David Ward is a Liberal MP for Bradford East, a constituency with a large Muslim population. He recently tweeted ‘The big question is – if I lived in Gaza would I fire a rocket? – Probably yes.
In terms of maximising his vote in next year’s elections you can see where he’s coming from. A cynical view perhaps. On another level it’s a ‘case of the bleeding obvious’. You’d have to have the empathy of a gnat not to be able to put yourself into the position of a Palestinian who has just lost a wife, or a child, a father or brother. ‘Probably’ doesn’t come into it – except for the morally blessed. Vengeance isn’t a pretty thing but it’s pretty much a core element of the human condition. And both sides of this conflict are tapped into it.
What is interesting, in my view chilling, is the blanket condemnation from the media and political establishment. In the words of the Labour Party: it defies belief that a Liberal Democrat MP should tweet something so vile and irresponsible. Nick Clegg must act immediately to disassociate his party from this comment.”
The Liberal Party duly obliged, referring to his comments as: “vile and crass”.
The Tory Party are equally appalled: “Appalling: No MP should tweet what’s essentially incitement to violence. Mr Ward must withdraw now. Completely irresponsible.”
I have no wish to write about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. It is complex. The arguments are out there, and no amount of words from me or anyone else is going to save anyone’s life today. I’m writing instead from a curmudgeonly sensitivity that free speech is being subtly repressed. If someone, quite legitimately, supported the Israeli side and had tweeted. ‘The big question is – if Hamas fired a rocket on me would I fire back? – Probably yes.’ Would there have been so much fuss? I hope not. Both are legitimate points of view. And I stress the word both. When one becomes ‘delegitimized’ something is lost. Freedom of speech.