Many have already written eloquently and thoughtfully about David Ward’s indefensible comments about Israel, the Holocaust and ‘the Jews’. Mark Gardner and Paul Evans, for example, have explained exactly why these comments are so offensive, although David Ward still doesn’t seem to get it.
I was struck by this misleading headline in the Huffington Post.
“Lib Dem MP David Ward ‘Condemned’ By Own Party For Criticising Israel Ahead Of Holocaust Memorial Day”
This completely misses the point, and implicitly supports those who argue either that accusations of antisemitism are deployed strategically to silence criticism of Israel or else that those making the accusations are quite extraordinarily sensitive.
Although Sara Nelson (who probably didn’t write the headline herself) goes on to offer a reasonable account of the incident, her piece reveals further ill-judged responses to Ward’s remarks. She links to a supporter of Ward, blogger Mark Valladares. He has now edited his article after coming in for some criticism.
It’s welcome that he reflected further and tried to express his views with more nuance. However I still see (and I didn’t catch the earlier version, though I gather it referred to the angry response to Ward as a ‘bandwagon’) problems in the edited post:
“As usual, in any matter related to the Israel/Palestine debate, elements of the pro-Israel lobby, (or troublemakers in Guido’s case) have chosen to interpret these remarks as being a direct comparison of the holocaust with modern events in Gaza and the West Bank. If you’re minded to do so, you probably will. On the other hand, if you lean towards a pro-Palestinian position, you might welcome any recognition by a politician that the Israeli government is behaving in an unacceptable manner.”
Although Ward did not absolutely state that Gaza was another Warsaw, the parallel was still implicit and Valladares does not even pick up on the way Ward refers to ‘the Jews’ as an undifferentiated group. Also – to offer just one counterargument to Valladares’s assertion that politicians never criticize Israel – the Chair of Labour Friends of Israel spoke out against Netanyahu’s controversial announcement on settlement building last month, as did Conservative Friends of Israel.
There’s then this confusing passage:
“For me, David’s words act as a reminder that some pretty dreadful wrongs have been committed against both sides (and there are those who seek to equate them in terms of scale), and suggest that past events should influence future behaviour.”
Is he now suggesting that the sufferings of the Palestinians might indeed reasonably be compared to the Holocaust ‘in terms of scale’, or is he rather weighing up the sufferings of Israelis and Palestinians?
Then he asserts:
“It’s called nuance, and in an increasingly black and white political discourse, I welcome his attempt to demonstrate some respect towards both sides in this seemingly never-ending dispute, even if he has failed to express himself well.”
Now, this is ridiculous. Many commenters, from a range of perspectives, demonstrate ‘respect towards both sides’, and it is very easy to do so without trivializing the Holocaust.
Returning to the Huffington Post piece, the comments were depressingly dominated by those who thought Ward had made a jolly good point, and those who thought it was somehow all the fault of ‘the Muslims’.