Tepid Apology by British MP for Tweet Condoning Gaza Rockets

Liberal Democrat David Ward, who wrote that he would probably fire a rocket at Israel if he lived in Gaza, may still face party disciplinary action.

A rocket fired from Gaza to Ashkelon on July 15, 2014.
A rocket fired from Gaza to Ashkelon on July 15, 2014.Ilan Assayag

A British Liberal Democrat MP who tweeted that he would probably fire a rocket at Israel if he lived in Gaza has issued what his party, the Liberal Democrats, maintained was a "categorical apology."

In a post that appeared on his Twitter feed Tuesday, David Ward wrote, “The big question is - if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? - probably yes”, followed by another tweet shortly thereafter, that reads “Ich bin ein #palestinian - the West must make up its mind - which side is it on?”

"I utterly condemn the violence on both sides in Israel and Gaza," Ward said in a statement on Wednesday night, following the uproar created by his tweets.

"I condemn the actions of Hamas, and my comments were not in support of firing rockets into Israel. If they gave the opposite impression, I apologise," the MP added.

"However, while I defend the right of Israel to exist and defend itself, I will continue to speak out for the rights of the Palestinian people who are facing untold suffering. More must be done by the world community to end this humanitarian crisis and protect the families living in Gaza. I can understand their plight and desperation."

In the light of the apology, the Liberal Democrats said that will decide "in due course if further disciplinary action should be taken."

The party had previously said that it utterly condemns” the remarks made by their MP for Bradford East and that he would be subject to disciplinary proceedings, the Guardian reported.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman was quoted by The Guardian as saying that party leader Nick Clegg "has been at the forefront of calling for peace in Israel and Gaza. We utterly condemn David Ward's comments, they are not representative of the Liberal Democrats."

Fellow MPs condemned Ward’s comments. Among them were Tory chairman Grant Shapps, who reportedly described the words as an "incitement to violence" and "completely irresponsible.”

Last July, Ward came under fire for questioning the continuing existence of the State of Israel and being unwilling to apologize for doing so, The Guardian reports. He had the whip withdrawn for two months, and was restored by the party automatically when the suspension period expired in September.

Edward Macmillan-Scott, a former Lib Dem MEP, created further controversy when he tweeted that Ward could look after himself, but members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews were a "frightful bag of disputatious Jews", while the editor of the Jewish Chronicle was "a prat".

He later apologised for the statement while swiping again at the group for not saying sorry to him in a previous dispute.

The board said it was deeply concerned about Macmillan-Scott's comments and considered his subsequent tweeted apology wholly inadequate.

The Liberal Democrats have previously been accused of failing to respond quickly to allegations of antisemitism. Lady Tonge resigned as party whip after refusing to apologise for an outspoken attack against Israel in 2012.