Power and privilege affect people’s judgements. Proximity to it changes people, clouds their common sense.
Witness the sense of entitlement that Westminster MPs had, they genuinely could not understand the issue of their excessive expenses claims. These MPs lacked any insight into their own conduct and how others saw them.
So it is with David Ward MP.
Now Ward continues on his path of dog whistles, paranoia and is devoid of any self examination.
After his crass behaviour, an unapologetic interview at the Guardian was meant to clear the air and help him, but Ward made things worse:
“There is a huge operation out there, a machine almost, which is designed to protect the state of Israel from criticism. And that comes into play very, very quickly and focuses intensely on anyone who’s seen to criticise the state of Israel.”
“Instead of leaping to the conclusion that you are being silenced by a powerful lobby or that you were ‘just’ speaking truth to evil, I advise you to begin to demonstrate your understanding and empathy for all peoples – by the way, it is not just Jews and Palestinians who live in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. If you had done that and then voiced your concerns in a measured way, not on Holocaust Memorial Day, you may have found the reaction would have been different. “
When I read that George Galloway criticised the MP, David Ward, for using the expression “the Jews” I was pleasantly surprised, although I wondered where was the sting in the tail?
Now gorgeous George has bought out an official statement.
I reproduce it in full, lest it succumb to revisionism and the desire to tidy up some of the more questionable parts:
“TUESDAY, 29 JANUARY 2013
Why David Ward was wrong
It’s good that David Ward has decided to support the Palestinians, even at this late stage in his career. He has clearly realised the strength of feeling among many of his constituents. But his timing and choice of words have inadvertently strengthened their persecutors. No British politician has been more closely identified with the Palestinian cause – and for longer – than me. So when I say that the supporters of Israel spend hundreds of hours every week trawling for just such mis-timings and mis-statements it should be heeded.
His statement – now withdrawn and apologized for to save his political position – has provided an unexpected bonus for Israel, from Bradford of all places. The Holocaust is the greatest crime of the 20th Century. Tens of millions perished in it. I repeat tens of millions. Approximately six million of those were Jews, annihilated for no other reason than that they were Jews. It was slaughter on an industrial scale, men woman and children marched into death camps to be gassed, starved, worked to death. Holocaust Memorial Day cannot possibly be the day to make the comments Ward made, even if, in Professor Norman Finkelstein’s words, ‘the Zionists have developed effective means of translating the murders of millions of Jews into the case for Israel’.
But Ward’s words were even worse than his timing. As a teenager I knew of the importance of avoiding the false synonym of Jew equals Zionist and Zionist equals Jew. Many Jews around the world hate Israel and its crimes and are amongst the Palestinians most effective supporters. The greatest Jew, Dr Albert Einstein, famously refused to become Israel’s first president, saying he could not preside over a state for one people whose happiness was to be built upon the misery of another people.
Professor Noam Chomsky, Professor Finkelstein, Professor Ilan Pappe are but a few of the host of towering intellectuals whose support for the Palestinians is vital. Their courage is unmatchable. And they are all Jews.
Thus Ward’s condemnation of ‘the Jews’ is a gross error on every level. Many Jews are not Zionists – religious and secular – and most Zionists are not Jews, indeed many like the crazed Christian fundamentalists of the US bible belt don’t even like Jews. Ward should have said that a state claiming to be ‘the state of the Jews’ is a blasphemy against the Book and a political monstrosity, heaping endless misery on the Palestinian people whose land they stole, expelling them to wander the earth.
If he had done so then, notwithstanding the bitter animus between Respect (and most of the country) towards the Liberal Democrats who keep the Tories in power, we would have supported him. He did not and so we cannot. ” [My Emphasis.]
Galloway, as an employee of Holocaust denial supporting Press TV, has to keep his feet in several camps and I am sure many people will analyse his words in the coming days, but one thing stood out to me:
Ward should have said that a state claiming to be ‘the state of the Jews’ is a blasphemy against the Book
Which is a strange turn of phrase even for Galloway, I suppose Respect Party’s claim to be political is somewhat undercut by this theological piece of demagoguery.
Whatever Galloway’s real views on the matter, I hope he finds the courage to take his employer, Press TV, to task over the ludicrous lies of the Rothschild running the world and the hosting of David Duke’s friends.
Whilst Galloway is, rightly, criticising David Ward he could look closer to home at Press TV’s veteran antisemite, Gordon Duff’s preposterous article trying to blame Israelis for the shooting at Sandy Hook school.
Well, George, why not tackle the very real antisemites at Press TV? That would be brave.
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”. “
The BBC’s Today Programme gave Jenny Tonge a platform and an opportunity to justify her offensive and ahistorical remarks.
She was in a hole, but she kept digging.
I will await a full transcript, but here are a few of her comments that I heard:
Tonge: “This State [in an exasperated tone] angers everyone and irritates everyone.”
“….Now trying to take the whole area for themselves.”
“He’s [Ken O’Keefe] a brave man “.
Frankly, I wish we could hear more of Tonge, as with each passing moment her idiocy becomes plainer.
Such people needs their views exposing for the polite racism that they are.
A copy of the programme can be downloaded here as an MP3.
Update 1: Been thinking.
It would be better next time if interviewers tackled Tonge on her conspiratorial ideas, and asked her some harder questions like:
“Baroness Tonge, do you believe that ‘Zionists’ control American foreign policy?”
“Didn’t you say that Israelis should be investigated for organ theft in Haiti?”
“Baroness Tonge, do you believe, as you said in 2006 that ‘”The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a grip on our party.” ?”
“Baroness Tonge, didn’t the Palestine Telegraph, which you were a patron push the video of the antisemite, David Duke, on-time Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan? Why did they do that?”
Jenny Tonge is a professional politician and does not deserve the kid gloves treatment that she gets from the British media.
A quick post, but Jenny Tonge is at it again, her latest rant:
“”Beware Israel,” she said. “Israel is not going to be there for ever in its present form. One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving £70bn a year to Israel to support what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East – that is Israel. One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA: enough is enough.”
She added: “Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.”
What Tonge is saying, in other words, is that the Israel lobby compels the USA to give Israel £70 billion a year.
Tonge is implying that Israel lobby can force the US against their better interest to support Israel and one day they will realise that, which is a conspiracy theory
Tonge puts it more politely, but that’s what she believes. Watch a video of her comments (from 01:50 onwards).
Stephen Tall’s post is informative.
And if you can’t make up your mind then watch her fellow participant, Ken O’Keefe go on about 9/11 and Mossad. Baroness Jonge didn’t bat an eyelid at these absurdities.
Not forgetting her stupidity in 2010 suggesting that Israelis went all the way to Haiti, not to aid them, but to harvest organs from dead Haitians. Unbelievable.