UK & World News

  • 25 January 2013, 21:45

David Ward: Lib Dem MP Defends Israel Remarks

A Liberal Democrat MP facing party disciplinary action over a statement he made about Israel's treatment of Palestinians has defended his comments.

David Ward was widely criticised after "honouring those who died during the Holocaust" in the statement on his website - but accusing "the Jews" in Israel of "inflicting atrocities on Palestinians... on a daily basis".

However, the Bradford East MP has stood by his remarks - made ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday but described as "sickening" by the Holocaust Educational Trust - insisting it was time to "look at every example of man's inhumanity to fellow man".

The MP, who had removed the comments from his website, later re-posted them along with a defiant additional statement.

"For my entire political career I have fought prejudice," he wrote.

"I have just returned from Bradford's Holocaust Memorial event where people across cultures and faiths joined together to say 'We bear witness to the horrors of the Holocaust and will never forget its lessons'.

"In the words of the Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, as quoted in the booklet Holocaust Memorial Day - Learning Lessons From The Past To Create A Safer, Better Future: 'I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides.

"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented'."

Mr Ward had written on his website that he had "signed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, in doing so pledging his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day" and described Auschwitz as "the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history".

But he added: "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."

He told Sky News: "It's just a statement of fact.

"It is the Holocaust we were talking about (and the) unbelievable suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust and I was therefore making that link directed at those Jews - and strictly those Jews - who were perpetrating unbelievable and inhumane treatment of Palestinians in the past and today."

Liberal Democrat sources confirmed that Mr Ward has been summoned to the Whip's Office on Monday and a decision will be taken afterwards about disciplinary action.

A party source said: "This matter is now being handled internally and there will be consequences."

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "This is a matter we take extremely seriously. The Liberal Democrats deeply regret and condemn the statement issued by David Ward and his use of language which is unacceptable."

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "I am deeply saddened that at this sombre time, when we remember those who were murdered by the Nazis, Mr Ward has deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust causing deep pain and offence - these comments are sickening and unacceptable and have no place in British politics."

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