Fury as British MP accuses ‘Jews of inflicting atrocities’
Published 27/01/2013 | 13:38
ORGANISERS of a memorial day for victims of the Holocaust have today "utterly condemned" a Liberal Democrat MP who accused "the Jews" of atrocities against Palestinians.
David Ward has apologised for the comments posted on his website ahead of today's Holocaust Memorial Day and is facing disciplinary action by his party.
Congregating in central London to mark the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, campaigners blasted his comparison between Israel's treatment of Palestinians and the Holocaust.
Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: "We utterly condemn those original remarks that he made.
"The Holocaust was a unique event. It was a tragedy of unique proportions and scale.
"We condemn utterly any attempts to make comparisons between that event and any other atrocities that are going on across the world.
"We are glad to hear he has made an apology."
The Bradford East MP initially strongly defended the article and hit out at criticisms by his party - which has summoned him to the Whip's Office for a meeting tomorrow morning.
But in a new post he said he "never for a moment intended to criticise or offend the Jewish people as a whole, either as a race or as a people of faith, and apologise sincerely for the unintended offence which my words caused".
In his original online blog, Mr Ward said: "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."
President of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and survivor Ben Helfgott today lit a candle in memory of the Holocaust's victims at the Millennium Bridge in central London as a choir sang a specially-composed song.
Mr Helfgott said the event was a "reminder of what happened and why it happened".
The 83-year-old lost his parents, his youngest sister and many people from his extended family in the Holocaust.
He spent a total of five years, eight months and five days in ghettos, labour and concentration camps.
He said: "A whole people was destroyed even though they didn't do anything wrong.
"It was terrible - I remember people being murdered, beaten up, people in hunger.
"It is impossible to describe what I saw."
After the war, Mr Helfgott came to live in Britain and became a British weightlifting champion, competing at the Melbourne 1956 and Rome 1960 Olympic Games.
An estimated 1,500 events took place all over the UK today for Holocaust Memorial Day.
The theme this year was "build a bridge", with people asked to build symbolic bridges between communities so atrocities such as the Holocaust are not repeated.
Prime Minister David Cameron wrote on Twitter: "Memorial Day is a day to remember the innocent victims of the Holocaust, and re-commit to combat all forms of racism & prejudice."
He later tweeted the Holocaust Educational Trust, adding: "Your work is absolutely vital in making sure that we always remember what happened."
Tomorrow, a second memorial event will see 500 Holocaust and genocide survivors, senior politicians, young people, religious leaders and dignitaries gather at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre.
The UK Commemorative Event will feature contributions from survivors of both the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.