From Grimsby to Gaza Lessons from Kaufman’s Brave Dissent on Denouncing Israeli War Crimes

Kaufman Stood Up for Palestinians When Few Would

The boot stamping Gaza today can crush Grimsby tomorrow. Our fates are intertwined.

It would be easy to close our doors to the human tragedy unfolding in Gaza. Some may urge ignoring Gaza’s agony, claiming we should focus solely on domestic struggles. But true socialists cannot turn a blind eye to human suffering, whether in Grimsby or Gaza. If internationalism means anything, it must mean solidarity with the oppressed worldwide.

Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere. To rationalise indifference is to surrender moral principle. The struggle for Palestinian liberation is interconnected with all fights against imperialism.

To be human is to recognise shared humanity across all identities. We must see reflections of ourselves in the eyes of Gazan children and act accordingly. It is our neutrality in situations of injustice that enables only the oppressor.

So as the road to universal emancipation passes through Palestine. We either walk this path in solidarity, or risk isolation and defeat. We must recognise our collective liberation is bound up with those crying out from Gaza’s rubble. We must heed their voices, or forfeit our own.

It seems little in the face of this Palestinian hardships but as the dispossessed of Gaza suffer we can only offer our support. However that support is the foundation of true internationalism. Do not let our supposed masters stop the matches.

If their chains are to be broken, their children granted a future then it is through their struggle, that we find our own, if not one day from Gaza to Grimsby we all become as Palestinians, a people under the boot.

Many may fear the wrath of their political parties who will weaponise antisemitism in their attempts to confuse any condemnation of Israel as an attack on the Jewish people. It is not, it is not. isearl is a government like any other its wrongs must be called out. know in doing so there are many Jewish people who categorically state, “Not in my name.”

Kaufman a Rare Voice of Conscience on Israeli Oppression of Palestinians

The late Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman, who passed away in 2017, embodied the courage to speak truth to power. His Jewish background made him a target for attacks, but Kaufman relentlessly condemned Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

Born in 1930 to Polish Jewish immigrants, Kaufman initially supported Israel. But mounting distress over Palestinian suffering led him to denounce the country’s abuses. He met with PLO leader Yasser Arafat and urged sanctions on Israel over illegal settlements, drawing accusations of being a “Jewish anti-Semite.”

As a proud Jew, Kaufman condemned mounting Palestinian suffering that led him to denounce the occupation and military operations like 2008’s “Cast Lead,” which killed over 1,000 Gazans. With raw outrage, Kaufman compared Israel’s conduct to the Nazis who murdered his grandmother, saying:”

“My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town of Staszow. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed,” Kaufman told the House of Commons. “My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza.”

Israel’s claim that many of the Palestinian victims were Hamas militants “was the reply of the Nazi,” he said.

“I suppose the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw ghetto could have been dismissed as militants.”

It was an issue that informed Kaufman’s 47-year parliamentary career and made him one of the leading Jewish critics of Israel.

In 1972, he protested against the entry to Britain of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, who plotted alongside fellow Yitzhak Shamir in 1948 to bomb the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 91 people. Shamir later became twice prime minister.

In the 1980s, Kaufman continued to push Israel on its policies towards Palestine, meeting PLO leader Yasser Arafat and railing against the treatment of Palestinians, describing Israel as a “pariah” and its senior politicians as “war criminals”.

Kaufman and Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas (screengrab)

He met many Palestinian leaders, including Arafat and the leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, each time drawing more fire from pro-Israel campaigners.

During Israel’s controversial “Defensive Wall” operation in April 2002, in which Arafat was besieged in his Ramallah headquarters, Kaufman told the Commons: “It is time to remind Ariel Sharon [the then prime minister of Israel] that the Star of David belongs to all Jews, not to his repulsive government.

“His actions are staining the Star of David with blood.”

Outrage ensued, but Kaufman would not be cowed. He declared Israel a “pariah state” led by “war criminals” like Ariel Sharon, complicit in Palestinian deaths. Even as pro-Israel groups smeared him, Kaufman exposed brutal policies against Palestinians.

Writing in the Guardian in 2004 about a protest march against fox hunting, he wrote: “A stout, middle-aged man dressed in tweeds… rushed up to me and yelled: ‘You Jewish bigot!’ [Others] took up the man’s theme, offering such observations as: ‘You’re an immigrant’, and ‘You weren’t born in this country.

“I found their anti-Semitism, though loathsome, ironically amusing, since I was – if I could get there – on my way to make a speech which would undoubtedly impel pro-Sharon Jewish chauvinists to accuse me of being a self-hating Jew and, as a lackey of the Board of Deputies of British Jews has recently put it, straying far from my Jewish roots. Those roots were, at any rate, easily apparent to the pro-hunt demonstrators.”

In his later years, Kaufman controversially alleged financial links between Conservatives and Israel. One wonders how he would feel about Starmer’s Labour Party today… He also accused Israel of fabricating Palestinian attacks to justify “executing” Palestinians. Many considered such claims irresponsible or conspiratorial.

His party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said the comments were “unacceptable and deeply regrettable,” saying they were “damaging to community relations and do nothing to benefit the Palestinian cause.”

Yet, when he passed away in 2017, Corbyn was the first to pay his respects. Ironically, in the years that followed, Corbyn himself became the target of relentless attacks, by some choosing to exploit the sensitive issue of antisemitism and weaponising it for political gain.

Now is when we must transcend national borders in solidarity. The boot that stamps on Gaza today can crush Grimsby tomorrow. Our fates are intertwined.

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