A left-wing British MP with a history of antisemitic statements has been disciplined by party leaders Thursday, after a tweet in which he branded Israel an "apartheid state" and claimed "the Zionists are losing the battle."
Over the weekend controversial Liberal Democrat MP David Ward asked his Twitter followers:
"Am I wrong or am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle - how long can the #apartheid State of Israel last?"
That tweet sparked renewed outrage by Jewish groups, who have previously called for Ward to be expelled from his party following an antisemitic remark he made in January.
It was also apparently the final straw for his party's leaders, who "withdrew the whip" until September 13 - essentially suspending him from the party until then.
Paul Charney, Chairman of the Zionist Federation "applauded" the move against Ward's "use of anti-Semitic language veiled in anti-Israel rhetoric."
"Should Mr Ward continue to abuse his position by using it as a platform to broadcast his prejudice against Jews and Israel, then his party should withdraw the whip permanently. This action sends a clear message that racially prejudiced language will not be tolerated in our society”.
On the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, the MP for Bradford East wrote on his website that he was "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 [Judea and Samaria - ed.] and Gaza."
Those remarks earned him nothing more than a stern reprimand from his party, and anti-hate campaigners and Jewish groups lamented the lack of disciplinary actions.
But his latest comments appear to have finally prompted action. Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and Lib. Dem. "chief whip" Alistair Carmichael summoned Ward to a meeting.
According to the BBC, in a letter to Ward, Alistair Carmichael informed him that the action was being taken as "we were in unanimous agreement that questioning the continued existence of the state of Israel fails the test of language that is 'proportionate and precise'."
"We want to be clear with you that in this process we are not concerned about your views and opinions on the policies of present or previous Israeli governments, nor the situation in the Israeli-occupied territories, nor the strength of feeling with which your views are held.
"As we have sought to impress upon you repeatedly, we are having to decide on whether language you chose to use in January and February, and now this month, is language which brings the party into disrepute or harms the interests of the party."
Carmichael also expressed his party's frustrations at "constantly responding to questions about disproportionate and imprecise language from you."
"These interventions cause considerable offence rather than addressing questions of political substance about the plight of the Palestinian people and the right of Israel's citizens to live a life free of violence."
"Not far enough"
But a spokesperson for Stand for Peace - a British counter-extremism group - told Arutz Sheva that the decision to suspend Ward "did not go far enough," noting that the period for which he will be "suspended" falls over the summer recess, when parliament is not in session.
"Time after time Antii-Semites are using anti-Israel sentiment as a means to further their agenda. It is with dismay that we note the withdrawing the whip is for the summer recess only.
"If David Ward had made these comments about any other minority, I suspect he would have been expelled from the party."