London Liberal Democrat MP David Ward has refused to apologise for saying he would probably fire a rocket into Israel if he lived in Gaza despite his party “utterly condemning” the comments.
The Lib Dems said they would treat the comments as a disciplinary matter, a year after temporarily suspending Ward from the party for offensive remarks on the same subject.
Ward drew criticism after a tweet appeared on his feed saying: “The big question is - if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? - probably yes.”
He added: “Ich bin ein #palestinian the west must make up its mind which side is it on?”
The remarks were immediately condemned by some fellow MPs, including the Tory chairman, Grant Shapps, who said the remarks were an incitement to violence and completely irresponsible.
There was then further controversy when Edward Macmillan-Scott, a former Lib Dem MEP who lost his seat in May, tweeted that Ward could look after himself, but the Jewish Board of Deputies were a “frightful bag of disputatious Jews”, while the editor of the Jewish Chronicle was a “prat”. He later apologised for the statement while swiping again at the group for not saying sorry to him in a previous dispute.
However, Ward remained defiant, telling BBC Radio 5 Live that he had done nothing wrong.
“The comment was about understanding why people are firing rockets,” he said. “I am not condoning that. In fact, yesterday in the House of Commons I condemned it. I’m saying I understand why people are so desperate that they are doing it.
“Why are they firing the rockets? When the rockets are fired, they’re done by people who know what is going to happen, the repercussions of that, this horrendous military force that Israel have will result in further Palestinian [casualties]. Why are they doing that? The answer is they are so desperate to retaliate for what is happening to them The people in Gaza cannot escape; they are hemmed in by land, sea and air. They can’t be refugee, they can’t flee...
“What I’m saying is I understand the plight of the people who are firing the rockets. As I say, I condemned it in the House of Commons only yesterday nobody seems to be mentioning that.”
A Liberal Democrat spokesman said Ward would be subject to disciplinary proceedings.
“Nick Clegg has been at the forefront of calling for peace in Israel and Gaza,” he said. “We utterly condemn David Ward’s comments, they are not representative of the Liberal Democrats.
“The party takes this matter very seriously and will treat it as a disciplinary issue.”
The party is likely to take a particularly dim view of the comments as it comes on top of other ill-judged comments and at a time of heightened violence and tensions in the region.
Ward was previously suspended by the party in July last year after questioning the continuing existence of the state of Israel and refusing to apologise for his remarks.
“Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the Zionists are losing the battle - how long can the apartheid State of Israel last?” he tweeted at the time.
He had the whip withdrawn for two months after a series of rows with the party’s most senior members over his views on Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.
However, the whip was restored by the party automatically in September after the suspension period expired.
The Liberal Democrats have previously been accused of failing to respond quickly to allegations of antisemitism.
In 2012, the Lib Dem peer Lady Tonge resigned the whip after refusing to apologise for an outspoken attack against Israel.