While the passing of Sir Gerald Kaufman MP is undoubtedly sad for his family and friends, it also marks the loss of an opportunity. Sir Gerald was the first Labour politician of the Corbyn period to have gone unpunished after publicly uttering indisputably antisemitic lies.
By saying that “Jewish money” was used to subvert the British government, he was complicit in a centuries-old chorus of those accusing Jews of conspiracy and of showing disloyalty to their own country. This is explicit antisemitism: the International Definition of Antisemitism (as adopted by the Labour Party) explicitly states that “Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions” is antisemitic.
At the same meeting he was also recorded saying: “…because perhaps I can tell you in a way no-one else can tell you” — intimating that his having being born Jewish afforded him a protection which intimidated others into silence. Is political correctness in the face of antisemitism any less weak and immoral when applied to Jews?
Not only did the Labour Party shame themselves by their failure to discipline Sir Gerald, but Parliament did so itself doubly: the comments were made on the Parliamentary Estate, before an audience including the Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, and Sir Gerald held the affectionate and respectful title of Father of the House. Our subsequent complaint was met by a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards ruling that his remarks did not bring Parliament into disrepute and refusal to investigate. Then and now, we refuse to take this for any kind of reasonable answer.
Sir Gerald Kaufman MP is dead: it is only right that a period of reflection should be allowed as his friends and family reflect and grieve for a man whom they no doubt had diverse reasons to love and respect. We too offer our condolences.
By his passing, however, he can no longer be disciplined by British institutions that should have acted. His actions and words now hang in the air, continuing to embolden other antisemites to the detriment of the UK’s Jewish community, and society at large.
Sir Gerald has therefore left a rotting stain on both the Labour Party and Parliament that will continue to eat away at both institutions until such time as genuine and public acts of regret and apology are made.
Until then, Campaign Against Antisemitism will continue in our aim of seeing Britain’s institutions free of antisemitism; ensuring that they are not places that quietly give poisonous racism a pass because it happened to come out of the mouth of a rather harmless-looking old Jewish man who happened to be our longest-serving MP.