SIR GERALD Kaufman has a poor grasp of statistical theory. This may seem an odd response to his outrageous remarks about fellow Jews but I think apposite. Last week, Sir Gerald made another of his extraordinary interventions on the subject of Israel. “It’s Jewish money, Jewish donations to the Conservative Party — as in the General Election — support from the Jewish Chronicle, all of those things, bias the Conservatives.”
You may, however, have missed the equally astonishing response of his election agent Mark Rathfelder. “To say the Conservative Party has been taking Jewish money isn’t antisemitic. Is that antisemitic? If Jewish people give the Conservative Party money they probably expect something in return, don’t they?” Well, since he politely asks the question, he deserves an answer. Yes. Yes it is antisemitic.
To start with who uses the phrase “Jewish money”? What is Jewish money? I wasn’t aware there were different kinds. All my money looks the same. Maybe I’m not studying it closely enough.
Sir Gerald and his agent have been crass, but they are putting an argument. And the argument they are putting has been made in more sophisticated ways by less careless people. It is worthwhile just to probe what they are saying.
The theory is that the Tory Party has been bought. Jewish business people finance the party and also stand behind Conservative Friends of Israel. The latter has succeeded in subverting the party’s foreign policy. It does this by winning the allegiance of backbench MPs who then only care about Israelis and not Palestinians.
It is hard to know quite where to start with such rubbish, but let me start with statistics. The Kaufman critique — shared by others — confuses causality with correlation.
Here is his reasoning. Some Jewish business people support Israel. Some donate to the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party supports Israel. Therefore the donations of Jewish business people who support Israel have procured Conservative support for Israel. This is obviously silly. Does it not occur to him that the causality might work the other way round? The Conservative Party supports Israel. Jewish business people support Israel. Therefore Jewish business people donate to the Conservative Party.
Anyone watching the pattern of Jewish political support and the movements in Tory support for Israel would realise that this latter account is closer to the truth. The fight against Israel has been taken up by those who see it as an anti-imperialist war against America. The Conservatives have naturally resisted this and support for Israel has grown. One result has been increased Jewish backing. Yet even this doesn’t work entirely as an explanation of the foolishness of the Kaufman critique.
Jewish business people most often donate to the Conservative Party because they are business people, not because they are Jewish. If Kaufman knew even the slightest thing about these people or had met any of them, he would realise that.
He would also realise that it is preposterous to believe a party’s foreign policy is for sale to donors. Gerald Kaufman was once his party’s foreign affairs spokesman. Did he sell his policy? Who to?
The other ludicrous assertion is that the Conservative Party shows no interest in the plight of Palestinians. Nonsense. Simply nonsense.
Gerald Kaufman’s comments are outrageous and it is quite right that community leaders have demanded disciplinary action. The comments are clearly antisemitic. I think it is worth adding they are also idiotic. Daniel Finkelstein is associate editor of The Times.