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Criticism of Israel forces ex-UK MP to stand as an independent

Image of David Ward, former British member of parliament [File photo]
Image of David Ward, former British member of parliament [File photo]

A former British member of parliament who was suspended for criticising Israel will be standing as an Independent in next month’s general election after being deselected by his party.

David Ward planned to win back the seat he held for the Liberal Democrats for five years until it was lost to Labour in 2015. But the former MP for Bradford East was suspended last month, after party leader Tim Farron described him as “unfit to represent the party”.

Ward was properly approved and selected to stand in 2015 and again and for the expected General Election in 2020, which made him an automatic candidate for the Liberal Democrats in next month’s snap election announced by the British prime minister last month.

Within days of the announcement, Ward was dismissed by his party after he was attacked during the final Prime Minister’s Questions before the election by the former Tory Cabinet minister and Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel, Eric Pickles.

Ward told MEMO that someone had made a complaint that his views were not consistent with the Liberal Democrats. He was also told that his appeal against the complaint would not be heard until after the 8 June election.

Read: Lib Dems bar former pro-Palestine MP from contesting elections

Ward said he had chosen to stand as an independent as he could not appeal against his suspension until after the general election, and because he believed it was up to local people to decide if he should be their MP, and not, as the Liberal Democrats have done, parachute a different candidate.

In response to MEMO’s questions about the nature of the complaints against him, Ward mentioned that it was his strong criticism of Israel that has led to his dismissal from the party.

Since 2013, Ward has been fending off accusations of anti-Semitism after writing a series of tweets in which he criticised Israel. He told MEMO that these tweets and statements have been taken out of context to discredit him.

In 2014 he tweeted: “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes.” While this has been cited as an example of anti-Semitism, Ward mentioned that it was nothing of the sort. Stressing that he does not condone violence, or agree with launching rockets at Israel, he said the comments were intended to get people to understand the deplorable situation in Gaza and to highlight to those that empathised with human suffering that they may also think of doing the same if they were suffering under similar inhumane conditions.

Ward believes that the accusations of anti-Semitism, which are being used to tarnish his name and provoke his leader to dismiss him, are completely untrue. He was asked about a separate statement which led to the accusation that he was equating the Holocaust with Palestinian suffering.

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This too was another example of comments taken out of context to silence critics of Israeli policy, said Ward. While recalling the incident, he told MEMO that like others, he was expressing a sentiment felt by many people: how does one of the most oppressed people in the world allow themselves to carry out oppression against another people.

Ward explained that these baseless accusations can have enormous impact on people’s lives. Commenting on the claims made by the Liberal Democrat leader, whom he accuses of undermining liberal values of free speech, he revealed that he had been dismissed also as a governor from his local school after a parent complained to the head about accusations made by Farron that were untrue.

People have a right not to vote for me but what I will not accept is being prevented from standing as someone who has been outspoken against a foreign country which has numerous UN resolutions condemning it for the way it behaves.

Ward, who is currently raising money to stand as an independent, observed that supporters of Israel were guilty of weaponising accusations of anti-Semitism; the mere accusation is enough to get you into trouble even if there is no substance to the claim.

“If I lose, Israel wins,” Ward said. He believes that by stopping him, critics of Israel will find it increasingly hard to become members of parliament and the message that is being sent by supporters of Israel to anyone who wants to criticise Tel Aviv in British politics is think twice before criticising Israel: “We can do this to you”.

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  • evsw

    I hope Ward wins – that would reveal how out of touch the Lib Dems ‘Friends of Israel’ group is!

  • William Billy Murray

    The US congress and senate are under the control of AIPAC, the Jewish lobby. Now the Jewish lobby in the UK are on the same track, to control the UK parliament. If telling the truth, gets you sacked, God help us.

  • Mike Abramov

    Well, he will lose. He has made the same mistake as Jennifer Tonge by suggesting that Islamic Jihad’s rocket fire in to Israel is ‘understandable’.

    • Helen4Yemen

      What would you if ALIENS come busting through your door and start murdering your family?

      • Mike Abramov

        Answer my points first.

    • William Billy Murray

      How many houses, how many people, has rocket fire from Gaza destroyed in Israel? By the same token, how many houses, how many people has Israeli bombs destroyed in Gaza? Have an occupied people the right to attack the occupiers of their land? David Ward has only stated the truth and in my mind he is a hero.

      • Mike Abramov

        Mr. Murray – In 2005 Israel returned Gaza back to the Palestinians. No charge. Free. With dozens of greenhouses, running water, electricity, roads, schools etc;

        By 2007, Hamas were in control allowing Islamic Jihad to fire Qasam rockets in to Sedorot, an Israeli town near Gaza. Some of the rockets were intercepted in time, some not. The rockets landed near schools and residential areas. In the end, Sedorot had to build air raid shelters. The rockets arrived four of five times a day. Israel never retaliated until 2009 when they warned Gaza that if the rockets did not stop Israel would come in. The rockets continued and a war started.

        How many houses did Israel destroy? Who knows, but what I can tell you is that Gaza does not care anything for it;s people and that war was entirely the fault of Hamas. Gaza is a dump because Hamas steals all the money that comes in and puts it straight in to their back pockets.

        • William Billy Murray

          Mr Abramov – Some say Gaza is an open prison and I believe that is true. Some say the rockets that are fired from Gaza are like firecrackers and I believe that is true. Some say that Gaza is blockaded and I believe that is true. There is just no comparison between the firepower of Gaza and the firepower of the Israeli State, totally disproportionate. For all intents and purposes, Gaza and the West Bank are occupied territories. If you have an open mind, there are videos on YouTube by people who can tell the story much better than I. Here are a few, Ilan Pappe, ‘Israeli Myths,’ Tarig Ali interview with Richard Falk, Hardtalk with Edward Said, anything by, Gideon Levy, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky. All of them academics who are completely honest and tell how it was and is in Palestine/Israel.

          • Michael Abramov

            Mr. Murray – I will address your points one at a time.

            1. Firepower. If you genuinely feel that war is the solution then you have learned nothing. Israel has been in 4 wars and won them all against all odds. However, if the loss of innocent lives is irrelevant to you, then continue with this insane mantra.

            2. Gaza is not occupied. The West bank is. Gaza was GIVEN to the Palestinians in 2005 and by 2007, the Gaza strip became an autocracy and run by Hamas (The Resistance Party). Hamas are liars. Negotiation is not on the agenda despite what the new charter says. The West Bank was won in 1967. The PLO and now the PA (Fatah) are equally intransigent. In the Oslo Accord Arafat was offered 95% of his demands, but he did not sign the treaty because he wanted the whole of Jerusalem as well.

            Richard Falk. I have been in the same room as him twice. In January 2010 and in March 2017. He is a rabid anti-Zionist. I have challenged him twice during Q&A. n both occasions he failed to answer my question. To me, he is an intellectual lightweight.

            Norman Finklestein and I have had email exchanges going on for weeks. I have offered to meet him over a cup of tea, but he has backed out. I believe that as a child of Holocaust survivors, he has deep-rooted emotional issues.

            Ilan Pappe. I have met Ilan and had email exchanges with him too. I like him. Although we have opposing views, this does not mean it is anything personal. He too has failed to meet me one-to-one. However, he is a history revisionist and has challenged much of the history of the area…rightly or wrongly.

            Gideon Levy is one of a small contingency of Jews who have a totally left-wing approach to the ME. Their attitude is; ‘The underdog must be the victim and their tactics are justified’. I have never met him.

            Edward Said was a very decent man but, a pro-Arab. He did his best in his short life to put a resolve together to address the Arab-Israeli problems. To this day, he is often cited as a potential negotiator for peace.

            Noam Chomsky. I have left the best to last. He was born in to a secular Jewish family. He studied the Jewish philosophers and by the time he was a teenager, he was what we now call ‘Old School Communist’. Come the Vietnam War in the 1960s he was a keen anti-war demonstrator. This was not about anti-war so much as anti the American government. Invariably, Israel became one of his targets because Israel was not a left-wing country….it is that simple. There is a mis-guided belief that left-wing means ‘good, kind, sharing, caring’. Bullshit. Every single left-wing government since 1918 has either exploited their people or brought the country to the brink of financial disaster. However, I feel he is a great intellectual although I do not agree with his views.

            Finally, may I add that just because the above are in-keeping with your views, this does not mean they are right. You must understand that since 620 AD the Arabs have had a fantastic run of success in war, the arts, philosophy, culture, trade and the conversion of millions of people to Islam….by the tip of their swords. The fact is that the Arabs losing the 1948 War of Independence actually hurt their pride more than anything else.

          • William Billy Murray

            Mr Abramov – Thanks for your comments.
            I never said in my reply to you that I was in favour of war. I simply said that Palestinians in Gaza were no match for the Israeli army. Sitting ducks that’s what they were. The Israeli States actions were in fact war crimes against a mainly civilian population. I give no support to Hamas but do support ordinary Palestinians.

            Gaza may not be in real terms be occupied but is completely blockaded, by sea, by land and by air.

            You say Richard Falk is a rabid anti-Zionist. Richard, in my opinion is a man who cares very much about his fellow man, woman and child.

            Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Pappe, and Noam Chomsky, are of a similar vein.

            If you could direct me to a useful debate or speech on YouTube that shares your views, I would gladly view it.

  • William Billy Murray

    Mr Abramov – thank you for your reply.

    “Hamas wants to destroy Israel.” We all know that Israel will never be destroyed, except by its own intransigence in not dealing with the Palestinian problem. Israel cannot indefinitely put a two state solution or a one state solution on the back boiler. They have done this for 50 years while the world looks on. Anyone who has an open mind knows that Israel treats the Palestinians abominably, and can see through the Israeli propaganda trying unsuccessfully to defend the indefensible. Every other day, Palestinians are been killed for just being Palestinians.
    Israel and Palestine need new leaders who are prepared to be compassionate towards their fellow man.

    The video you directed me to does not help me in understanding the Israeli side. The cause of the problem is the occupation by Israel of Palestine.

    I disagree with you about Norman Finkelstein and Richard Falk. Both present arguments in a clear narrative and in my opinion are truthful. They both have suffered in their careers because of Israeli propaganda.

    Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky do have heart and hate does not enter the equation.

    Of course the situation will never change while the US supports Israel with impunity. In all of the peace talks over the years, the US has never been an honest broker.

    We have made our arguments, only the passing of time will tell if mans inhumanity to man will ever change.

    Thank you again for your comments.


  • William Billy Murray

    Mr Abramov- Thanks for your comments.

    I understand the history of Palestine/Israel but what went on 2000 years ago does not help in solving the present situation. By allowing and encouraging the building of settlements on Palestinian land, the Israeli State has abandoned a two state solution. All that is left is to incorporate the people of Gaza and the West Bank into Israel as citizens with equal rights. Continuing the status quo cannot be an option. I agree with your view on Abbas, the sooner he goes the better. By the same token the Israeli leadership has not been helpful in their demands for a solution.

    I have no problem with Israels legitimacy but thousands of Palestinians were evicted from their homes and land before the war of 1948. If there is hostility towards Israel, it is because of their treatment of Palestinians since 1967. Israelis can live in peace but only when they are prepared to treat Palestinians as human beings and as equals.

    I know Norman Finkelstein can be a bit overbearing but I believe his heart is in the right place.

    I am not against the US supporting Israel, just not with impunity.

    Thank you for the links.