Our colleague Hadar Sela recently reported on the BBC’s coverage of the death of Gerald Kaufman, focusing on the manner in which they airbrushed out the late MP’s record of Judeophobic remarks, and his collaboration with Hamas. Sadly, other British media obituaries similarly portrayed Kaufman as merely anti-Israel, ignoring multiple instances in which he advanced unambiguously antisemitic tropes, such as a talk last year in which he warned of the danger of “Jewish money”.
However, arguably Kaufman’s most insidious comments about Jews occured during a Commons debate on the war in Gaza in 2009, a speech alluded to by left-wing extremist Tony Greenstein in a letter published on March 3rd in the Guardian.
Here’s the letter.
In your obituary of Gerald Kaufman (28 February), you refer to his support for the Palestinians. When I first met him, more than 30 years ago, he was a supporter of the Labour Friends of Israel and Poale Zion. It was the horror and brutality of Israel’s occupation and its refusal to concede a Palestinian state that led him to speak out, as a Jewish MP, against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. On 15 January 2009, at the time of Israel’s Cast Lead bombardment of Gaza, when 1,400 Palestinians were killed, Kaufman referred, in a speech in the House of Commons, to the death of his grandmother, who was killed by the Nazis in the Polish town of Staszów. In a powerful and memorable speech, he said: “My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”
However, Greenstein only included a portion of Kaufman’s speech, a hateful diatribe that was arguably one the most antisemitic talks given in the Commons.
Kaufman also argued during his address that “the present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.” The implication, he continued, “is that the lives of Jews are precious, but the lives of Palestinian do not count”. He went on to explicitly charge that an IDF spokesperson had engaged in ‘Nazi-like’ reasoning in arguing that most Gazans killed in the war were militants. He then added: “I suppose the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw ghetto could have been dismissed as militants.”
Here’s the full speech:
Let’s be clear about a few things.
Greenstein’s decision to cite Kaufman’s Holocaust analogy is not at all surprising, given that Greenstein himself has (on multiple occasions) evoked Nazi Germany while criticising Israel – including the ‘Zionist collusion with Nazis’ candard.
Kaufman’s Nazi analogy was not only morally odious, ahistorical and intellectualy unserious, but in fact represents a narrative codified as antisemitic by the British government.
The Guardian decision to publish Greenstein’s complimentary reference to Kaufman’s Nazi accusation may not itself be an antisemitic, but certainly represents another example of editorial decisions which have the effect of normalising such toxic expressions of anti-Jewish racism.