Matt Chorley – Daily Mail Feb 28, 2013
A Lib Dem MP who sparked a row on the eve of a Holocaust memorial with comments about ‘the Jews’ is to escape censure while he receives training in how not to be offensive.
Campaigners accused Nick Clegg of not taking anti-Semitism seriously after it emerged that plans to punish Bradford East MP David Ward have been ‘adjourned’ while he learns what language to use in future.
The row comes as the Lib Dems reputation has been battered by allegations of a cover-up over groping claims against Lord Rennard and the resignation of former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne, who faces jail for perverting the course of justice.
Embattled Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg staged a showdown meeting with Mr Ward over his ‘unacceptable’ comments in which he accused ‘the Jews’ of atrocities against Palestinians.
Days before the annual Holocaust Memorial Day last month, Mr Ward wrote on his blog: ‘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.’
He was summoned to the meeting with Mr Clegg and Lib Dem chief whip Alistair Carmichael where he was told his use of the phrase was ‘unacceptable and must not be repeated’
During the hearing Mr Ward agreed to remove the comments from his website and said he would work with the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel to ‘agree language’ that is proportionate, according to the party.
But the Holocaust Educational Trust said the Lib Dems’ response to the ‘sickening’ comments was ‘disappointing’
The row first blew up over a posting made by Mr Ward after signing a memorial book to mark Holocaust Memorial Day last month.
Following the disciplinary meeting Mr Carmichael sent a letter to the MP setting out the party’s actions.
He wrote: ‘At the meeting you undertook to work along with Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel and Simon Hughes MP to identify and agree language that will be proportionate and precise in your future interventions in this debate. We would also hope that this would allow you to achieve a better understanding of the legitimate concern that your comments has caused within the wider Jewish community.
‘I am not clear how much time this work will require although it will involve other people making time available to work with you and their availability is at present unknown.
‘In the circumstances, therefore, the disciplinary process currently stands adjourned and a date will require to be fixed at which progress can be reviewed and it can be concluded.’
Mr Carmichael added that Mr Clegg wanted it to be understood that the ‘party recognises your right to express your legitimately and sincerely held views’ on conditions in which Palestinians live, especially on the West Bank and in Gaza.
He added: ‘He was equally clear, however, that the language in which these views are articulated must not be generalised and indiscriminate in its nature. Liberal Democrats believe in fearless criticism where it is justified, but abhor generalised condemnation of a whole people where it is not.’
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: ‘This is a disappointing response to Mr Ward’s sickening and unacceptable comments which he has kept on his website.
‘He has shown no understanding of the offence he caused in both the language that he used and the timing of his comments – sadly the mishandling of this situation appears to demonstrate that Holocaust equivocation and anti-Semitism are not being taken seriously.’