Ward responds to having whip withdrawn by insisting: “I will not apologise for describing the state of Israel as apartheid. I don’t know how you can describe it as anything else.”
A Liberal Democrat MP suspended by the party after questioning the continued existence of the state of Israel has refused to apologise for his remarks.
David Ward, the MP for Bradford East, finally had the whip withdrawn after a series of clashes with the Lib Dem hierarchy over his views on Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.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 on his Twitter page on July 13 stating: “Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?”
Suspending him until September 13, Lib Dem chief whip Alistair Carmichael said he had broken previous assurances that he would use “proportionate and precise” language when commenting on the issue.
A defiant Mr Ward, however, condemned the ruling as “disproportionate” saying such views were widely shared.
“I will not apologise for describing the state of Israel as an apartheid state. I don’t know how you can describe it as anything else,” he said.
“I am genuinely quite shocked at the reaction to the kind of thing many people say.”
The decision to withdraw the whip followed a meeting yesterday between Mr Ward, Mr Carmichael, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and deputy Lib Dem leader Simon Hughes.
In a letter to Mr Ward, Mr Carmichael said they did not accept his explanation for his latest remarks.
“Unfortunately, we considered your explanation to be unconvincing and it did not satisfy us that you understood the importance of conducting the debate on this issue at all times and in all places in terms that are proportionate and precise,” he said.
Mr Carmichael insisted they were not trying to tell him what his views should be, but said his interventions on the issue were undermining the party’s position.
“It is also immensely frustrating for us to find ourselves constantly responding to questions about disproportionate and imprecise language from you,” he wrote.
“These interventions cause considerable offence rather than addressing questions of political substance about the plight of the Palestinian people and the right of Israel’s citizens to live a life free of violence.
“It is extraordinarily difficult to gain traction in that debate at an effective political level if the expression of our concerns is undermined by the way your language misrepresents the view of our party.”
Mr Ward’s difficulties with the leadership began over a posting made on his website after signing a memorial book to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in January.
He wrote that he was ”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”.
Disciplinary proceedings against him were adjourned the following month while he was given training on what language he should use, the party said.
The period of Mr Ward’s suspension includes the long summer recess, which begins after the House of Commons rises today, and two sitting weeks in September.
The suspension expires on September 14, the first day of the Lib Dems’ autumn conference in Glasgow .