Party suspends British MP for "apartheid Israel" remarks

David Ward tweets, "At long last the Zionists are losing the battle, how long can the apartheid state of Israel last?"

David Ward (photo credit: Courtesy Liberal Democrats)
David Ward
(photo credit: Courtesy Liberal Democrats)
LONDON – The British MP who sparked outrage on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January by suggesting that “the Jews” had not learned the lessons of the Holocaust was suspended by his party on Thursday for another remark.
Last weekend, Liberal Democrat MP David Ward questioned the existence of Israel in a tweet while deeming it an apartheid state.
“Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?” the MP for Bradford East said.
Earlier this year, the Liberal Democrat party rebuked Ward for a series of remarks, and for refusing to remove “the Jews” comment from his website.
He even stood by them in an interview on Sky News.
The leadership of the party distanced itself from his comments. Alistair Carmichael MP, a senior official in charge of party discipline (the Liberal Democrats’ chief whip), said at the time: “Singling out ‘the Jews’ in the way he does crosses a line of acceptability and is offensive. I wish to dissociate the Liberal Democrats without reservation or ambiguity from these remarks.”
After making further offending comments, Ward became subject to a disciplinary process. He was then forced to remove the comments and work with a pro-Israel organization to help him find “proportionate and precise” language.
Following a meeting on Wednesday with party leader Nick Clegg, deputy leader Simon Hughes and Carmichael, he was told: “We put it to you that your most recent statement – which specifically questions the continuing existence of the State of Israel – is neither proportionate nor precise.
“We considered your explanation to be unconvincing. These interventions cause considerable offense rather than addressing questions of political substance about the plight of the Palestinian people and the right of Israel’s citizens to live a life free of violence,” the party leaders told Ward.
“It is also immensely frustrating for us to find ourselves constantly responding to questions about disproportionate and imprecise language from you,” Carmichael added.
Ward was suspended from the party until September 13.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews called the action “too little, too late” and an “empty gesture.”
Board vice president Jonathan Arkush said: “We note that the Liberal Democrats have at last taken some action to address the completely inappropriate and offensive comments that he has made. However, suspension of the whip for just two months when Parliament is not sitting is too little, too late. It is a token and frankly an empty gesture.”
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said the decision to suspend the MP was welcomed but “the decision to do so comes months too late and allows Mr. Ward to repeat his unacceptable views when Parliament returns in the autumn.”
Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Jeremy Newmark said: “There are serious questions as to whether this move came swiftly enough and whether it goes far enough. However some action that is the first proper, formal recognition of the serious nature of this matter is better than none.
“If the Liberal Democrat party is committed to stamping out extremism it really must develop a process that enables the leadership to act in a swift and decisive manner against parliamentarians who cross red lines. As we have seen with the remarks of Bob Russell MP [who on Thursday accused Israel of ethnic cleansing], Ward is by no means an isolated case.”
The Zionist Federation of the UK said that should Ward continue to abuse his position “as a platform to broadcast his prejudice against Jews and Israel,” his party should suspend him permanently.
“This action sends a clear message that racially prejudiced language will not be tolerated in our society,” Zionist Federation chairman Paul Charney said.