Antisemitism in Political Parties

David Ward

2016-present: Councillor, Bolton and Undercliffe ward, Bradford City Council (elected as a Liberal Democrat; now Independent)

2017: Independent parliamentary candidate for Bradford East

2017: Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Bradford East, 2017 (subsequently deselected)

2010-2015: Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Bradford East

Incidents

  1. On January 26th 2013, it was reported that the previous day, in advance of Holocaust Memorial Day, Councillor David Ward had written: “Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.” In a later statement, he added: “When faced with examples of atrocious behaviour, we must learn from them. It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated.”
  2. On 27th January 2017, (Holocaust Memorial Day), Cllr Ward tweeted: “#Auschwitz happened and never can be compared but would be betrayal of its victims to use it to protect #Israel Govt from condemnation”
  3. On 26th April 2017, it was reported that, following his deselection as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Bradford East, Cllr Ward had told the BBC: “Supporters of Israel are using this as a tactic. It’s an attempt to stop supporters of the Palestinians getting into parliament.”
  4. On 9th May 2017, it was reported that Cllr Ward had said his decision to stand as an independent candidate was to make a point, asserting that “this is very much about Israel and supporters of Israel deciding who should be candidates in British elections and I think that’s unacceptable for democracy.”
  5. On 28th July 2018, Cllr Ward shared an article on Facebook entitled: “The Jewish ‘War Against Corbyn’ risks bringing real antisemitism to Britain.” [This title was subsequently altered, but the original phrase still appears within the article itself]. The article spoke of accusations of antisemitism within the Labour Party as being “fake”, and its author accused the Jewish community’s leadership and media of being solely motivated by a desire to protect Israel from criticism.
  6. On 17th September 2018, Cllr Ward shared a post which linked to an Electronic Intifada article entitled: “Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was funded by Israel Lobby.” The article claimed that allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party had been “exaggerated and weaponized by Corbyn’s political enemies – and in some cases outright fabricated.”
  7. On 20th October 2018, Cllr Ward wrote a lengthy post on Facebook in which he described his continued desire to re-join the Liberal Democrats and complained that the Party needed to [a] “recover its soul” by “deal[ing] with people like Baron Palmer of Childs Hill” [a Jewish Liberal Democrat peer]. Cllr Ward maintained that he did not attack Lord Palmer because he was Jewish, but simply because he “and his ilk…[defend] a racist apartheid State called Israel.” As the discussion progressed, Cllr Ward commented [b]: “There are people like Gavin Stollar [chair of the Liberal Democrats’ Friends of Israel] who are planted in the Party to police MPs critical of Israel and to act as Israel’s PR agent…”
  8. On 4th November 2018, Cllr Ward shared an article on Facebook from the conspiracist American Herald Tribune site entitled: “Israel stooges freak out over Baroness Jenny’s remarks – again,” accompanied by the strapline: “They plot to get her removed from the House of Lords.” The article related to Baroness Tonge’s remarks made in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings, in which she alleged that the ultimate responsibility for the deaths might lie with the Israeli Government. The article’s author not only dismissed those who objected to her statement as “Israel stooges”, “Inquisitors” and “adoring supporters” of Benjamin Netanyahu, but also described her remarks as “accurate”, saying: “The Israeli regime strains every sinew to ensure its behaviour is so appalling as to invite detestation and loathing, not because they are Jews but because they are the ‘amoral thugs’ that the late Jewish MP Sir Gerald Kaufman once called them.”

Analysis

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis is that Cllr Ward’s actions and statements amount to breaches of the International Definition of Antisemitism and qualify as antisemitic discourse according to our methodology.

By stating that the victims of the Holocaust are required to learn the lessons of their persecution by the Nazis [1], Cllr Ward was making support for the victims of genocide conditional upon their adopting his own views (in order for him to consider them worthy of belonging to the ‘community of the good’), a clear rhetorical manifestation of antisemitism. In addition, he has held British Jews collectively responsible for the perceived actions of Israel, which, by implication, he is comparing to the actions of the Nazis.

By suggesting that a Jewish Liberal Democrat peer and “his ilk” should be “deal[t] with” in order for the party to “recover its soul” [7a], he is characterising Jews as being a malign presence in the Party. He is, thus, “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews…”.

By suggesting that the suffering of Jews in the Holocaust is being used for political purposes to protect the Israeli government [2], Cllr Ward was alleging that Jews exploit the Holocaust. The assertion that Jews exploit the Holocaust politically and financially is an antisemitic trope based on the perception of negative Jewish character traits; namely the classic antisemitic stereotypical portrayal of Jews as dishonest and greedy. This trope is now so widespread that, in a 2018 CNN survey, a third of Europeans expressed the opinion that Jews exploit the Holocaust. By expressing this view, Cllr Ward was “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews.”

By alleging that Israel and supporters of Israel were interfering in British democracy [4]; by alleging that the accusations of antisemitism made against him were part of “a tactic” being employed by supporters of Israel (a group which will necessarily include Jews) to prevent supporters of Palestine being elected to parliament [3]; by sharing an article which alleged that there was a “Jewish war against [Jeremy] Corbyn” [5]; by sharing an article suggesting that Israel tries to influence British politics by controlling or funding British MPs, and claiming that allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party had been “exaggerated and weaponized by Corbyn’s political enemies – and in some cases outright fabricated” [6]; by alleging that a Jewish member of the Liberal Democrats had been “planted” in the party to “police MPs critical of Israel and to act as Israel’s PR agent” [7b]; by sharing an article in which those objecting to remarks by Baroness Tonge (inevitably including Jews) were characterised as “Israel stooges” who were engaged in a “plot” to remove her from the House of Lords [8], he was “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews, as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

By alleging that Israel and supporters of Israel were interfering in British democracy [4]; by alleging that the accusations of antisemitism made against him were part of “a tactic” being employed by supporters of Israel (a group which will necessarily include Jews) to prevent supporters of Palestine being elected to parliament [2]; by sharing an article suggesting that Israel tries to influence British politics by controlling or funding British MPs [6]; by alleging that a Jewish member of the Liberal Democrats had been “planted” in the party to “police MPs critical of Israel and to act as Israel’s PR agent” [7b]; and by sharing an article in which those objecting to remarks by Baroness Tonge (inevitably including Jews) were characterised as “Israel stooges” who were engaged in a “plot” to remove her from the House of Lords [8], he was “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

By alleging that the accusations of antisemitism made against him were part of “a tactic” in [3], and by sharing an article in which the Jewish community’s leadership and media were accused of making accusations of antisemitism in order to protect Israel from criticism [5], he was also deploying the so-called ‘Livingstone Formulation’, by accusing Jews who cite evidence of antisemitism of lying, conspiring or having deceitful motives in doing so, when there is clear evidence that there have been breaches of the International Definition of Antisemitism.

Outcome

On 28th January 2013, it was reported that Cllr Ward had received a written warning from the Liberal Democrats, which a Party spokesman described as the “equivalent of a yellow card”.

On 18th July 2013, in response to his tweet [1], and following a further tweet, made on 13th July 2013, it was reported that the Party whip had been withdrawn from Cllr Ward for three months.

On 11th October 2016, it was reported that, whilst then Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron MP deemed some of Cllr Ward’s comments to be antisemitic, he nevertheless considered that he had “served his time” and so it was “appropriate” for him to represent the party as a councillor.

On 25th April 2017, it was reported that Cllr Ward had been selected as the Liberal Democrats’ parliamentary candidate for Bradford East.

On 26th April 2017, following challenges in Parliament, Tim Farron tweeted that Ward was unfit to represent the Party and that he had “sacked” him. It is understood that, in practice, this means that Mr Farron, in his capacity as Leader, prevented Cllr Ward from being selected as a candidate. It was further reported that Cllr Ward’s membership of the Party had been suspended pending an investigation.

On 10th May 2017, it was reported that Cllr Ward had said he would stand as an independent candidate in the June elections, explaining that he could not appeal his suspension until after the election and believed it was the right of the local electorate to decide whether he should be their MP. An independent panel was due to investigate his comments once the election was over.

It is unclear when exactly Cllr Ward was expelled from the Party, although it appears to have been as a result of his having decided to stand as an independent candidate, as opposed to any other conduct; however, on 25th May 2017, Prue Bray (the chair of the Liberal Democrats’ English Candidates Committee, who claimed responsibility for Cllr Ward’s dismissal) tweeted that he was no longer a member of the Party.

Cllr Ward subsequently stood as an independent candidate, but was not elected.

On 20th July 2017, it was reported that Cllr Ward had appealed his suspension from the Party.

On 8th March 2018, it was reported that Cllr Ward was a member of the notorious Palestine Live Facebook group, which had been discovered to include posts relating to Holocaust denial and a variety of antisemitic myths.

On 25th January 2019, Cllr Ward wrote on Facebook: “I think it only right to await the formal letter from the Chair of the Panel but suffice to say I hope to be on the Lib Dem Friends of Palestine stall at the next Party Conference- is it the end? I need to speak to others, including my legal advisors but three outstanding issues remain 1. My removal as a Lib Dem Candidate in the General Election in 2017 2. The suspension of my membership for claiming that supporters of Israel were behind my removal as the Candidate 3. Possible action against those who sacked me as a school Governor following Tim Farron’s lie that he sacked me as the Candidate because I was antisemitic.”

On 31st January 2019, it was reported that Cllr Ward had been readmitted as a member of the Liberal Democrats following an appeal hearing by the Regional Parties Committee which had taken place the previous week.

It was further reported that, whilst accepting that the Party was right to cancel his membership when he decided to run as an independent candidate in the 2017 general election, Cllr Ward maintained that his initial suspension was unjust.

Cllr Ward reportedly stated that he had retained the support of both the local and regional Liberal Democrat groups throughout the period of his suspension and expulsion from the party.

However, it was later reported on 31st January 2019 that the Liberal Democrats had denied the earlier report of Cllr Ward’s readmission. A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats told Campaign Against Antisemitism: “I can confirm that David Ward is not a member of the Liberal Democrats and was expelled previously for bringing the party into disrepute.”

Cllr Ward was reportedly still listed on Bradford City Council’s website as a Liberal Democrat
councillor and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, where his entry
clearly bore the Liberal Democrat logo. It was further reported that, when asked how long Cllr Ward had sat with the group in the chamber, Brendan Stubbs, the Bradford Liberal Democrat chief whip had told the Jewish Chronicle that he “didn’t know”.

Cllr Ward reportedly admitted that he is not in fact a member, but claimed that all obstacles to his readmission had been cleared: his application had been approved by both the Bradford and Yorkshire Liberal Democrats but was previously blocked by the Regional Parties Committee, which oversees compliance, members’ conduct and disciplinary action. This objection had been overturned at a hearing on 24th January 2019, Cllr Ward claimed, leaving him free to apply to have his full membership reinstated.

A further report, also published on 31st January 2019, quoted a ruling made by the Regional Parties Committee relating to Cllr Ward’s application to re-join the Party, in which it was stated: “In acting as it did, the Regional Parties Committee took on a responsibility that the English Party had devolved to the Regional Party. Accordingly, the decision to refuse membership is overturned.”

Cllr Ward reportedly claimed that this ruling had cleared the way for him to reapply to join the Party, and that a “very senior member of the national party” had assured him that simply following the application process would be sufficient for his membership to be restored.

He reportedly said: “There’s a few formalities in terms of notification to the membership services but once that’s done it should all go through” and dismissed allegations of racism, saying, “I haven’t got a record of antisemitism.”

However, Rosy Cobb, the Head of Media for the Liberal Democrats reportedly insisted that the Party had no plans to reinstate him, and seemed to deny that the Party had received an application from Cllr Ward to appeal for the right to apply for reinstatement.

On 1st July 2019, Cllr Ward posted on Facebook that he had been told definitively that he would not be allowed to re-join the party, and that no appeal against the decision would be permitted except on the grounds of process or procedure. Moreover, Cllr Ward seemed to suggest that the grounds for denying his readmission was as a result of his having made the statement in [3].

At the time of writing, on 8th June 2020, Cllr Ward is listed on Bradford City Council’s website as a member of the Liberal Democrat and Independent group.

In June 2020, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to Cllr Ward, but did not receive a response.

Rating

Campaign Against Antisemitism has rated the Party’s handling of this matter as “unsatisfactory”. Our rating system is explained in our methodology. This case was last updated on 21st July 2020.

Justice, justice, you shall pursue - צדק צדק תרדף
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