A brief word in respect for Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, who passed away a few days ago.
And also on the story of Hannah Arendt (pictured above); one of the twentieth century’s most important writers.
Kaufman, who served as a Member of Parliament from 1970 until his death in 2017, was the longest-serving MP in the House.
It was curious that Kaufman happened to pass away at precisely the time I was putting the finishing touches on a very extensive article that I’ve been working on since December – specifically about the extremist nationalists in Israel and about Israeli agencies’ connection to the rising Far-Right parties and politicians in Europe and the West.
That article will appear here tomorrow, and contains several references to Kaufman himself: however, I also wanted, here, to simply talk about Kaufman himself.
A member of the Jewish Labour Movement, a key and influential voice in the Labour Party for decades, Kaufman was also a journalist and author (he also wrote the definitive book on the Judy Garland film Meet Me in Saint Louis).
A particular reason I think Kaufman is important to remember at this time is to further demonstrate – as I have been trying to on various occasions – how many proud Jewish people are passionately critical of Zionism and the right-wing Israeli government’s actions: and to help burst the manufactured myth that criticism of Israeli state actions amounts to ‘anti-Semitism’.
This in particular is a reason I always look to cite specifically Jewish criticism of Zionist policies and Israeli iniquities where possible – both to help us combat the horrible and widespread anti-Jewish hate-speech that pervades the Internet and to help dismantle the racist myth of the “Jewish Conspiracy” or the insidious “All Jews are in it together” line of propaganda that thrives on too many platforms.
And also, of course, it helps to rely on specifically Jewish thinkers and commentators, so as to steer well clear of any possible charge of anti-Semitism from right-wing Israeli nationalists.
They, of course, can’t call Gerald Kaufman ‘anti-Semitic’ – as it would be a horrendous thing to say to someone whose mother was executed by the Nazis. So instead they hit him with that other strategic label of the “self-hating Jew”.
Indeed, Kaufman has been subject to plenty of demonisation and condemnation from Zionists and from writers and commentators aligned to Israeli lobbies.
This was nothing new. Militant Zionist policy is generally to viciously disavow any Jewish figure or writer who questions the Zionist narrative or touches upon some of the more inconvenient elements of history. Such figures are often dismissed as ‘self-hating Jews’ or some such: and this strategy is necessary because some of the most important and informed critics of Zionism or the Israeli nationalist government are Jewish people, such as Hajo Meyer.
The most famous example of this is Hannah Arendt, who was one of the most famous, respected intellectual figures and progressives of the twentieth century.
Arendt, who fled Nazi Germany at the age of 27, was eventually labelled ‘an enemy of Israel’ for her views. As Daniel Maier-Katkin notes in this account, ‘Arendt’s experience in the 1960s offers an early example of repressive strategies for the punishment and repression of dissent. Arendt’s story has value to progressive Jews not only because she is a matriarchal figure in the development of progressive Jewish political thought, but also because the campaign against Arendt illuminates the recurring threat to freedom of thought…’
Arendt (pictured below; and at the top of the page) had been a tireless advocate for Jewish victims and in fact she had also broadly favoured the existence of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine; but she envisioned it as a pluralistic, democratic, secular state – for both Palestinians and Jews and without an official state religion. At the time she was famously reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel in the 60s, she had become disturbed by the nationalistic fervour in Israel, which the trial of Eichmann was being calculatedly used to intensify and maximise (for the sake of amplifying the sense of Jewish victimhood and reactionary Jewish nationalism: it’s essentially the same tactic the Netanyahu government has been adopting in Europe, particularly in the wake of French terror incidents seen to be targeting Jewish people).
The Council of Israeli Jews From Germany wrote to Arendt demanding that she withdraw her book from publication or face a “declaration of war.”
An old friend of hers, Gershom Scholem, even wrote a public letter declaring that Arendt had “insufficient love for the Jewish people” – which is frankly an extraordinary charge to level at a Holocaust survivor.
But it is basically the same strategy that continues to this day on the part of Zionist die-hards: the paradigm is simply that any critics of the Israeli government’s actions are ‘anti-Semites’ and any inconvenient Jewish critics of the same thing are “self-hating Jews” or “traitors”.
“My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town…” Kaufman once recalled. “A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza,” he added, in an incendiary speech that – rightly or wrongly – likened Israeli occupiers to the Nazis.
Kaufman’s displeasure with the direction of the Israeli state and the right-wing govenrment’s policies – along with the propaganda policy of forcefully identifying all Jews with the State of Israel – even led to him vowing never again to visit Israel.
However, he made an exception when he returned to Israel in 2002 to make the BBC documentary ‘The End of the Affair’, in which he recalled the journey from his youthful romanticism of Israel to his later disillusionment.
Kaufman, who always appeared to be as proud of his Jewish identity as anyone, called for economic sanctions and an arms ban against Israel. His stance was consistent. In 2002, he referred to Israel as a “pariah state”, and later called senior Israeli officials “war criminals”. In 2009, during the Gaza War, Kaufman had given a speech in the House of Commons in which he talked about Israeli governments “ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt from Gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.”
The same year, he had led a very large European Parliament delegation to Gaza: a trip during which he said that Israeli officials who authorised the use of white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas in Gaza should be tried for war crimes.
On Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power in 2009, Kaufman presciently warned about “what is about to become the most extremist government in Israeli history.”
Kaufman more recently drew notice for outright complaining about the extent to which the Conservative party in Britain is rolling in ‘Jewish money’ (he also accused Israel of fabricating some of the Palestinian knife-attack stories as false-flags to justify its own actions).
In December 2010, Kaufman also ardently criticised the amendment to Britain’s Universal Jurisdiction law that was seeking to prevent Israeli officials from being indicted. Claiming that those changes to the law made a mockery of the British legal system, he highlighted the arrest warrant against former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for her part in the “slaughter” in Gaza.
It is worth noting that it is our present Prime Minister, the Snoopers’ Charter chief-advocate (and staunch Zionist) Theresa May – Home Secretary at the time – who led the way in changing British law to make it impossible to prosecute Israeli war criminals.
In the context of the current American President and his incestuous ties with the Israeli right-wing government, it is worth looking at what Gerald Kaufman said about the extent of Zionist control of American politics. On the activities of AIPAC, Kaufman had warned; “The odious pressure group, AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — can destroy any United States politician who makes the slightest criticism of Israel’.
This is also somewhat significant in terms of the recent Israeli embassy official and his leaked conversations about “taking down” British MPs that were deemed unsympathetic to Israeli state policies.
It is also hugely significant to the subject – beyond America – of the extent to which Israeli agencies are involved in the rise of Far-Right political figures and parties in Europe: a subject I have been compiling an extensive article on and which will appear here tomorrow.
Indeed, Kaufman’s passing away this week – at precisely the time I was finishing the final details of that article – served as a perfect and timely reminder that we have to avoid being deceived by this scam of falsely identifying “Jews” with Zionism: a scam that is in fact been perpetuated by both Zionists and anti-Semites alike.
And that we also have to pay acute attention to the perceived rise of Far-Right politics and figures in the Western world – Kaufman himself was a living reminder and product of the inhumanities that occurred the last time Europe was engulfed by fascism and ultra-nationalism.