A YORKSHIRE Liberal Democrat MP slammed over Tweets seemingly supporting rocket attacks on Israel has told The Yorkshire Post his comments were “misinterpreted,” and that the suggestion that they were inciting violence was “laughable”.
Bradford East MP David Ward Mr Ward stood by his comments, but apologised if they had been “misinterpreted.”
He said: “If they seriously believe that they were condoning violence, then I apologise, but they got that wrong.”
Mr Ward was suspended by the party for several weeks last year after making a string of controversial comments about Israel and Jews.
He could once again face disciplinary action after he used social media to give his verdict on the violence currently rocking the Middle East on Tuesday evening.
“The big question is - if I lived in Gaza would I fire a rocket? - probably yes,” he posted on Twitter.
Two hours later, he sent another Tweet: “Ich bin ein #palestinian - the West must make up its mind - which side is it on?”
The party initially said it “utterly condemned” the remarks which “are not representative of the Liberal Democrats”.
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps called on the MP to withdraw the remark, which Labour said was a “vile” comment by a “desperate” MP.
“Appalling: No MP should Tweet what’s essentially incitement to violence,” Mr Shapps said.
Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi has written to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, calling for an investigation in Mr Ward’s actions “as a matter of urgency.”
The letter, seen by The Yorkshire Post, said the tweets would appear to be “prima facie evidence” that he has committed an offence of encouragement of terrorism.
It said: “Mr Ward may or may not have intended this statement to encourage others to fire rockets from Gaza to Israel, but regrettably he would appear to at least have been reckless as to whether others would be encouraged to commit such acts.”
Mr Zahawi said: “At a time when we should be trying to bring calm, it is highly irresponsible for a person in a position of influence to be perceived to incite further violence.
“We must do all we can to urge both sides to agree to a ceasefire, and move towards negotiating a permanent settlement.”
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Ward said he was “disappointed but not surprised” at the reaction to his tweets.
Mr Ward said: “When people are critical of Israel, there’s a machine that swings into actions very effectively and very vocally.
“What I was describing was the horrendous conditions, that most people are aware of, and the state of mind of people living there.
“I was trying to understand how desperate the people of Gaza are.
“What I was saying, that if I was there, if my brother or sister or wife had been brutally killed, I would probably do the same thing.”
He said the suggestion that he was inciting violence was “laughable”, and that he did not see the basis of the call by Mr Zahawi for an investigation that he committed the encouragement of terrorism.
“The Palestinians are being bombed on a daily basis and brutally murdered,” said Mr Ward. “To suggest that they are going to be persuaded by a UK MP to fire more rockets against people who are bombing them - it’s just laughable.”
He went on: “What I said was a reflection on what an imaginary person would do in another place. I’m not sure who it would be inciting, but it will get him [Mr Zahawi] a story.”
Mr Ward said the conflict had an impact world-wide, and that as an MP, he had “a duty and obligation to speak out.”
He said he would defend the right of Israel to defend itself and called on the major political parties to call for a cease fire.
On Tuesday Mr Ward spoke during a House of Commons debate where he condemned violence on both sides of the conflict.
Mr Ward said he had spoken to the Liberal Democrat chief whip, Don Foster, about the tweets, but “did not discuss disciplinary action.”
The MP released a statement condemning the actions of Hamas, and said his comments were “not in support of firing rockets into Israel. If they gave the opposite impression, I apologise.”
A Liberal Democrats spokesman said: “This is a categorical apology from David Ward. In light of this apology, the party and the whips will decide in due course if further disciplinary action should be taken.”
The statement came after the Board of Deputies of British Jews called on Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to withdraw the party whip from Mr Ward, whose membership was suspended for a period following previous controversial remarks about Israel and the Jews.
A spokesman for the Board of Deputies said: “David Ward MP says he would be prepared to fire a rocket from Gaza into Israel - an act which the EU today called ‘criminal and unjustifiable’. Ward has once again shamed Parliament, the Liberal Democrats and himself.
“We welcome the unequivocal condemnation of Ward’s statement by party leader Nick Clegg MP but his words must now be underpinned by action and the party whip withdrawn permanently.”
The spokesman said the Board was also “deeply concerned” by comments made by former Lib Dem MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, who came to Mr Ward’s defence with a tweet in which he referred to the Board of Deputies as “disputatious Jews” and Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard as “a prat”.
Mr McMillan-Scott, a former vice president of the European Parliament who defected from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems in 2010 before losing his seat earlier this year, wrote: “David Ward can look after himself. The @BoardofDeputies is a frightful bag of disputatious Jews and the editor of the @JewishChron is a prat.”
The ex-MEP later used Twitter to issue an apology which the Board of Deputies dismissed as “wholly inadequate”. It read: “I apol to @BoardofDeputies altho they didn’t when I was smeared by @stephenpollard in 2009 at behest of #Coulson. D Tel did tho. I’m not a/S” (anti-semitic).
Mr Ward had the party whip restored in September after serving a suspension over a series of clashes with the Lib Dem hierarchy over his views on Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.
The final straw for leadership was a posting in July last year questioning the future existence of the state of Israel which the party said broke a previous agreement to use “proportionate and precise’’ language when commenting on the issue.
Mr Ward condemned that ruling as “disproportionate” saying such views were widely shared.