David Ward MP 'sorry' over Jewish criticism

Robin Brant: "The timing of the comment made before the Holocaust Memorial Day has attracted criticism"

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A Liberal Democrat MP who accused "the Jews" of "inflicting atrocities on Palestinians... on a daily basis" has apologised for the "unintended offence".

Bradford East MP David Ward said in a blog post he had been "trying to make clear that everybody needs to learn the lessons of the Holocaust".

He had made his initial comments ahead of Sunday's Holocaust Memorial Day.

On Friday, his party "condemned" his "use of language".

He was also summoned to a meeting with party whips next week.

Start Quote

I recognise, of course, the deep sensitivities of these issues at all times, and particularly on occasions of commemoration such as this weekend”

End Quote David Ward MP

Last week he said he was "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".

But in a blog posting on Saturday he apologised, saying: "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."

He said his criticisms "of actions since 1948 in the Palestinian territories in the name of the state of Israel remain as strong as ever".

He added: "I will continue to make criticisms of actions in Palestine in the strongest possible terms for as long as Israel continues to oppress the Palestinian people."

In the article published on his website on Friday, Mr Ward had looked ahead to Holocaust Memorial Day, which marks the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp.

More than one million people - mostly Jews - died at the camp.

'Reprimand regrettable'

The article said he supported efforts "to combat prejudice and racism today" by the Holocaust Educational Trust and had honoured "those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust" by signing "a book of commitment".

His initial comments drew criticism from his own party, as well as the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

The Israeli embassy said Mr Ward's comments demonstrated a "shocking insensitivity to the feelings of both Holocaust survivors and Israeli victims of terrorism".

Embassy spokesman Amir Ofek said: "David Ward's comments show a troubling ignorance of the brutal campaign of terrorist attacks waged against Israeli children, women and men by Palestinian terrorist groups, and of the extraordinary efforts made by Israel to protect its citizens in an effective and humane manner."

Earlier in the week, Mr Ward's party said: "This is a matter we take extremely seriously. The Liberal Democrats deeply regret and condemn the statement issued by David Ward and his use of language which is unacceptable."

On Saturday, a party spokesman said this position had not changed and he was still set to meet party whips.

Mr Ward had, at first, reacted by telling BBC News he had chosen his words carefully and did not regret the timing of the statement.

"I've spoken to the chief whip and he's got his views. I don't feel bad about it in any way. They consider my comments regrettable - I consider their reprimand regrettable," he added.

Update August 2013: This story has been amended following a complaint to the BBC Trust's editorial standards committee which was partly upheld.

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