Liberal Democrat MP David Ward has been ordered to take language classes in the aftermath of his statement about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
The sanction was made at a meeting the Bradford East MP was summoned to with his party leader Nick Clegg, deputy leader Simon Hughes and chief whip Alistair Carmichael.
Mr Ward, who on his website accused “the Jews” in Israel of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians... on a daily basis”, must work alongside the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel group and Mr Hughes to “identify and agree language that will be proportionate and precise in your future interventions in this debate”.
A letter from Mr Carmichael added: “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.”
Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg said the Liberal Democrat party recognised Mr Ward’s “right to express his legitimately and sincerely held views on the conditions in which Palestinians live”, but he added that “the language in which these views are articulated must not be generalised and indiscriminate in its nature”.
The letter to Mr Ward continued: “Liberal Democrats believe in fearless criticism where it is justified, but abhor generalised condemnation of a whole people where it is not.
“In particular your use of ‘the Jews’ in the article posted on your website on January 24 and your reference to ‘the Jewish community’ as a possible alternative, as reported in The Jewish News on February 7, is unacceptable and must not be repeated.”
On Mr Ward’s language classes, Mr Carmichael’s letter read: “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 Ward’s comments were made ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, an event which he pledged his commitment to before adding: “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.”
Perhaps with one eye on his party’s directive, Mr Ward did not want to comment on the matter tonight.