An MP who criticised “the Jews” for committing “atrocities on Palestinians” on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day is facing disciplinary action from his party.
In comments that outraged Jewish leaders, David Ward, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, added that, while people should “learn from” the Holocaust, “the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated”.
There was speculation tonight that the party could threaten to remove the whip from Mr Ward, who has held the Bradford East seat since 2010. The MP will be summoned by the whips on Monday, after which a decision will be made on what disciplinary action to take.
Mr Ward has now defended his views in an interview. “I’ve spoken to the Chief Whip and he’s got his views. I don’t feel bad about it in any way,” he said.
“They consider my comments regrettable; I consider their reprimand regrettable,” he went on.
He added that any disciplinary action from his party would be “a sad reflection on the values we all hold so dearly, particularly on free speech.”
His party quickly moved to distance itself from Mr Ward’s comments. 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.”
In a statement on his website to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Mr Ward wrote: “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.”
Karen Pollock chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, which has placed a “Book of Commitment” in the House of Commons, which Mr Ward signed, said that the MP had “deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust”.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said: “We are outraged and shocked at these offensive comments about Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the suggestion that Jews should have learned a lesson from the experience.
“For an MP to have made such comments on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day is even more distasteful.”
Mr Ward later posted an update on his website, stating that he had “fought prejudice” for his entire political career.