A Jewish Member of Parliament has provoked outrage by accusing Israel of using the Holocaust to justify killing “thousands upon thousands” of Palestinians in Gaza. Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman, the father of the House of Commons was accused of being disrespectful to the House by his repeated assertions that Israelis are “murderers”.
Kaufman’s comments came during a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday into the UN’s Inquiry into last year’s fighting in Gaza, in which he told colleagues:
“The Israelis are murderers in Gaza. They have murdered thousands of people in Gaza. They have achieved nothing by doing so, except to make the lives of the people of Gaza total hell.
“When I was in Gaza, I spoke to a girl who told me she was standing between her parents when an Israeli soldier came up and shot her father dead in the head, and then shot her mother dead in the head. The Israelis use the holocaust: they use the murder of 6 million Jews to justify their murder of thousands upon thousands of Palestinians.”
He also accused Israel of starving the people of Gaza, saying: “There are children whose brains will never develop because their inadequate diet prevents them from developing physically and therefore mentally.”
In fact, the Gaza strip has one of the highest levels of obesity in the world, with four in five residents being classed as overweight. Diet centres in the strip are booming. Sir Gerald continued:
“We have to take action. We have to impose an arms ban and economic sanctions on these murderers, who live a first-world life courtesy of America and the European Union. The Palestinians are a persecuted people and it is time that that persecution was brought to an end. We will not rest until the Palestinians are free.”
This is not the first time that Sir Gerald Kaufman has indulged in anti-Semitic slurs in the House. In 2011, he was heavily criticised for muttering “Here we are, the Jews again” when fellow Jewish Labour MP Louise Ellman rose to speak. The comment led to a huge row, with Sir Gerald first saying that he could not recall making the comment, before saying that he was sorry if he had caused offence.
His comments in Wednesday’s debate were supported by his Labour colleague Andy Slaughter, who also accused Israel of “murder”, saying:
“Israel is a state that is out of control, but this country and others are not prepared to criticise it. Israel is not only engaged in the longest occupation of Palestinian lands, but continues to colonise and settle those lands on an industrial scale.
“It is indulging in installing an apartheid regime in the west bank; it has not withdrawn from Gaza, which is under a full embargo; and, most shamefully, it engages periodically—I am sure that we will see it again before long—in the murder of civilians and the control and cowing of the Gazan population.”
But Conservative members hit back, decrying Mr Kaufman’s comments as “despicable and disgusting.” Dr Matthew Offord, the Conservative member for Hendon said:
“None of us rejoices in the deaths of any human being, but to claim that any country kills people as a result of the Holocaust is not only despicable and disgusting, but disrespectful to the House.”
The hyperbolic rhetoric was in play right from the get go. Holly Lynch, the Labour member for Halifax who had organised the debate called Gaza an “open air prison”, and repeatedly referred to the “illegal occupation of Palestine.”
“1.8 million Palestinians live in what is increasingly becoming a densely populated open-air prison, and they have nowhere to go,” she said. “In 2012 the World Bank published a report, “Gaza 2020”, which claimed that Gaza would become uninhabitable by 2020 as a result of the blockade, an increase in population size, and insufficient access to clean drinking water, electricity, and health and education services. After last year’s devastation, Gaza has reached 2020 five years ahead of schedule.”
She called for more funding to be sent to Gaza arguing that many buildings damaged during last summer’s fighting have not been rebuilt. She also called for funding through EU projects to be withdrawn from Israel.
But Conservative member Bob Blackman countered, highlighting Hamas’ confiscation of construction materials in order to rebuild tunnels into Israel which were to be used to mount an attack on Israeli citizens. He said:
“It is clear that humanitarian aid has been allowed in, across the border, to assist the citizens of Gaza to try to create an environment in which they can work,” he said.
“Sadly, the terrorist group Hamas has diverted the construction materials and proudly maintains that it has recreated the tunnels of terror. Yet the UN report says that it is not possible to describe what these tunnels were for. Perhaps they were for tourism between Gaza and Israel—but I suspect that the military uniforms and military ordnance they contained demonstrates that they were used to kill the maximum number of civilians possible.”
Jim Shannon, a DUP member representing Strangford, a seat in Northern Ireland, slammed the UN’s report, which criticised both Hamas and Israel’s actions last summer by accusing them both of war crimes.
Mr Shannon said: “Having lived through the troubles in Northern Ireland and all too often seen one-sided, biased reporting, I feel that I am more than equipped to recognise it at play, and I believe that there are numerous examples in the report.”
He went on to quote Colonel Richard Kemp, a British officer who has travelled to the region numerous times, and who has called the report into question, who said: “In my opinion the actions taken by the IDF were necessary to defend the people of Israel from the ongoing, intensive and lethal attacks by Hamas and other groups in Gaza. It is the inalienable duty of every government to use its armed forces to protect its citizens and its terrain from external attack”.