'Anti-Israel' Liberal Democrat MP Could Lose Whip

The Liberal Democrat's most senior Jewish minister says MP David Ward is treading 'thin line' with anti-Israel, anti-Jewish tweets.

Cynthia Blank ,

PLO flags in London (file)
PLO flags in London (file)

Controversial British MP David Ward may lose his position as the Liberal Democrat's whip thanks to his recurring anti-Israel tweets, the party's most senior Jewish minister said, as reported in the Jewish Chronicle.

During Israel's conflict with Gaza last summer, Ward, the MP from Bradford East, tweeted: "The big question is - if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? - probably yes."

He later apologized for the provocative tweet, saying, "I utterly condemn the violence on both sides in Israel and Gaza."

This was not the first time Ward took to social media to criticize the Jewish State within an anti-Semitic context. Before International Holocaust Memorial Day in 2013, he accused "the Jews" of afflicting "atrocities on the Palestinians." 

Then in July of that same year, he tweeted: "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?"

He lost the party whip for two months in 2013 as a result of disciplinary action stemming from these comments. 

According to Crime Prevention Minister Lynne Featherstone, Ward is treading a "thin line" with his continued anti-Israel posts on social media. 

“He might lose [his position] again if he’s not careful. There’s a thin line between free speech and hate speech and incitement,” Featherstone told the Jewish Chronicle.

“Obviously the party takes these matters very seriously. It won’t be tolerated. When that line is overstepped then I expect party officials to step in.”

Other Liberal Democrats have been critical of Ward as well, but so far the party has refrained from taking further disciplinary action, despite urgings from the Israeli ambassador to Great Britain. 

Just last month, Nick Clegg, a Liberal Democrat leader and the British deputy prime minister, condemned one of Ward's tweets targeted against Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. 

After Netanyhu took part in a solidarity march in Paris, the Sunday after a spate of terror attacks in the French capital, Ward tweeted “#Netanyahu in Paris march – what!!! Makes me feel sick” and "Je suis #Palestinian.”

Clegg called the remarks "crass, stupid, and insensitive," but declined to name them as racist. 

Featherstone concluded by warning politicians against public statements that "aggravate situations" and calling for "grown up" debate on efforts to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians.