by Stephen Tall on July 22, 2014
A year ago David Ward, Lib Dem MP for Bradford East, had the party whip temporarily withdrawn after he accused “the Jews” of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel”. Though he apologised for blanket-labelling he said he would “continue to make criticisms of actions in Palestine in the strongest possible terms” and has tonight lived up to his word on his Twitter feed:
His tweet, “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes”, has echoes of Jenny Tonge’s 2004 comments that she could consider becoming a Palastinian suicide bomber. She was sacked from the front bench by Charles Kennedy for that remark, and eventually resigned the whip in 2012 after testing the leadership’s patience to snapping point.
David Ward’s defenders will say his tweet is, at worst, a clumsily worded attempt to empathise with the plight of Palestinians. But he must know there are far better ways of empathising than by appearing to condone the murder of Israeli citizens.
He must also know that his words, this empty ratcheting up of the rhetoric, achieve nothing for the cause of peace in the Middle East.
He should apologise, but I doubt he will. If he doesn’t, he’ll leave Nick Clegg with little choice but to withdraw the whip, permanently this time. David’s comment wasn’t an off-the-cuff ad lib in a public meeting, this was a deliberately worded tweet. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion he’s spoiling for a fight, trying to out-Galloway Galloway, the neighbouring Bradford MP.
I’ll leave the last word to the New Statesman’s George Eaton who put it best tonight:
David Ward's tweet ("Would I fire a rocket? Probably yes.") is an insult, most of all, to those Palestinians who don't fire rockets.
— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) July 22, 2014
(As ever when the topic involves the Middle East, all comments will be pre-moderated before they appear.)
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.