It's good that David Ward has decided to support the Palestinians, even at this late stage in his career. He has clearly realised the strength of feeling among many of his constituents. But his timing and choice of words have inadvertently strengthened their persecutors. No British politician has been more closely identified with the Palestinian cause – and for longer – than me. So when I say that the supporters of Israel spend hundreds of hours every week trawling for just such mis-timings and mis-statements it should be heeded.
His statement – now withdrawn and apologized for to save his political position – has provided an unexpected bonus for Israel, from Bradford of all places. The Holocaust is the greatest crime of the 20th Century. Tens of millions perished in it. I repeat tens of millions. Approximately six million of those were Jews, annihilated for no other reason than that they were Jews. It was slaughter on an industrial scale, men woman and children marched into death camps to be gassed, starved, worked to death. Holocaust Memorial Day cannot possibly be the day to make the comments Ward made, even if, in Professor Norman Finkelstein's words, 'the Zionists have developed effective means of translating the murders of millions of Jews into the case for Israel'.
But Ward's words were even worse than his timing. As a teenager I knew of the importance of avoiding the false synonym of Jew equals Zionist and Zionist equals Jew. Many Jews around the world hate Israel and its crimes and are amongst the Palestinians most effective supporters. The greatest Jew, Dr Albert Einstein, famously refused to become Israel's first president, saying he could not preside over a state for one people whose happiness was to be built upon the misery of another people.
Professor Noam Chomsky, Professor Finkelstein, Professor Ilan Pappe are but a few of the host of towering intellectuals whose support for the Palestinians is vital. Their courage is unmatchable. And they are all Jews.
Thus Ward's condemnation of 'the Jews' is a gross error on every level. Many Jews are not Zionists – religious and secular – and most Zionists are not Jews, indeed many like the crazed Christian fundamentalists of the US bible belt don't even like Jews. Ward should have said that a state claiming to be 'the state of the Jews' is a blasphemy against the Book and a political monstrosity, heaping endless misery on the Palestinian people whose land they stole, expelling them to wander the earth.
If he had done so then, notwithstanding the bitter animus between Respect (and most of the country) towards the Liberal Democrats who keep the Tories in power, we would have supported him. He did not and so we cannot.