By Stuart Littlewood
If reports are true, UK Liberal Democrats have appointed the pro-Israel lobby as ‘probation officers and educators’. They will judge if David Ward is ‘salvageable’ and lay down precise language rules.
British MP David Ward, champion of the oppressed, is to be put on probation and ‘re-educated’ after ruffling feathers with his controversial “use of language”.
Ward, you’ll remember, wrote on his website: “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.”
Chiefs of the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Board of Deputies of British Jews loudly complained that Ward “deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust” and his remarks were “sickening” and “offensive”.
The Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Alistair Carmichael, agreed that Ward’s remarks were “wholly inappropriate” and that singling out ‘the Jews’ in that way crossed a red line.
Carmichael demanded an undertaking from Ward that he would never again use the phrase ‘the Jews’ in this context. “I am strongly of the view that your use of the phrase ‘the Jews’ in this context was unacceptable,” he said, “and I formally censure you for that.” Ward is reported to have given the undertaking and that should have been the end of the matter. But it wasn’t enough for the Jewish top brass who called for the whip to be withdrawn or for Ward to be expelled… as if they run the party.
Well, maybe they do.
LibDem leader Nick Clegg has apparently buckled under this unwarranted interference and ordered Ward to meet the party’s Friends of Israel group and remove the offending material from his website. But it’s still there.
According to a news update on John Hilley’s blogsite Ward is now on probation and the Friends of Israel are doing the surveillance and monitoring. In other words Israel’s stooges have been appointed censors and educators.
Could something so grotesque be true? The Jewish Chronicle reports that Clegg told Ward he must work alongside LDFoI “to identify and agree language that will be proportionate and precise” in future debate. He should attend meetings with LDFoI representatives in order to achieve a better understanding of “the legitimate concern” that his comments caused within the wider Jewish community. Disciplinary steps will then be reviewed.
In short, they are treating the courageous MP like a juvenile delinquent and piling on the humiliation.
So what exactly is the problem? Is it necessary to make a distinction between Jews generally and ‘the Jews’? And how will this new language rule work? In precisely what circumstances mustn’t David Ward, or the rest of us for that matter, use that dreaded phrase ‘the Jews’?
If we’re talking about who’s responsible for the ethnic cleansing in Palestine and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and farms, is the answer ‘Jews’ or ‘the Jews’? If we just say ‘Jews’ we might have to explain which Jews, which is tedious. If we say ‘the Jews’ the meaning is obvious – the occupying Jews and the Jews who fund and arm them, clearly not the Jews at home in Golders Green minding their own business.
Who’s to say David Ward wasn’t grammatically or linguistically correct? If somebody asks who massacred the Jews and Muslims of Jerusalem in 1099 I don’t care, as a Christian, whether you say ‘Christians’ or ‘the Christians’. However ‘the Christians’ would at least suggests to me that the culprits were the Christians with the Crusader army who were there at the time, not the Christians who were attending El Cid’s funeral in Spain.
Fans of Racist Israel to Judge If Ward is ‘Salvageable’?
Gavin Stollar, Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel chairman, says “LDFoI has essentially been appointed as probation officers for David Ward. If we are not convinced that he is salvageable then we’ll be in the position to report back to the leader and the chief whip and express our views. Rather than making him a martyr, LDFoI welcomes the opportunity to educate one of our MPs.”
How’s that again? A gang of Israel-firsters “welcomes the opportunity to educate one of our MPs”? Since when was David Ward an employee of Mr Clegg or a servant of the Liberal Democrat party, or a plaything of the LDFoI to be brainwashed, groomed or disposed of at their whim?
Ward, if he belongs to anyone, belongs to the people of Bradford East who elected him. He is their representative. Do they know about this contemptible plan to re-educate their man?
Who is Gavin Stollar, anway, to instruct elected representatives to the British Parliament and decide their fate? He’s not even an MP. In 2005, according to the Bucks Free Press Stollar was reported to the local government watchdog for saying “Nazis are not welcome in our town” when addressing a group of people during his failed campaign to get elected to Parliament. He seemed none too fussy who he branded with the N-word, knowing as he should that not all members of the BNP (British National Party) think or behave like Nazis. Luckily for him the ethical standards officer ruled that Stollar’s views fell “within the normal and acceptable limits of political debate”, even if they lowered the tone. He should acknowledge that the same acceptable limits apply to David Ward’s views.
Here is Stollar again, warmly shaking the bloody hand of Tzipi Livni, who is on several wanted lists for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, was largely responsible for the terror that brought unspeakable death and destruction to Gaza’s civilians over Christmas and New Year 2008/9 – an act of infamy which slaughtered 1,400 Gazans (including 320 children and 109 women) and horribly maimed thousands more, and which is regarded by many as a holocaust in its own right. Livni’s office issued a statement saying she was proud of Operation Cast Lead (codename for the murderous blitz she had unleashed).
If Ward succumbs to this outrageous bullying he risks breaching one of the key Principles of Public Life – that of Integrity, which ought to be indelibly etched on every MP’s memory: “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organizations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.”
One option for Ward is to ‘do a BDS’ adopting the George Galloway Boycott Formula, i.e. no normal contact with individuals or organizations who support the Apartheid creed of Zionism; no engagement with those who speak for Israel; no normalization until the Israeli regime ends its illegal occupation and complies fully with international law. But that could get him de-selected for the next general election unless colleagues with backbone rally round. All the same, the party’s bully-boys had better watch their step. Ward’s Bradford East constituency is one-quarter Muslim.
Letters of Support for Ward
What also seems to have stung the moaners is a letter from Leslie Bravery in New Zealand addressed Nick Clegg. It is posted on Ward’s website and says, among other things: “The reality is that the Palestinians are suffering in their own homeland, because they are not Jews, at the hands of a state that arrogantly claims to represent all Jews. There are, of course, many Jewish individuals and organizations, their voices sadly muffled by the mass corporate news media that are horrified by Israel’s conduct. As Elizabeth Morley, writing from Aberystwyth [in Wales] put it: ‘What’s wrong with saying that the Jews in Israel commit atrocities in Palestine? They do. Is one not allowed to use the word Jew in any negative context? Is that it?’”
The letter ends with the thought that “Holocaust Memorial Day should sear our consciences and, more to the point, it should inspire us to defend all who continue to suffer injustice and oppression. I believe that you should be supporting David Ward and moreover, expressing your admiration for him.”
Elizabeth Morley herself has written to Karen Pollock, CEO of the Holocaust Memorial Trust, inviting her to recognize that however ill-chosen the phrasing of David Ward’s comments may have been on Holocaust Memorial Day, he did not set out to ‘deliberately abuse the memory of the Holocaust’. “I am certain that the only Jewish people Mr Ward would probably not mind too much if he HAD offended, would be those who have been and are responsible for the treatment of the Palestinian people…” She added that over-reaction to Mr Ward’s comments “had sickened many fair-minded people who want to see two peoples living peacefully side by side, as Jews, Christians and Muslims once lived in harmony in Palestine before the Balfour Declaration”.
She has also written to the Board of Deputies of British Jews expressing her concern about the way they exploit the memory of the Holocaust in order to gag criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. “I cannot find evidence of the Board having ever issued its own criticism of Israel’s policies…
“Several of my relatives died in the concentration camps but that has not made me insensitive to the suffering of the Palestinians, who have been made to pay the price for what the Christian world did to the Jews. Oh, sorry, I said ‘the Jews’!”
Elizabeth tells me that she is part of that “wider Jewish community” whose sensitivities Clegg is so concerned about, yet she is not at all distressed by David Ward’s remarks.
Paying for Israel’s Misconduct
The lady’s excellent summing-up is good enough for me. And I‘m content to let one of Israel’s top military intelligence men, Yehoshafat Harkabi, have the last word. He simply warned that “Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world”.
Those who don’t wish to be tarred with the Jewish state’s brush might consider doing something about it. A good number of Jews, to their great credit, already have.
As for the LibDems, how does surrendering David Ward to the pro-Israel attack-dogs square with the party’s pledge to defend the right to speak freely, support international law, hold individuals to account for crimes against humanity, and back international community action against governments engaged in large-scale violations of human rights?
The people who are entitled to feel insulted by this silly row are the Palestinians who, after 65 years, still languish in refugee camps or remain prisoners within the shredded remnants of their wrecked, plundered and impoverished homeland. Their unimaginable suffering is endless under the longest and most brutal occupation in modern times. And the ethnic cleansing continues.
When will Mr Clegg find the courage to slap down the ‘AIPAC Tendency’, expel those who support the racist regime responsible for the Holy Land horror, and end the impression that they pull the party’s strings?
- Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.