British MP Apologizes But Still Critical of Israel

British lawmaker apologizes for saying "Jews" inflict "atrocities on Palestinians", but says he stands by his criticism of Israel.

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Elad Benari,

Holocaust memorial
Holocaust memorial
Flash 90

A British lawmaker apologized Saturday after he accused "the Jews" of "inflicting atrocities on Palestinians on a daily basis", sparking a flurry of condemnation, AFP reports.

In a post on his website Friday, Liberal Democrat David Ward said he had signed a book in Britain's House of Commons “honoring those who died during the Holocaust.”

He also used the blog to criticize Israel's treatment of Palestinian Authority Arabs, drawing parallels with the mass murder of Jews in World War II.

"Having visited Auschwitz twice... 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 wrote on his website Friday.

The comments came ahead of Sunday's Holocaust Memorial Day, which marks the 68th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz by Soviet troops.

The remarks were condemned by the Liberal Democrats who said the politician's use of language was "unacceptable".

Ward, who represents Bradford East, in northern England, defended the comments at the time, saying he had been to Gaza and witnessed "what is, in effect, apartheid".

In a statement on his website Saturday, however, the MP stood by his criticism of Israel but apologized for causing offense by his choice of words.

"My criticisms of actions since 1948 in the Palestinian territories in the name of the State of Israel remain as strong as ever," he said, according to AFP.

"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 criticize or offend the Jewish people as a whole, either as a race or as a people of faith, and apologize sincerely for the unintended offense which my words caused," he added.

The lawmaker had faced intense criticism on social media sites and from campaign groups over the remarks.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said the comments were "sickening and unacceptable.”

"I am deeply saddened that at this somber time, when we remember those who were murdered by the Nazis, Mr. Ward has deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust causing deep pain and offence," she said Friday.

Earlier this week another British politician exploited the upcoming Holocaust Memorial Day to attack Israel, saying the Jewish state has “evolved into a racist oppressor.”

In the comments posted to his Facebook page, Lee Jasper of the Respect Party wrote, “We are asked to remember that which Israel has forgotten, that religious & racial hatred is a sin against God,” wrote Jasper on his page, as he incorrectly noted the date of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Jenny Tonge has twice been fired from the frontbench for her anti-Israel comments.

In 2004, she claimed she might become a suicide bomber if she lived in Judea, Samaria, or Gaza, and was sacked as the party’s spokesman on children’s issues.

She was sacked as health spokesman in 2010 for accusing Israeli soldiers of harvesting body parts in Haiti while doing humanitarian work after the earthquake.

The same year, Tonge accused Israel of being the “cause of terrorism” and said that the West's treatment of Muslims was caused by what she called “Holocaust guilt” and the “power of the pro-Israel lobby”.

Last year she resigned as party whip after she said that “Israel is not going to be there forever.”