Lib Dems get Israel warning

By Marcus Dysch, September 17, 2013
David Ward (Photo: Alex Folkes)

David Ward (Photo: Alex Folkes)

Critics of Israel must ensure they do not engage in antisemitic discourse, the Liberal Democrat chief whip has warned.

Alistair Carmichael — whose comments came ahead of a Lib Dem Friends of Israel event at the party’s conference in Glasgow — also confirmed that fellow MP David Ward had been readmitted to the party.

Mr Ward was suspended in July after he said “the Jews” were guilty of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians”, and for a series of later tweets denying Israel’s right to exist.

He published another tweet on Monday suggesting the LDFI event at which Mr Carmichael was due to speak would cover the topic, “hideous weapons used by Israel in Gaza”.

He immediately deleted the message and replaced it with one which said he was “looking forward to LDFI event tonight on use of sensitive language”.

Mr Carmichael had warned party colleagues: “Critics of Israel must always be careful to avoid language with antisemitic undertones.”

He said he was pleased to speak at the LDFI event to “reiterate the need for sensitivity”.

Mr Carmichael appeared alongside experts including Mark Gardner of the Co
mmunity Security Trust and anti-extremism activist Maajid Nawaz, the Lib Dem candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn at the 2015 general election.

LDFI chair Gavin Stollar said he was pleased Mr Ward had attended the session and listened to some “home truths… we are looking to move forward in a constructive manner.”

But at a panel fringe event hosted by the Medical Aid for Palestinians charity on Monday, party deputy leader Simon Hughes MP said the international community should enforce a boycott of Israeli sports teams, similar to that operated against apartheid South Africa.

He said he had worked hard for both Israelis and Palestinians, but had been “vilified and misrepresented by the Jewish press”. The situation was “bloody frustrating”, he added.

At the same event, Lib Dem peer Lord Phillips of Sudbury asked to what extent “the Jewish lobby in this country has an impact on policy?”

On Sunday Mr Ward attended a Red Cross fringe event on destitution among asylum seekers and refugees. A Red Cross spokeswoman was unable to comment on whether the charity — which is committed to helping people without discrimination or regard to race or ethnic origin — felt Mr Ward was an appropriate person to attend, following his comments about “the Jews”.

Last updated: 5:45pm, September 17 2013