A Liberal Democrat MP criticised by his own party over remarks accusing “the Jews” of having failed to learn the lessons of the Holocaust has defended his comments.
Bradford East MP David Ward posted the remarks on his personal blog on Friday, shortly after signing the Holocaust Memorial Trust’s book of remembrance ahead of today’s annual memorial day.
"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,” wrote Mr Ward.
His comments were condemned by a range of groups and politicians, from the HET to the Community Security Trust and survivor Elie Wiesel. The Liberal Democrats distanced themselves from the remarks and Mr Ward has been called to meet the party whips this week.
"This is a matter we take extremely seriously,” said a party spokesman. “The Liberal Democrats deeply regret and condemn the statement issued by David Ward and his use of language which is unacceptable."
In an update on his blog posted on Saturday, Mr Ward, who is a frequent critic of Israel in the Commons, wrote that his “criticisms of actions since 1948 in the Palestinian territories in the name of the state of Israel remain as strong as ever”.
He said he had been attempting “to make clear that everybody needs to learn the lessons of the Holocaust”.
But he added: “I never for a moment intended to criticise or offend the Jewish people as a whole, either as a race or as a people of faith, and apologise sincerely for the unintended offence which my words caused.
“I recognise of course the deep sensitivities of these issues at all times, and particularly on occasions of commemoration such as this weekend.”
But Mr Ward said he would continue “to make criticisms of actions in Palestine in the strongest possible terms”.
Although he is still set to explain his actions to his party, not all members of the Liberal Democrats condemned his comments. Writing on Twitter, MEP Chris Davies said: “Lib Dem leadership quite wrong to 'reprimand' David Ward. Makes Nick look like being in Israel's pocket. In fact he is a fierce critic.”
The controversy comes as ceremonies are held around the UK to mark this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day.