Nick Clegg has condemned as “crass and insensitive” a Liberal Democrat MP’s use of the word “genocide” to describe Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in a message issued on Holocaust Memorial Day.
Bradford East MP David Ward sparked outrage among Jewish leaders with his statement that “on Holocaust Memorial Day it’s imperative that we share the memory of the millions who have been murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Palestine, Bosnia and Darfur in order to challenge hatred and persecution wherever it resides today”.
But Mr Clegg said Mr Ward did not speak on behalf of the Liberal Democrat party, and made clear that he does not personally believe that the situation in Gaza amounts to a genocide.
It is not the first time Mr Ward has got into hot water with his party’s leadership over his outspoken views on the Middle East. In 2013, he was suspended from the Liberal Democrats for several months after writing in a Holocaust memorial book that he was saddened that “Jews” were committing atrocities against Palestinians.
Mr Clegg told LBC radio: “He doesn’t speak for the party and I think this – on that day of all days – was a crass, insensitive thing to say.
“To compare – however distressing it is to see – what is happening in Gaza to the Palestinian people to what has happened in Darfur or Cambodia or the Holocaust is completely inappropriate.
“Is it something people take offence at? Yes. Do I think it is wrong? Yes. But he doesn’t speak for the party and he never has.”
Asked whether he saw the situation of the Palestinians as a genocide, Mr Clegg said: “I don’t think it is recognised that that is what is happening in Palestine.”