When I was just a junior diplomat organising a trip for a group of parliamentarians, Gerald Kaufman MP, then a shadow cabinet member, nipped into a shop and bought me a snack because he knew I had missed my breakfast. I was tied up trying to sort out a replacement bus for them. His was a tiny but surprising act of kindness. You perhaps learn more truth about public figures from such behind the scenes moments than their public life. I may be wrong, but I doubt Tony Blair spent or spends much time worrying whether junior functionaries have eaten.
He always seemed one of the most intelligent figures in British politics, and I am sorry for his death, albeit at a good age.
I am still more sorry because Kaufman became a victim of the current ludicrous, but media-supported, campaign to whip up accusations of anti-Semitism against any critic of Israel. In one extraordinarily horrible manifestation of this, Tal Ofer, Labour Progress member and a member of the board of Deputies, sought to have Gerald Kaufman, a Jewish MP, excluded from the parliamentary Channukah celebrations. That seems to me extraordinarily graceless and unpleasant and the polar opposite of Kaufman’s own kindliness.
In the last year of his life Kaufman, whose grandmother was shot in her bed by the Nazis in Poland, became one of the victims of the fake extreme zionist charity “The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism”, which is now rather belatedly under investigation by the Charity Commissioners for England. As the chairman of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross, made his career as an extreme pro-Israel propagandist, and is a former trustee of both the ultra neo-con Henry Jackson Society and the Anglo-Israel Association, I do not hold out much hope for this investigation.
I am sure there are still many people in the British Jewish community who admired a man as intelligent, able and honest as Gerald Kaufman. But that such a prominent and generous-minded Jewish man could be accused of anti-Semitism by pro-Israeli activists, would I hope serve to give pause to those in the mainstream media who amplify their views (except of course this campaign has gained such a media boost purely as a stick with which to beat Jeremy Corbyn).
I am sorry for Gerald Kaufman’s death. Please do him the honour of listening to this short speech in parliament, as a remembrance of a decent man. It will not feature in any mainstream media obituaries.