by Justin Cohen
Community leaders have renewed their call for disciplinary action against Sir Gerald Kaufman’s after Jeremy Corbyn condemned his “unacceptable” remarks about Jewish money influencing Conservative policy on Israel.
The Manchester Gorton MP’s comments during a meeting in Parliament last Tuesday have been roundly condemned by community leaders and fellow politicians.
Initially the party said only that the veteran MP’s views do not reflect its own but, as the clamour for action grew, it was announced on Monday that he would meet Opposition Chief whip Rosie Winterton.
And in a forthright statement, Corbyn said: “Last week’s reported comments by Sir Gerald Kaufman about the Jewish community, the Conservative party and Israel are completely unacceptable and deeply regrettable. Such remarks are damaging to community relations, and also do nothing to benefit the Palestinian cause.
“I have always implacably opposed all forms of racism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia and will continue to do so. At my request, the Chief Whip has met Sir Gerald and expressed my deep concern.”
However, there has been no comment on the result of the meeting including whether it was part of formal disciplinary proceedings.
Responding to a question on why Government policy had become “more and more pro-Israeli”, Kaufman was recorded by blogger David Collier at last week’s Palestine Return Centre meeting saying: “I’ll tell you, because I can tell you in a way perhaps nobody else in this room can tell you. It is Jewish money, Jewish donations to the Conservative Party, as in the general election in May, as in the Jewish Chronicle, all those things bias the Conservatives.”
He also told the gathering that a friend from East Jerusalem had contacted him with accusations of Israel fabricating knife attacks. He read from letter: “Sir Gerald then read from the letter: “More than half the stabbing claims were definitely fabricated. The other half, some were true, the others there was no way to tell since they executed Palestinians and no one asked questions.”
The Community Security Trust joined the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council in writing to Rosie Winterton, to request “swift and appropriate disciplinary action” over the “disgraceful” remarks. Eight MPs including Wes Streeting and Tulip Siddiq also signed a letter initiated by the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism calling for proceedings to be started.
Board President Jonathan Arkush said: “In light of Mr Corbyn’s response, which we welcome, we hope that the party will now act to impose disciplinary measures against Sir Gerald.”
The chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, Simon Johnson, said: “The fact that Mr Corbyn has distanced himself from Sir Gerald’s despicable comments is in itself a welcome intervention. We await a response from the Chief Whip as to whether any further disciplinary action will be taken and, of course, if Sir Gerald will apologise.”
Gideon Falter, Chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism said Corbyn’s comments “are a week late and is far short of what is warranted”.
He added that nothing less than firm disciplinary action “will do if Jewish people are to have any faith that the Labour Party’s ‘implacable opposition’ is anything more than a soundbite”
The party confirmed Kaufman would be called into the whip’s office shortly after leading Jewish Labour activists made it clear to the leader’s office that the lack of action was problematic, Jewish News understands.
Joan Ryan, chair of LFI, commented earlier: “Gerald Kaufman’s remarks were extremely irresponsible, totally inaccurate and highly offensive and do nothing to advance the cause of peace and coexistence.”
Labour MP Ivan Lewis, who is Jewish, tweeted following the event: “Gerald Kaufman should withdraw his inappropriate and unacceptable comments at the earliest opportunity.”