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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Ward, Wiesel, Chomsky - and Carmichael

There's an old joke in which a beggar asks a distinguished gentleman for money in the street, and the distinguished gentleman pompously replies: "'Neither a borrower nor a lender be' - William Shakespeare." To which the beggar responds: "'F**k you' - David Mamet."

I am reminded of this joke by the fact that, while David Ward has called in aid a quotation in his defence from Noam Chomsky (http://davidward.org.uk/en/article/2013/658628/noam-chomsky-defends-david-ward-mp-s-comments-on-israel-s-treatment-of-palestinians), Mr Ward has inadvertently omitted to also inform his readers that Elie Wiesel, whom Mr Ward had previously also quoted in his own defence (http://davidward.org.uk/en/article/2013/654457/bradford-mp-condemns-israel-for-treatment-of-palestinians-on-the-day-he-signs-the-holocaust-memorial-day-book-of-commitment), has said: "Although he (Mr Ward) quotes me correctly, I am outraged that he uses my words at the same time he utters shameless slanders on the State of Israel" (http://www.thecommentator.com/article/2576/exclusive_nobel_laureate_elie_wiesel_slams_uk_libdem_mp_for_shameless_slanders_over_holocaust_remarks).

Leaving aside the fact that Noam Chomsky's 9/11 nincompoopery has left him widely discredited (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2011/05/chomskys_follies.html), and also leaving aside the fact that Mr Chomsky's eminence in semiotics (not that I am antisemiotic) does not especially qualify him to comment on the specifics of what is and isn't considered acceptable language in British political discourse, I note with sad amusement that Mr Ward informs us on his website that Mr Chomsky was due to speak via video link at some ghastly-sounding London conference of "Not in my name!" people, alongside a bunch of illiberal Labour MPs and Respect Party types (http://tenyearson.org.uk/).

As a liberal and a Liberal Democrat, I support such a conference no more than I would support a conference held by Tory right-wingers of the Bring Back Maggie variety - yes, the Lib Dems opposed the Iraq War, but that is about all we have in common with the collection of History Man stereotypes here gathered (or there gathered) to hear Chomsky last weekend.

As for Mr Ward's asking Jewish News (http://www.totallyjewish.com/news/national/c-19328/david-ward-faces-fresh-lib-dem-action-over-jn-comments/) if his comments about "the Jews" would have been more acceptable if he had said not "the Jews", but "the Jewish community" - I genuinely assumed, upon reading that, that Mr Ward was joking in an attempt to score a rhetorical point, demonstrating the seriousness with which he was (not) taking accusations that he has caused serious offence to some members of a minority community.

Not once did it occur to me that Mr Ward seriously thinks that, if an MP talks about "the Jews" in a manner that could imply that he might mean "all Jews, including even the Jewish community over here", then it would have been 'better' if he had said not "the Jews", but "the Jewish community". It wouldn't have been better, it (obviously) would have been worse, and I am truly astonished that Mr Ward might suggest that he seriously thinks otherwise.

All Lib Dems should read this excellent Jewish News article (http://www.totallyjewish.com/news/national/c-19325/ward-will-face-harsher-action-if-he-repeats-intolerable-slur/) by Liberal Democrat Chief Whip (and Government Deputy Chief Whip) Alistair Carmichael, which represents the true voice of the Liberal Democrats. I write here in a personal capacity.

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