(photo credit: Courtesy Liberal Democrats)
LONDON – The British MP who sparked outrage on the eve of International
Holocaust Remembrance Day by suggesting that “the Jews” had not learned the
lessons of the Holocaust has been forced by his party to work with a pro-Israel
group and remove the comments from his website.
Liberal Democrat MP David
Ward was censored by his party earlier this month, following the controversial
He nevertheless stood by his words and refused to remove them
from his website.
After making further offending comments, Ward became
subject to a disciplinary process for breaching a promise he made to party
In one outburst the MP for Bradford East told The Guardian
that there was “a machine” out there designed to protect the State of Israel
After widespread criticism on how the party had dealt
with the matter – the Board of Deputies of British Jews accused the party’s
response as “inadequate and limp-wristed” – leader Nick Clegg, deputy leader
Simon Hughes and Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael, the official in charge of party
discipline, met with Ward on Monday night.
The party leadership told him
that while it is legitimate to hold views on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict,
they must not be “generalized” or “indiscriminate” in nature.
Democrats believe in fearless criticism where it is justified, but abhor
generalized condemnation of a whole people where it is not. In particular your
use of “the Jews” in the article posted on your website on January 24 and your
reference to “the Jewish community,” as a possible alternative, as reported in
Jewish News on February 7, is unacceptable and must not be repeated,” he was
told in a letter from the chief whip, seen by The Jerusalem Post
As part of the disciplinary procedures, Ward must also work
with the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel to “identify and agree language that
will be proportionate and precise” in future interventions on the
“We would also hope that this would allow you to achieve a better
understanding of the legitimate concern that your comments have caused within
the wider Jewish community,” Carmichael told him.
The letter also
confirms that Ward has undertaken to remove the original offensive statement
from his website – in which he says: “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.”
However, the statement was still on his
website on Thursday, three days after he agreed to remove it.
of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council have expressed
concern with the party’s response, calling it a “pedestrian and
The community representative organizations said in a
statement on Thursday that they believed his open defiance of the party’s
censure and continued offensiveness to the Jewish community would lead to
appropriate immediate disciplinary action.
Jon Benjamin, the Board of
Deputies’ chief executive, and his counterpart at the Jewish Leadership Council,
Jeremy Newmark, said: “This is a pedestrian and lackluster response to what
amounts to anti-Semitism at the heart of parliament.
“Any ‘process’ that
takes place without proper disciplinary action will be seen as a fig leaf,” they
The organization heads added that, “Liberal Democrat leaders seem
to think that they can express concern to communal leaders about anti-Semitism
in private, but fail to step up and confront it in public.
accept that scenario. If even now the party thinks it is simply a matter
of educating Mr. Ward as to the hurtfulness and inappropriateness of his
comments, one has to wonder at the inadequacy of the party’s initial response to
his comments and its failure to make its disgust abundantly clear.”
Liberal Democrat party said a date will be fixed to review Ward’s progress in an
effort to conclude the disciplinary process against him.
chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “This is a
disappointing response to Mr. Ward’s sickening and unacceptable comments
which he has kept on his website.
“He has shown no understanding of the
offence he caused in both the language that he used and the timing of his
comments – sadly the mishandling of this situation appears to demonstrate that
Holocaust equivocation and anti-Semitism are not being taken seriously.”