David Ward’s Bulldozer

The following was written by Mark Gardner at the blog of the CST

David Ward

David Ward

Old friends and (new) foes have advised David Ward MP that he is in a hole and really should stop digging. (For background, see here and here.) Unfortunately, whoever runs his website disagrees, and has posted an article that renders Ward unfit to serve as a Member of Parliament for so long as it remains there.

With this new article, Ward has swapped his spade for a bulldozer.

The article is entitled, “Guardian continues the hounding of David Ward”. It exemplifies the type of loose – and therefore dangerous and highly offensive – language about Jews, Israel and the Holocaust that got Ward exactly where he is today.

Having posted this, it is clear that David Ward and his constituency team neither understand the power of words, nor the importance of precision of language. They most certainly underestimate its importance in the context of dealing with Jews and in relation to racism. So it is fitting, and somewhat sad, that the article is itself a counterattack on a recent Guardian interview with Ward, headlined “David Ward: ‘The solid ground I stand on is that I am not a racist’ ”.

The interview, by Aida Edemariam, criticises Ward for not understanding why he caused offence with his Jews-Holocaust-Israel-Palestinians linkage, but it does seem to afford him every opportunity to state his case and quotes him at length. It is well worth reading, but outraged John Hilley who wrote about it on his (ill-termed) Zenpolitics website. This is the article that is now on Ward’s website, where it resides under Ward’s name and the logo of the Liberal Democrat Party.

Hilley begins by reminding us what Ward originally said about “the Jews” having suffered in the Holocaust and then “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians”. He acknowledges that Ward’s wording was poor, but states that the outrage about it is somehow artificial: 

whatever lack of qualification or carelessness in his words, were we really to believe that Ward meant or implied that all Jews were/are responsible for Israel’s repressions and occupation?

To which the answer, for most of us, would be a resounding “yes”. When someone says “the Jews”, we take that to mean “the Jews”. Indeed, isn’t that the standard defence of every anti-Zionist who has ever been accused of antisemitism? “Errr…I didn’t say ‘the Jews’, I was clearly only talking about Ariel Sharon / the IDF / Israelis / Zionists / George Bush / the Board of Deputies of British Jews…”.

Building from this self-serving deceit, the article vilifies those who have taken issue with Ward’s Jews-Holocaust-Israel-Palestinians construct. It includes these misrepresentations of complaints:

the expected criticism from outraged Zionists…

Edemariam like all Ward’s detractors, really knows what he meant…

his [Ward’s] meaning is likely to have been well understood…

Ward’s real ‘mistake’, as far as the Zionist lobby and many liberal commentariat are concerned – and as his Liberal colleague Jenny Tongue also found out to her cost – was to criticise Israel at all…

Those, like David Ward, who courageously speak in any kind of similar vein – despite his subsequent corrections – are, as usual, pilloried for being anti-Semitic and hounded by liberal media types for not subscribing to the template Zionist narrative…

There is a small mercy in that the article’s insistence that Ward did not mean “the Jews”, helps inoculate it against similar charges. Hilley clearly does not mean all “the Jews”, but this article still leaves the reader believing that any complainant is part of a conspiracy to silence all dissent on Israel, Zionism, or prevailing Holocaust narratives.

As Ward has previously put it and as positively cited again in this article:

Ward’s point about the “huge operation out there, a machine almost, which is designed to protect the state of Israel from criticism” also applies to this kind of liberal baiting.

(“Liberal baiting” is a reference to the Guardian interviewer, Aida Edemariam. The news that the Guardian is also somehow in on this alleged conspiracy to silence Ward, Tonge and their ilk, may surprise those who have followed debates about ‘the new antisemitism’ in recent decades.)

Despite all this, the article’s primary thrust tries to reinforce Ward’s post-facto rationalisation of his behaviour in the controversy thus far: the notion that he is bravely trying to kick-start an urgent debate on how the Holocaust impacted upon the subsequent actions of Israel and/or Zionists (but not “the Jews” – or at least not those Jews who kept out of it all).

Now we are no longer talking about the offence caused by stupid routine accusations about all criticism of Israel being falsely jumped on as antisemitism; or the even sillier (and far more original) idea that the Guardian is now in on the act. Instead, we are back to talking about the Holocaust. We are back to the original cause of the outrage against Ward.  You might, therefore, expect the language to now, at long last, be careful and precise, empathetic even towards those who were so upset. Sadly, this is not the case:

Nor was Ward linking the Holocaust and the Occupation by comparing or equating them as “categories”. He was linking them in the obvious sense that the Holocaust was used as a part of the Zionist agenda for occupying another people’s land…

Indeed, how dare Zionists not ignore the near genocide of European Jewry, but to move on, Ward’s insistence that he was not equating “the Holocaust and the Occupation…as ‘categories’” has been central to his defence since day one of this squalid controversy. Bizarrrely, having just stated the above, Hilley then bulldozes under both his and Ward’s position, writing:

And if Edemariam really does believe after sixty years of ethnic cleansing, mass IDF murder, settler takeovers, apartheid transfer policies and the continued prison camp siege of Gaza that Israel “is not setting out to annihilate [the Palestinian] people”, perhaps she is the one who should be more carefully considering her incendiary language.

In the space of two small paragraphs, Hilley has gone from saying that the Holocaust is obviously not the same as “occupying another people’s land” to outrage that Ward’s interviewer has denied Israel “is not setting out to annihilate the Palestinian people”.

To be precise, “setting out to annihilate” is not the same as perpetrating an annihilation / Holocaust, but to the man on the Clapham (or Bradford East) omnibus, there will be little difference. Then, there is the seriousness of what Hilley’s angry denial of Edemariam’s words implies – that Israel is actually setting out to annihilate the Palestinian people, as the Nazis set out to annihilate the Jews.

If this is to be Ward’s chosen category comparison / equation, then he has no place continuing as an MP.   

Hilley’s article is not yet done. It has “a rather basic set of sequential things to restate”. Bullet points follow, beginning with an accurate description and full condemnation of the Holocaust against “the Jews”. Nevertheless, the centrality of antisemitism and the Holocaust to Nazi ideology is undersold by the next point:

  • “It was part of a systematic purge on any community, Jews, Gypsies, Communists, deemed inferior or/and a threat to Nazi ideology and power.”

The article continues:

  • Anyone who seeks to deny or misconstrue these basic facts is either peddling lies, misinformed  or uninterested in the truth”

More “basic facts” follow and again we are told that if you do not agree with them then you are either a liar or a fool. They include:

  • “The Holocaust formed a central ideological, political and militarist agenda in the Zionist formulation and creation of a Jewish state.”

If anything, this goes even further than the earlier mention of the Holocaust and “the Zionist agenda”. Notwithstanding the first of Hilley’s points, it is as if the Holocaust has now been stripped of all meaning for Jews and reduced to some kind of deeper, more elemental truth about it being a Zionist tool. The bullet points continue, including:

  • “We cannot reasonably learn or understand anything about Palestinian suffering without referencing the Holocaust and the ways in which Zionism has used it to legitimise the Occupation.”

So, whilst the basic reasons as to how and why the Holocaust might feed into Jewish support for Zionism are dehumanised, the opposite must apply for Palestinian suffering. For now, let us just say that this is a striking double standard.

Then, Hilley cites Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein “whose own Jewish family were murdered in extermination camps…this has been turned into ideological propaganda through the Holocaust Industry”.

All of which feeds to the article’s conclusion about Ward’s “careless discrepancy” being maliciously used “to keep other journalists in a state of  cautious apprehension about discussing the Holocaust in relation to the Occupation…[this] personalised hatchet-job does exactly what the Zionist lobby and self-protecting editors want in keeping all that prudently off-limits”.

Let us be clear, an article such as Hilley’s is not exceptional within proper anti-Zionist and anti-Israel circles. Its weird claim that “Jews” really means “Zionists” or “Israelis” repeats what we have previously heard from Caryl Churchill and Paul Foot, two wordsmiths beside whom Hilley and Ward pale into insignificance. Its claim that outrage over Ward’s spitting on Holocaust memory is proof that any and all criticism of Israel is falsely accused of antisemitism is merely routine; as is the coterminous accusation that such claims succeed in shutting up all criticism.

Even the idea that Israel wants to repeat what the Nazis did is not that unusual, with Holocaust Memorial Day fast become a lightning rod for this sickening, perverse claim. 

However, for all of this rubbish to be brought together in a single article on an MP’s website brings shame upon the Liberal Democrat Party, and upon Ward’s many decent colleagues who keep getting spattered with mud from these issues. So long as this article remains on David Ward MP’s website, he is unfit to serve as a Member of Parliament.

Lord Hylton and how lies get spread

A Guest Post by AKUS

Adam Levick recently wrote about 180,000 Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals in 2010.  A friend pointed out that recently a question was asked in the British House of Lords about this very topic by a peer named Lord Hylton. According to his entry on Wikipedia, Hylton is one of the ninety elected hereditary peers who remain in the House of Lords after the House of Lords Act of 1999. Lord Hylton sits as a cross-bencher.

The record of the question is as follows ( * Hansard source. Citation: HL Deb, 25 November 2010, c377W):

Written answers and statements, 25 November 2010

Lord Hylton (Crossbench)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will discuss with the Government of Israel the need to increase the number of patients from Gaza who are permitted to go to the West Bank and Israel for urgent major medical treatments.

Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Conservative)

We, along with our international allies, believe that it is not only imperative for goods and exports to leave Gaza, but that it should also be possible for people, particularly those needing medical treatment, and others to move freely in and out of Gaza.

The UK raises a number of human rights issues, on a regular basis, with the Israeli authorities at ministerial and official level. We will continue to follow-up on these issues.

As it happens, Lord Hylton’s name was not unknown to me. In research I conducted for my column which looked into the source for the article by Seamus Milne , I discovered that his trip had been organized by a group calling itself “MEMO”, an acronym for the Islamic Middle East Monitor. Milne’s visit with a couple of British MPs was treated as somewhat of a side issue by MEMO, but a little further digging came up with the far greater coverage of a visit to Ramallah on July 10th, 2010 – British peers meet with Hamas parliamentarians in Ramallah.

The Peers in question were Lord Ahmad, Baroness Tonge, and Lord Hylton. Though I had never heard of Hylton before, Tonge (of the Haitian body-parts libel) and Ahmad are quite well-known – infamous, in fact. They were brought to Ramallah and Jerusalem in a rather unsuccessful attempt to publicize the “plight” of four Palestinian Legislative Council members “who are currently seeking sanctuary in the Red Cross offices in Jerusalem”, in the words of MEMO. (You can download a multi-page report at Peers Fact Finding Mission to Jerusalem. There is some confusion over whether there are three or four PLC members “seeking sanctuary”).

It is noteworthy that the three PA members have sought and been granted “sanctuary” by the Red Cross, which is supposed to be a non-partisan body working for the benefit of POWs. This is the same Red Cross that has not managed to do a thing for Gilad Shalit, and is providing “sanctuary” for three people who are not, in fact, POWs – whatever the issues are regarding their case and Israel’s wish to expel them from the West Bank. In comparison to Shalit, who has not been allowed to meet with anyone other than his captors, these three organize press conference whenever they wish, including with three British peers!

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Hook, Line and Sinker

The British elections scheduled for spring 2010 are going to be exceptionally interesting. After 12 years of New Labour rule, a big shake-up is predicted and although the electoral campaign began unofficially long ago, party leaders seem to be so far keeping most of their cards quite close to their chests. However, the leader of Britain’s third party, the Liberal Democrats, seems to have no problem with making his views on one issue perfectly clear. In his CiF article of December 22nd Nick Clegg proves yet again just how little he understands about the Middle East when he insists that Israel should ‘Lift the Gaza Blockade’. It was interesting to see below the line just what sort of people agree with Clegg’s views and what sort of opinions are held by those who could potentially support his party next spring.

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