Antisemitism antisceptic: The strange case of David Ward’s short GE2017 campaign

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April 27, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith

A fascinating little side show to yesterday’s  highly political PMQs debate between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May over Brexit and the pensions triple lock (see yesterday’s blog for more on that) was the story of David Ward’s short lived election campaign as the  Liberal Democrats’ prospective Parliamentary candidate (PPC) for Bradford East. Ward was selected to fight the seat that he had lost in 2015 then sacked an hour after PMQs by Lib Dem leader Tim Farron after it was pointed out by a Sir Eric Pickles in a question to May that Farron could not talk about ‘decent opposition’ to the Prime Minister when his party had appointed someone with such a ‘questionable record on anti-semitism’ as a PPC.

Ward was finally elected to a seat in 2010 having failed four times previously. Bradford East is a predominantly Muslim constituency, and Ward certainly played to his gallery during his time as an MP. With a wafer thin majority, he suddenly developed an almost rabid support of the Palestinian cause, combined with an equally rabid hatred of Israel. Here are a few highlights of that period:

On Holocaust Memorial Day in 2013, Ward signed the book of remembrance in Westminster, and then blogged that he “honoured those who were persecuted and killed in the Holocaust”. But then he 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.” Ward refused for a while to apologise for conflating ‘Jews’ with ‘Israel’ (for they are, believe it or not two different things), and also for the classic libel that what is going on in the Middle East is like the Holocaust (which was, just in case you need reminding, a planned, systematic attempt to eradicate an entire race). Eventually Ward did so, but this wasn’t the end.
In July 2013, Ward tweeted that “Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the apartheid State of Israel last?”. For questioning the right of Israel to exist he had his whip withdrawn for three months. His main protest against this was that plenty of people agreed with him. Of course, there are many things that plenty of people agree with, but questioning the right of a state to exist might not something that a Member of a Parliament might want to emphasise that they shared.

On we went with his assertion in November 2013 that it was “a shame there isn’t a powerful, well-funded Board of Deputies for Roma”. The Board of Deputies is the main representative body for British Jews. Ward could have just been making a point that Roma gypsies need better representation. Could he not have done so without the terms “powerful” and “well-funded”? It is a classic trope that Jews buy up power in many societies, and Ward seemed happy to use it.

So we arrive at July 2014, when Ward tweeted “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes”. So, with this incitement to violence, Ward was making clear that rather than supporting an unconditional ceasefire, which would lessen the suffering of both sides, he would fire a rocket (indiscriminately and with the sole intent of killing any Israeli, although of course he didn’t mention that bit). He followed that up with “Ich bin ein Palestinian – the West must make up its mind – which side is it on?”, which once again uses German…it is quite amazing how up with German left-wing critics of Israel are these days!

Let’s fast forward to yesterday, when he was contacted after his sacking as PPC. His response was a mixture of attack, defence and then a line that says everything. The attack was “Supporters of Israel are using this as a tactic. It’s an attempt to stop supporters of the Palestinians getting into parliament.” The defence was “I am a liberal through and through. How on earth could I be racist or be anti-Semitic?”

Then the line that said everything was “I would defy anybody to find one single derogatory comment I’ve made against a Jew which was not related to something being done in Israel.”

I almost feel like I should walk him through it slowly. In the unlikely event David Ward is reading this, here goes: Just because something has been done in Israel does not mean its open season again with the Jews. Yes, Israel is the Jewish state, but not all Jews support the existence of Israel, let alone condone its behaviour. So if something is done in Israel you don’t like, you criticise Israel, and in particular its Government, even, if you must, the electorate that voted that Government in (although in passing you may want to note that the Proportional Representation you Liberals hold so dear is a central cause of the Israeli Government’s inflexibility). You don’t criticise all Jews, or make derogatory comments against a Jew (in your words).

Unless of course you want to prove Eric Pickles right. Which you just did.

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