emailed, tweeted & called me to show their support.” (2:39pm - 27 Jan 13) Later he also tweeted, “Why is it wrong for me to raise the treatment of #Palestinians by #Israel govt? Are we not allowed to remember Palestinians on #HMD? #fb.” (8:47am - 28 Jan 13)

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