Thursday, April 02, 2015

Bob From Brockley's Election Priorities no.6: Get rid of David Ward

David Ward is the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, elected at the last election with a majority of just 365 votes. As the Liberal Democrats' collaboration with the Conservatives has probably killed off the Lib Dem vote, it seems pretty likely this will be a Labour gain. 

David Ward's Wikipedia page gives plenty of reasons why he is unfit to sit in parliament. Here's just one:
On 25 January 2013 the Liberal Democrats reprimanded Ward for his "use of language" in a statement about Israel's treatment of Palestinians which he put on his blog the same day that he signed a memorial book in the British House of Commons marking Holocaust Memorial Day. He wrote there that he honoured "those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust" but also commented: "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."[36][37] 
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "Mr Ward has deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust, causing deep pain and offence – these comments are sickening and unacceptable and have no place in British politics". Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "We are outraged and shocked at these offensive comments about Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the suggestion that Jews should have learned a lesson from the experience."[36] On Twitter,National Union of Students education officer Rachel Wenstone accused him of "casual antisemitism" and Ian Austin, a Labour Member of Parliament, accused him of "racism".[38] 
When asked if he was not accusing Jews, rather than the Israeli state, of persecuting 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."[38] 
Here's Ben Judah and Josh Glancy, from the Bradford installment of their excellent current series on British antisemitism:
David Ward, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, is also widely believed to be anti-Semitic by British Jews for his stridently anti-Israeli remarks, which often accuse the Israeli government of intentional mass murders and other supposed crimes, which British “Zionists” seek to cover up through their supposedly powerful institutions. On Holocaust Memorial Day this year, Ward said that Israel had committed “genocide” in Palestine, and he has mockingly attacked the oldest representative body of British Jews, the Board of Deputies, Tweeting—“What a shame there isn’t a powerful, well-funded Board of Deputies for #Roma.” 
Ward is not only condemned by Jews. At a recent event in London, Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamic radical-turned-mainstream politician, was asked when criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitism. “I happen to belong to a political party [the Liberal Democrats] which happens to have a member of parliament belonging to it called David Ward. And what he did when people were murdered in Paris for expressing themselves and others were murdered for being Jewish and no other reason he tweeted #JeSuisPalestine. Now we can reverse that and I hope that Muslims if it were reversed would realize just how hurtful such a sentiment at such a time can be,” said Nawaz. “Just imagine a member of parliament after the brutal murder of three visible Muslims in Chapel Hill had tweeted #JeSuisIsrael. You’d be horrified. It’s just appalling someone could tweet #JeSuisPalestine as if it’s an answer.” 
Ward agreed to meet me in his office in Bradford, festooned with the yellow campaigning colors of his party. But he was nervous and jittery, recording the conversation and backing away from some of his statements without renouncing them completely. Cross-examining the distressed politician makes it clear to me that what Jews find anti-Semitic about this man is a question of rhetoric, not considered views. Under pressure he seemed to have relatively few of these: He admitted that he did not challenge the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East as he is “a firm believer in the United Nations” and accepts the 1947 partition resolution. Ward strongly denied that he is attacking Israel to appeal to the Muslim vote, claiming that when he walks around Bradford, those who come up to congratulate him on his anti-Zionist stance are “mostly from the Church groups.” 
...But does he stand by his characterization of Israel’s actions as genocide? He could neither hold my eye nor respond to this question, insisting that he had been referring to the U.N. definition of genocide and attempting to move on. When I produced a print-out of the U.N. definition of genocide he seemed at some points to look a little scared and began talking about Israeli acts of ethnic cleansing in 1947. “That’s pretty serious stuff,” he said, “and amounts to the United Nations definition of genocide. I think the harm that’s been done to the people of Gaza comes under that definition as well.” Since Ward clearly believes acts of massacre or ethnic cleansing count as genocide, had he heard of the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands, I asked. His face betrayed he had not. Asked whether the termination of Jewish life in Arab states are also genocide, he seemed confused, then lost, before admitting—“it sounds like it was.” 
Just like Galloway, he is at pains to emphasize that he is not anti-Semitic. But equally it is clear that he has not considered, or is not willing to consider what drives the intensity of his Israel-hatred.
Engage has also covered Ward extensively. Here's Sarah on his Charlie Hebdo response and on his Holocaust Memorial Day comments and on his refusal to apologise; here's Lesley Klaff on his Holocaust inversion.

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However, the contender for Ward's constituency is Imran Hussain, who is not an attractive alternative. Hussain is essentially the placeman of the patriarchal machine politics of Kashmiri clans who dominate Bradford. As Parveen Akhtar and Timothy Peace have written, Hussain's nomination for neighbouring Bradford West in 2010 triggered the anger against nepotism that drove George Galloway's defeat of Labour there, in the so-called Bradford Spring:
As described by the report of Lewis Baston, Imran Hussain’s selection gave ‘the sense that things were sewn up by a particular subsection of the community by means of influence, organisation, family ties and shadows cast by Pakistani politics, and that victory in selection contests was a matter of successful organisation and manoeuvring rather than legitimately winning a political argument or having the candidate best suited to the task in hand’.
If I lived in Bradford East, then, I'd be hard pressed to know who to vote for: Hussain, for the certainty of removing the odious Ward, or someone else (perhaps the Greens' Dave Stephens?) to cock a snook at both of them.

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I'll return to Bradford for priority no.3 (you can probably guess what that will be), but for more reading, I'd recommend Ratna Lachman, local blogger J Atkinson, the Guardian's Helen Pidd, or this Twitter list.

ADDED: Read SoupyOne on David Ward.

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