Whatever other attributes they might have, we like to think of politicians as having a way with words, a deeper understanding of issues and a certain intellectual subtlety.
That clearly isn’t the case with the LibDem MP, David Ward.
The BBC, rather typically, underplay is the issue:
“”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.”
According to his Wiki entry, David Ward is highly educated and was an academic.
So it at all the more disappointing that he doesn’t understand the use of words. In particular, how he’s managed to blame the world’s entire Jewish population in one fell swoop. Ward doesn’t, as you will notice, criticise the Israeli government or even Israelis for electing them, but “the Jews”.
Such terminology was prevalent in the latter part of the 19th century. Demagogues and political extremists would stir up racial hatred by blaming a country’s or the world’s ills on “the Jews”.
Subsequently, such usage was considered toxic, a remnant of the Extreme Right, but more recently there has been considerable linguistic slippage, with the return of comparable expressions.
But it’s not all words, in the West there is a subconscious theme which seems to percolate just below the surface, a nasty afterglow from the 20th century, something which many people have not truly divorced themselves from. David Ward’s words and usage make that much clear.
Update 1: The CST examines Holocaust Memorial Day abuse part 3: David Ward MP:
“Mr Ward may know exactly where he stands on antisemitism, the Holocaust and the Israel-Palestine conflict. He may be utterly assured of his spotless morality and faultless compartmentalisation of all three issues. He may well have signed the Book of Commitment in order to encourage “constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today”.
Sadly, however, this is not quite how racism works; and neither is it how Jews (nor many others) will react to this latest opportunistic and amoral debasement of Holocaust commemoration. “
Update 2: The Daily Mirror picked up the story although don’t add any biting commentary.
Update 3: Paul Evans has written a highly intelligent piece:
“In a stroke such analogies belittle the suffering of the past, obscure our understanding of the present and most dangerously, suggest a kind of retroactive collective responsibility should be carried by Jewish people for their own suffering. “Yes,” they say “Jews suffered…” – you can smell the caveat coming, can’t you? “But look at the suffering they have caused too! Can they really be called victims? Unlike perpetrators of that genocide, Jews haven’t even learnt anything from being murdered in their millions! What is wrong with them?”. David Ward might not have meant all of that, I think he probably just thought he was being clever and decent when his office sent out that press release. But that is the dirty subtext which he bought into – and he should be held accountable for it.
For these reasons, we must be vigilant in calling out and countering such tawdry rhetoric, which helps Palestinians not at all and hurts Jews the world over. It is incumbent upon us to foster an environment in which accuracy and restraint, and not provocation, poison and hyperbole, characterise public discourse on the Holy Land. Most pressingly for this weekend, let’s not allow David Ward MP to distract us from taking time on Sunday, January 27th, to commemorate the people that hatred killed.”
Update 4: Huff Post covers it too, however, the toxic nature of the comments box suggests a wider problem.
Update 5: Sky News reproduces much of the same without a particularly intelligent critique. There is a small video clip of Ward digging a bigger hole doing the rounds. I will post a copy of it when I can find a non-Tory source (yes, I am aware that Guido Fawkes is all over it like a bad rash).
Update 6: Earlier, Ward was on BBC Radio 5 demonstrating an almost complete lack of insight. He plays the martyr and tries to make political capital from it all.
Update 7: Ward has released an updated version of his previous statement, still exceedingly poor.
Update 8: The Guardian’s contribution initially makes Ward out to be the victim, rather than self-absorbed and keen to exploit the HMD 2013 for his own political ends. At the end of the article, however, Ward manages to dig a deeper hole:
“Asked if he accepted that he was accusing Jews, rather than the Israeli state, of inflicting persection on the Palestinians, he replied: “I’m accusing the Jews who did it, so if you’re a Jew and you did not do it I’m not accusing you. I’m saying that those Jews who did that and continue to do it have not learned those lessons. If you are a Jew and you do not do those things and have never done those things then I am of course not criticising you.”
Ward is employing the old “Good Jews, bad Jews” dichotomy, as RationalWiki explains:
“Relation to anti-Semitism and Judeophobia
The dichotomy dates back to ancient stereotypes regarding Jews as evil people, particularly those stereotypes spread in Christian-ruled polities. However, due to the focus of the Bible upon ancient Israel/Judah/Judea/Canaan and its inhabitants (and all the purported divine interventions in reality as written in the Bible), it also accords a strong cultural significance (often to the point of obsession) upon anything that has to do with Judaism, Jews or Israel; in other words, in the eyes of those who hold to this fixation, any of the three become dehumanized and turned into tools.
Someone who uses the “good Jew, bad Jew” dichotomy may also be prone to say “b-but some of my best friends are Jewish!”
Update 9: Lib Dem Voice has a thread on it, Has it all gone Jenny Tonge for David Ward? Which is not as bad as it could have been, not brilliant but a few perceptive comments.
Update 10: This guide is for all of those readers who don’t quite understand antisemitism and even those who think they do:
“Don’t use the Holocaust/Nazism/Hitler as a rhetorical prop. The Jews who were murdered didn’t set foot in what was then Palestine, let alone take part in Israeli politics or policies. It is wrong and inappropriate to try to use their deaths to score political points. Genocide, racism, occupation, murder, extermination—go ahead and use those terms, but leave the Holocaust out of it.”
I hope David Ward reads that, stops and thinks for a moment.
Update 11: Jenny Tonge provides David Ward with much needed support:
“Jenny Tonge. 26th Jan ’13 – 7:05am
I do not usually add to the masses of indignation that is published on LibDem Voice, but I must point out that Israel insists that it is the JEWISH State of Israel , which leads to some people assuming that what Israel does is endorsed by all Jews.
Many Jewish people support the Palestinian cause and those of us who try to bring the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli government to the attention of the citizens of this country.
We must not be deterred by the sickening and self righteous indignation that comes from the Zionist Lobby.
David is a fine MP and understands the issues, and deserves our support.”
Unfortunately for Tonge and Ward, many commentators (including one at LibDem Voice, David) can see the issues with a degree of sophistication:
“David 26th Jan ’13 – 8:51am
@ Jenny tongue.
If David Ward understands the issue, why did he not just issue a clarification, rather than become defensive and restate his highly offensive position. He has stood by his comment of “The Jews” as a collective.
This is not a Zionist Lobby issue (as convenient as it would be to make them a scapegoat and deflect attention from David Ward MP’s words).
David Ward MP has had countless times to clarify his statement and has not. Presumably, in his eyes, a British Jew, a citizen of this country, who has no vote in Israeli elections, pays no taxes to Israel, who has less influence on Israeli policy than him, an elected politician, is to blame. We should remember that attacks on Jews in this country rise during tensions in the Middle East., so at all times, we should be using correct language to stop a collective ethnic blame.“
Update 11: Engage’s contribution makes a subtle point, how many would balk at generalisations aimed at “the Muslims” or other ethnic minorities, but can’t see the problem when that is applied to Jews, all 14+ million.
Read the original, David Ward, Israel, the Holocaust and the Jews – by Sarah AB.
Update 12: Norm is characteristically evenhanded, but has a marvellous observation:
“So if David Ward is innocent, this is innocence in one of two other meanings than the blameless meaning. It is either the innocence of a political fool, someone who should know better and is culpable for not going to the trouble of knowing better; or it is the dishonest innocence of the person who chooses not to understand what the fuss is about.”
Update 13: The LibDem Chief Whip’s letter, which is rather restrained.
Update 14: Matthew Harris gets to the point:
“It stinks, and it would stink just as much if said about Muslims, about British Asians, or about any other minority group. History teaches us at all costs to avoid the politics of “I blame the Jews”. “
Update 15: Ward has released yet another statement:
“David Ward MP’s update on Israel-Palestine comments
January 26, 2013 4:50 PM
My criticisms of actions since 1948 in the Palestinian territories in the name of the State of Israel remain as strong as ever.
In my comments this week I was trying to make clear that everybody needs to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.
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.
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.
Member of Parliament for Bradford East”
I assume Ward’s statement is a ploy to deflect criticism, shift the debate and prepare for his up and coming roasting.
The Lib Dem Chief Whip, Alistair Carmichael, is scheduling a meeting with Ward to discuss these matters. No doubt Ward will want to explain why he blames “the Jews” for all of the Middle East’s problems.
Whatever the dirty politics involved I expect that Ward will release another, updated, modified and refined statement of his views, again, once the clumsiness of his latest is explained him, slowly.
Update 16:The email from Professor David Curtis to David Ward is worth reading, an extract:
“And then, let’s look carefully at what you actually wrote: ” 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.”
So you do not say that you are saddened that any Jews died. You say that you are saddened by the bad behaviour of the ones who survived. You do not state clearly that the Jews were victims of atrocities (the word you use is the less loaded one, “persecution”) but you state that Jews inflicted atrocities. And that they still do. On a daily basis.
For all the injustices suffered by the hands of Palestinians at the hands of Jews, I find it really difficult to believe that an impartial observer would equate what the Nazis did to the Jews with what the Jews have done to the Palestinians. But what you write and the way you write it implies that in fact what the Jews did was worse. “
Update 17: It should come as no surprise that the racist, Gilid Atzmon, is supportive of David Ward’s previous remarks.
Equally, Ward has found favour amongst the neo-Nazis at Stormfront (no I am not going to provide a link to their filth). I wonder if Ward and his supporters will reflect on, precisely why neo-Nazis enjoyed and subscribe to Ward’s past comments on “the Jews”?
Update 18: Marc Goldberg’s words are searing:
“Criticising Jews for not learning enough about loving their fellow man whilst being the victims of a death machine the likes of which the world has never seen is beyond the pale. Unlike being a victim of out and out anti Jewish violence this purposeful conflation of Jews with the very worst human scum is something that I have been in contact with often in the UK.
In short it’s not enough for a Jew to stand up and point out an incident of anti-Semitism but now they have to go get down to the nuts and bolts of every statement to which they might feel offended and explain why and then argue the point as if it is a political opinion. Uniquely among ethnic minorities in the UK Jews have to actually argue with people as to their right to feel offended and explain right down to the minutiae just why a person’s comments are offensive. “
Update 18: The LibDem MEP, Chris Davies, is supportive of David Ward but not in a smart anti-racist way:
Update 19: When you wade into the mucky area of racism it is common to see recurring events, or how certain individuals act to character. I had not realised but the MEP Chris Evans has a degree of history in this area.
In 2006, David Hirsh ably explained:
“So Davies made use of two demonizing analogies. He also claimed that Jews had now become “oppressors” and that they don’t seem to care. This claim is particularly inflamatory in the context of the northwest of England, where the BNP is trying to organise the “white” vote and the Islamists are trying to organise the “Muslim” vote.
And then Davies insulted his constituent who criticized him by denouncing her as a racist (because he assumed she was a “Zionist”) and writing “I hope you enjoying wallowing in your own filth.” “
Update 20: Engage, the antiracist campaign in academia, looked at this slippery thinking in 2006, I hate the “Jews should know better” argument – David Hirsh.
Update 21: This is an exceedingly thoughtful post, Types of Antisemitism: “They of all people” and David Ward MP.
Update 22: Matt Hill makes a good contribution over at the Torygraph:
“This year it was the turn of a Liberal Democrat politician to seize the moment and enjoy five minutes of infamy.
What’s more, this kind of remark is highly damaging to the Palestinian cause – because it fuels the notion that criticism of Israeli government policy is merely veiled anti-semitism.
But the problem with Ward’s comments wasn’t just their unhelpfulness, inaccuracy or racially inflected nastiness, it was their appalling timing. As the furore over his comments grew over the weekend, he protested he was merely “trying to make clear that everybody needs to learn the lessons of the Holocaust”. But for him to take it upon himself to teach Israelis this “lesson”, and in this way, was like gatecrashing the funeral of a beloved elderly relative to deliver a graveside lecture about the supposed failings of the extended family. “
Update 23: There is much debate on what David Ward said and what he meant.
There’s no need for such confusion, listen to him digging a deeper hole in this MP3 of his Sky News interview on 25 Jan 2013.
“Which brings me to the second point. In the UK a Liberal Democrat MP chose the day on which Holocaust Memorial Day falls to write the following: “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.”
The MP, David Ward, seemed utterly unaware that he was lumping 13 million Jews around the world, some of whom have never been to Israel, with ‘The Jews’.
He held the victims of the crime to higher moral standards than the perpetrators. He seems to believe there is something special about the Jews, as if they are not subject to the same emotions as overtake the rest of us.
He also failed to understand that the anguish of the Palestinians is part of a complicated struggle involving at least two sides.
A similar lack of what is not really such a subtle argument, was shown by a cartoon in the Sunday Times depicting Mr Netanyahu as a big nosed, large-eared, bloodthirsty Jew cementing what appear to be screaming Arabs into a wall as blood oozes from the bricks.
On Holocaust Memorial Day this showed not just a lack of sensitivity, an echo of the blood libel, and a distortion of Holocaust iconography, but the belief that there is only one side in a peace process. “
Update 26: Ward received the gentlest of wrist slaps from the LibDems, in a stupid exchange of letters:
“After a meeting with Mr Carmichael this evening, the chief whip issued a letter saying: “I am strongly of the view that your use of the phrase ‘the Jews’ in this context was unacceptable and I formally censure you for that.
“In line with our conversation, and notwithstanding the strength with which you hold your views on the situation in the Middle East, I would be grateful if you would confirm the undertaking that you gave to me in our meeting that you will not again use the phrase ‘the Jews’ in this context.”
Responding, Mr Ward wrote: “I confirm that I am prepared to give you the undertaking that you asked for in our meeting.”
I suppose if he really, really upsets the LibDems they’ll promote him with a peerage, remember Jenny Tonge?
Update 27: An unapologetic Ward on BBC Radio Leeds Monday, 28 Jan 2013, as an MP3 file.
Update 28: A late update but Stephen Hall, Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, points out a disturbing survey. Lib Dem members on David Ward: majority say his comments were wrong – but majority also say party wrong to suspend him.
I should add that threads at LibDem Voice relating to David Ward MP, Jews or Israel often take on the flavour of panicky Daily Mailism, with a touch of conspiracy theorists and a smattering of the Far Right.
Not what you might expect from LibDems.
Update 29: In fairness, Paul Walter’s contribution is good:
“Dear David Ward, please drop this. You made a really stupid, crass mistake by using the phrase “the Jews” in a statement on your website. It was an act of stupidity of mind-blowing proportions. A colossal misjudgement. Even someone taking their GCSEs should’t make a thunderously daft mistake like that. And you say you have run race awareness courses! Unbelievable!
You should just accept that you made a mistake and stop blaming Alistair Carmichael, Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes for doing their jobs.
If you don’t like it, stand as an independent at the next election.
Message ends.”[My emphasis.]