Lib Dem MP David Ward apologises over Gaza comments

Lib Dem MP David Ward apologises over Gaza comments

Bradford East MP says he condemns violence on both sides of conflict but will continue to speak out for rights of Palestinians.

The Liberal Democrat MP David Ward has issued a partial apology for saying he would probably fire a rocket into Israel if he lived in Gaza, after his party threatened disciplinary action.

Ward said his comments were “not in support of firing rockets into Israel” and he was sorry “if they gave the opposite impression”. The Bradford East MP had initially declined to retract his remarks.

The row began after a tweet appeared on his feed saying: “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes.” He added: “Ich bin ein #palestinian – the west must make up its mind – which side is it on?”

He told BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday morning that he had done nothing wrong. “The comment was about understanding why people are firing rockets,” he said. “I am not condoning that. In fact, yesterday in the House of Commons I condemned it. I’m saying I understand why people are so desperate that they are doing it.”

However, the party later released a lengthy statement from Ward, which said: “I utterly condemn the violence on both sides in Israel and Gaza. I condemn the actions of Hamas, and my comments were not in support of firing rockets into Israel. If they gave the opposite impression, I apologise.

“However, while I defend the right of Israel to exist and defend itself, I will continue to speak out for the rights of the Palestinian people who are facing untold suffering. More must be done by the world community to end this humanitarian crisis and protect the families living in Gaza. I can understand their plight and desperation.”

Having initially condemned Ward’s comments, the Liberal Democratssaid: “This is a categorical apology from David Ward. In light of this apology, the party and the whips will decide in due course if further disciplinary action should be taken.”

The remarks were criticised by fellow MPs including the Tory chairman, Grant Shapps, who said they were an incitement to violence and “completely irresponsible”. Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, said Ward’s “vile comments are as revealing as they are repellent”. The Board of Deputies of British Jews said Clegg should throw Ward out of the party.

There was further controversy when Edward Macmillan-Scott, a former Lib Dem MEP who lost his seat in May, tweeted that Ward could look after himself, while members of the board of deputies were a “frightful bag of disputatious Jews” and the editor of the Jewish Chronicle was a “prat”.

He later apologised for the statement while swiping again at the group for not saying sorry to him in a previous dispute. The board said it was deeply concerned about Macmillan-Scott’s comments and considered his subsequent tweeted apology wholly inadequate.

Last July Ward was suspended by the party after questioning the continuing existence of the state of Israel and refusing to apologise for his remarks. “Am I wrong or am I right? At long last the Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the apartheid State of Israel last?” he tweeted at the time.

He had the whip withdrawn for two months after a series of rows with the party’s most senior members over his views on Israel and its treatment of Palestinians. The whip was restored in September after the suspension period expired.

The Lib Dems have previously been accused of failing to respond quickly to allegations of antisemitism. In 2012, the Lib Dem peer Lady Tonge resigned the whip after refusing to apologise for an outspoken attack against Israel.

  • The Guardian, 

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