MP Kaufman, hearing Harriet Sherwood’s dog whistle, accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing in Acre

Sir Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP, at the House of Commons on January 15, 2009:

“The spokeswoman for the Israeli army, Major Leibovich, was asked about the Israeli killing of, at that time, 800 Palestinians. The total is now 1,000. She replied instantly that ‘500 of them were militants’. That was the reply of a Nazi. I suppose the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw ghetto could have been dismissed as militants.” [emphasis added]

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

“The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt from Gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.”

Kaufman, speaking at a Watford Friends of Salfeet meeting, June 25, 2009:

“[Iran has] a loathsome regime [but unlike Israel] at least it keeps its totalitarian theocracy to within its own borders” 

Kaufman, speaking at a meeting of the House of Commons, March 30, 2010:

“Lord Ashcroft, the wealthy Tory donor, owns one part of the [Conservative] party and Jewish millionaires the other.”

Given such explicit hatred towards Israel, Kaufman, the quintessential as-a-Jew, was naturally given a platform at the Guardian to comment on Harriet Sherwood’s June 24th report, Israel’s historic city of Acre faces tourist and settler tensions, (Guardian Letters, June 26).

Kaufman with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh

As Hadar Sela argued, Sherwood’s report advanced the narrative that rich Jews are buying property in the old city of Acre in a process of ‘gentrification’, with the intent of driving out the poor Arab population. Based on interviews with a few radical Arab activists she turned a story about the physical and economic regeneration of a depressed city into something akin to Israeli ethnic cleansing.

Sherwood wrote:

“According to Arab activists in Acre, this is part of a grand plan, driven by the city’s Jewish mayor, to gentrify and rebrand the old city – and persuade, induce or coerce Arabs to leave.”

“Arabs, who make up 28% of Acre’s population but 100% of the old city, fear that a programme of gentrification funded by Jewish investors will – either by design or simply as a consequence – drive them out.”

How specifically are Arabs being driven out?

“Ahmed Odeh, an Arab member of the city council, claims that about 50 properties in the old city have been acquired by Jewish investors for redevelopment. He says a number of ruses have been employed to encourage Arab residents to give up their properties – whose ownership was taken by the Israeli state after the 1948 war – to developers. These include straightforward cash offers, often irresistible to poor families; orders for expensive repairs; and eviction if debts are defaulted on.” [emphasis added]

That’s enough proof for Kaufman, whose Guardian letter reads as follows:

Of course, Sherwood’s report didn’t actually cite any examples of Arabs who were “driven our of their homes” in Acre.  She merely gave voice to a few residents in the city who see a conspiracy in market pressures from an improving economy which could spur some Arabs to sell their property and move to less expensive areas.

As Acre’s mayor Shimon Lankry argued in Sherwood’s report, the suggestion of a grand plan to drive Arabs out represents a “ridiculous accusations, only voiced by extremists”, and noted that “not a single Jewish family has moved into the [100% Arab] old city.”

Ridiculous accusations at Israel voiced by extremists?

Aka, another day at the Guardian.

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