British lawmaker apologises over Israel remarks

LONDON (AFP) - A British lawmaker apologised on Saturday after he accused "the Jews" of "inflicting atrocities on Palestinians on a daily basis", sparking a flurry of condemnation.

In a post on his website on Friday Liberal Democrat David Ward said he had signed a book in Britain's House of Commons "honouring those who died during the Holocaust".

But he also used the blog to criticise Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, drawing parallels with the mass murder of Jews in World War II.

"Having visited Auschwitz twice... 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," he wrote on his website on Friday.

The comments came ahead of Sunday's Holocaust Memorial Day, which marks the 68th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz by Soviet troops.

The remarks were condemned by the Liberal Democrats who said the politician's use of language was "unacceptable".

Mr Ward, who represents Bradford East, in northern England, defended the comments at the time, saying he had been to Gaza and witnessed "what is, in effect, apartheid".

In a statement on his website on Saturday, however, the MP stood by his criticism of Israel but apologised for causing offence by his choice of words.

"My criticisms of actions since 1948 in the Palestinian territories in the name of the State of Israel remain as strong as ever," he said.

"In my comments this week I was trying to make clear that everybody needs to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.

"I 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." The lawmaker had faced intense criticism on social media sites and from campaign groups over the remarks.

Ms Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said the comments were "sickening and unacceptable".

"I am deeply saddened that at this sombre time, when we remember those who were murdered by the Nazis, Mr Ward has deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust causing deep pain and offence," she said on Friday.

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