The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Daniel Finkel­stein

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.

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