Kaufman: back to antisemitic basics

30 Oct 2015 by Mark Gardner

The antisemitic charge that Jewish money controls British politicians is old and well known. This is what it looks like:

It is an ugly charge and an ugly image, which is why nowadays it is usually expressed as “Zionist” or “pro-Israeli” money. This is what it looks like: 

Sir Gerald Kaufman MP is more old school. The Father of the House is Jewish, so he believes he can say what others can only think, telling a Palestine Return Centre meeting in Parliament on 27 October

“…Martin wonders why this government’s policy has gone farther and farther and more and more pro-Israeli: so I’ll tell you, because I can tell you in a way which perhaps nobody else in this room can tell you. It’s Jewish money, Jewish donations, to the Conservative Party as in the General Election in May, support from the Jewish Chronicle, all of those things, bias the Conservatives.”

Whether Kaufman is antisemitic or not is barely relevant here. He has said numerous objectionable things before and what goes on in his head is his business. He used to be a relatively important politician who was broadly pro-Israel and pro-Zionist. Now, he is none of those things, but as honorary Father of the House (Parliament’s most veteran MP), his actions cannot be ignored.  

A previous Father of the House, Tam Dalyell MP (Labour), blamed Tony Blair’s Iraq war on a “cabal of Jewish advisors”. His comments were largely dismissed as ludicrous and unworthy of comment. The idea that Jews sent British troops to die on Israel’s behalf was left festering. Dalyell denied antisemitism, but said the situation demanded him to be “candid”.

Now, British Jews will want to see a candid response from today’s Labour Party to Kaufman. On its own, his “Jewish money” and “Jewish donations” comments invite antisemitic interpretation. Coming after the words, “I can tell you in a way which perhaps nobody else in this room can”, the comments are begging antisemitic interpretation.

This occurs within two important contexts:

  • Widespread Jewish communal concern regarding the new Labour Party leadership’s attitude to both antisemitism and Israel. (Two separate, but intricately connected issues.) 
  • Current tension between Israelis and Palestinians of exactly the sort that may yet trigger a serious antisemitic outburst here in the UK. (As has previously happened when overseas tensions blow the lid off the antisemitic pressure cooker.)

Kaufman’s statement was made in the presence of Andrew Slaughter MP, Labour shadow minister for Human Rights. Slaughter did not object, but subsequently distanced himself when approached by the Jewish Chronicle for comment.

Also present and not objecting was former Labour MP, Martin Linton, who in 2010 witnessed Kaufman say:

“Just as Lord Ashcroft owns most of the Conservative Party, right-wing Jewish millionaires own the rest”. 

At the same 2010 meeting, Linton (then an MP) had said:

"There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends." 

Linton subsequently apologised for using the word “tentacles”, saying "I’m sorry if a word I used caused unintended offence because of connotations of which I was unaware".

Nobody is unaware of the connotations of what Kaufman said in this latest meeting. It does not get clearer than “Jewish money” and “Jewish donations”.  For this reason, CST has joined with our communal partners, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Jewish Leadership Council, in writing to Labour’s Chief Whip Rosie Winterton MP, copying party leader Jeremy Corbyn MP, to request that “swift and appropriate disciplinary action” be taken. This is not an action that we take lightly, but as with the situation that prevailed with the Liberal Democrats concerning David Ward, it is now a necessity.  


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