Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

I got into a spot of bother on Twitter – nothing new there; it happens every day. What made this different is that it was a subject in which I had never invested much interest: the recently deceased Rolf Harris.

I replied to a minor celebrity I hadn’t heard of and my reply got viewed by more people than usual as he has a large following. He had tweeted that he was glad Rolf Harris had died – fair enough, I thought – and added that he hoped Harris suffered pain and anguish at the end of his life. I replied that I thought this wish was rather sadistic: an act of folly on my part as I am now being called ‘imbecile,’ ‘crone’ and ‘nonce’ by a whole new set of Twitter accounts.

‘Would you not want him to suffer if you (or someone close to you) was his victim?’ I am asked. I expect I would. This is why the victims of an accused criminal do not sit on the bench or on the jury.

One gentleman tells me that he would gladly watch paedophiles burn and I wonder, are there any othe people he would want burned? How about those who annoy him on Twitter?

I do understand that people hate those who cause suffering. I do too. I hate numerous individuals, sorry to say, not that I know any of them personally: they have public voices which they use to spread hatred and, the more effective they are, the more I dislike them. But of course I am perceived as spreading hatred, on the grounds of my Zionism, often informed by some Tweeter Furioso that I have a racist antipathy to Palestinians or worse, that I am a killer of Palestinian children. This is how Twitter works: hyperbole, rage, incomprehension. What is the good of it, I often wonder.

‘I said paedophiles not people, learn to read,’ is the brusque reply of an interlocutor this afternoon.

The fact is, it’s unpleasant to be abused, even for an opinion one does not hold strongly. I never watched Animal Hospital or much else in the way of Rolf Harris entertainment. I may have seen him paint, asking his audience, ‘Can you tell what it is yet?’ as I, when painting, often ask this question.

Some years ago, I tweeted something sympathetic about Kevin Spacey when he fell from grace but I deleted it because of the volume of rancour which came my way, sometimes from reasonable people. Another time, I got into trouble for sending an amicable tweet to someone who happened to be a friend of Amber Heard. I had known nothing about the ex wife of Johnny Depp or the court case which came to dominate the news in the following weeks. Protesting my neutrality or, still worse, ignorance, about conjugal matters chez the Depps did not excuse me.

‘What kind of person are you?’ asked a pro Johnny partisan. It was a rhetorical question. No answer I could give would have cut any ice.

The royal wars of attrition between the Waleses and Sussexes continue from year to year but I have the sense not to express an opinion about them. One can almost imagine a civil war caused by online disputes concerning celebrities.

‘To him Pudel,’ cry the royalists to their cavalier poodle in a cartoon from the English Civil War while the Parliamentarians urge ‘Bite him Pepper,’ to their roundhead dog.

Perhaps we should be grateful for online wars, if they keep people off of the battlefield.

Those who want to see painful punishments, would they really watch them with enjoyment, as one imagines the crowds jostling for the best view of a public execution? Or are they simply making a virtue of their righteous indignation?

Someone else tells me that I’m the troll which is not unreasonable as I got myself into this argument and should have seen how it would develop. Less reasonable is their ‘concern’ that an opinion in favour of leniency is some kind of deviation or even an endorsement of child abuse.

Who knows if this spat will be over in a few hours or drag on for days? Next time, I won’t express a controversial view unless it’s a matter of significance to me but, after all, it is of some significance that we should talk with moderation about the fate of our enemies, whether public or personal.

Finally, I just got this. It’s a point of view.

It’s standard on discursive social media to be contemptuous of religious belief and I’ve been told, ‘It doesn’t matter what sky fairy you believe in; it doesn’t give you the right to do x, y or z.’ When mention of the ‘sky fairy’ comes my way, the antagonist tends to be referring to the God of Judaism, who has seventy-two names, none of which is ‘sky fairy’.

The number seventy-two has special but disputed significance in Islam also: the reward of seventy-two virgins for righteous men in Paradise, a concept sometimes mocked by unbelievers.

Seventy-two is the number of putative translators of the Hebrew bible into the Greek Septuagint, commissioned by Ptolemy II of Egypt in the third century BCE. The number, being divisible by twelve, allows for equal representation from each of the tribes of Israel. According to The Letter of Aristeas, cited by Josephus, the translators arrived independently at word for word identical translations, a miracle which conferred authority on the Septuagint.

Miracles no longer impress non-believers and, when one reads of the apostasy with the golden calf, it seems that miracles did not even make a lasting impression on those who witnessed them, during the Exodus from Egypt.

The belittling of religion does not always come from confirmed atheists. I have recently had sightings online of anti Jewish posts expressing an archaic Christian view, calling Jews ‘Christ killers’ and ‘the Devil’s spawn’. Someone replied that Pope Benedict XVI repudiated the concept of Jewish guilt for deicide. They received a surprisingly sectarian response asserting that Pope Benedict had no authority and was presently in hell.

The Coronation looms of King Charles III, an Anglican Christian who has expressed determination to be the defender of the diverse faiths of the British Isles.

It is our duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for Faith itself and its practice through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals.

King Charles, September 2022

Ten years earlier, in 2012, Queen Elizabeth addressed a gathering at Lambeth Palace, saying that Anglicanism ‘has a duty to protect the free practice of all other faiths in this country’.

It was not inevitable that a monarch would take this enlightened view, which brought the UK into the twenty-first century with the toleration of diversity as an ideal, incorporated into the status quo. For centuries, people were executed by the State for religious differences and, in parts of the world, are still condemned as heretics against the prevailing secularity or religion. The particularity and exclusivity of each religion appalls the others, who find themselves written off as diabolical, unsaved or unchosen.

A midrash in the Babylonian Talmud tells that Moses saw God adding tagim – a calligraphic flourish used by Torah scribes – to letters of scripture.

When Moses ascended on High, he found the Holy One, Blessed be He, sitting and tying crowns on the letters of the Torah.

Menachot 29b

Anthropomorphisms occur frequently in midrash and regularly even in Tanakh. In this instance, God is engaged in the meticulous work of a scribe, writing in the Hebrew language. It is said, also in the Talmud Bavli, that God puts on tefilin, like an orthodox Jewish man.

Rabbi Avin bar Rav Adda said that Rabbi Yitzḥak said: From where is it derived that the Holy One, Blessed be He, wears phylacteries? As it is stated: “The Lord has sworn by His right hand, and by the arm of His strength” (Isaiah 62:8). Since it is customary to swear upon holy objects, it is understood that His right hand and the arm of His strength are the holy objects upon which God swore.

Berakhot 6a

Imitatio Dei, the imitation of God, is a precept in both Christianity and Judaism. The Sermon on the Mount includes the words:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:48

and from Saint Luke:

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Luke 6:36

The imitation of God tends to involve postulating something about God which is often imitatio hominum. In the second paragraph of the daily Hebrew prayer, the Amidah, we say of God:

You support the falling and heal the sick. You free prisoners and keep faith with those who sleep in the dust.

Seder Ha T’filot, Reform Judaism

This can work as a to do list to inspire ethical behaviour, but it is behaviour we are fortunate enough to witness, among other people.

Consensuses – of religious authorities or of a crowd – can determine the nature of belief and the language of prayer but still each person has a lone voice. Particularism can have more appeal than universalism because the person at prayer sometimes wants to be alone with God, for God to hear their voice and attend to their particular needs.

This is seen in the Psalms where the first person singular predominates, in I – Thou discourse, the authorship of which is attributed to King David and, in the later psalms, the Levites of the Second Temple.

The Hebrew hymn Adon Olam, which is often the concluding song of a service, begins by citing the ineffable and infinite nature of the Master of the Universe but pivots from transcendence to immanence in the penultimate verse:

This is my God, who saves my life,

The Rock I grasp in deep despair,

The flag I wave, the place I hide,

Who shares my cup, the day I call.

Seder HaT’filot, Reform Judasim

I am struck by the intimacy of the Almighty sharing my cup, drinking from the same cup as any of us, even when the brew is bitter, which is when we need God most.

I avoided saying ‘Him’ in the previous sentence, to get out of capitalizing the word or ascribing gender.

Tomorrow the coronation takes place and I am looking forward to seeing the participation of various faith leaders, the Archbishop of Canterbury and others. It is an important development, to value the way faiths other than our own bring the faithful into a relationship with heaven and to value our own, where the situating of our lives has placed us.

Arbitrarily, I called this post ‘Seventy-two’ but alas, that it not my age. At the time of writing, I am seventy-three and not that for very much longer.

I had a couple of run-ins with neonazis on Twitter. One of them got his account closed down; the rest continue to post their anti Jewish, anti black, anti LGBT opinions. Some are Holocaust deniers; others celebrate the gas chambers and hope to see us Jews exterminated. One would think that Twitter would get the lot of them off of their platform but that isn’t how it works out.

When I see these keyboard warriors of the far, far right, I can hardly imagine that anyone who wasn’t of their persuasion would strike me with quite so much horror. Yet, when I turn from them to the assailants of the left, the thrust of their attack, while different, is not experienced as more tolerable.

In the intersection of Ramadan and Passover, Israel’s Iron Dome is deployed again against rocket attacks from Lebanon and Gaza. Mr Corbyn does one of his anti Israel tweets, as familiar to his supporters as ‘The Little Red Hen’ to an infant who joins in with the words.

Videos are posted on Twitter showing riotous young men setting off fireworks in the Al Aqsa Mosque. Israeli police dragged them out, an action reported as ‘beating peaceful worshipers’.

Does the antagonistic left feel more menacing than the homicidal, racist neonazis? They seldom claim an intention to kill us but the reverse: stating that we, being Zionists, are the killers. Those who call us nazis – are they more reachable, more amenable  to reason, than those who proudly declare themselves as neonazis and Hitler fan accounts?

The danger of the antisemitic left and right intensifies when they encroach upon the centre, gaining influence by repetition, familiarizing their audience with the names they call us, for example ‘apartheid lovers’. Even as I write this, one of Mr Corbyn’s supporters on Twitter is calling a Jewish academic a ‘prick’ and claiming that he, the academic, approves antisemitism from non-Corbynists.

Occasionally, one is tempted to reply to abusers of the left but seldom to those on the right. Replying to Twitter trolls is a performance art. The right-wingers convict themselves with their own words and find support only from like minded racists. The left use more judicious phrases.

Today, some prominent activists against antisemitism are themselves being called antisemites by Corbynist Twitter accounts,  due to criticism, overt or implied, of a prominent and much admired Jewish Corbynist. Subjectively, such tweets are as shocking to read as the far right obscenities, in the sense that a wolf in sheep’s clothing is not less dangerous than a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Mercifully, it isn’t feasible to remember and keep track of all hostile accounts.

Today is Good Friday and the second day of Passover; Ramadan is also underway. Feelings run high, in the real world and in the online world. It was TS Eliot who said ‘April is the cruelest month’ and I don’t think he was wrong but being the same Eliot whose poetry included overt, classic antisemitism, I wouldn’t consider him reliable.

The toxicity of diverse Corbynist groups on Facebook, in terms of antisemitism and hate speech, is fluid rather than static, depending often on personnel: the moderators and the frequent contributors. A group called Supporting Active Socialism displayed many antisemitic posts by a contributor who wrote as John Bernard or John Spannyard Indaworks. When Keir Starmer became Labour leader, the founder and moderator of the group, a Mr Smith, stated that the forum would now support the new leader rather than Jeremy Corbyn. The ambience changed and Mr Indaworks was no longer seen in that group. I had some exchanges with Mr Smith about what counted as antisemitism, which he seemed reasonably keen to avoid, although he must have had some suspicions of me as a Zionist infiltrator.

Many of the Corbynist groups focus on the iniquities of the Conservative and Labour Parties,with particular animus against Keir Starmer. In the posts and threads about Sir Keir, the accusation of Zionism is usually raised, as well as speculation about the receipt of shekels. The individuals posting these comments do so again and again, revealing a level of obsession which may not be shared by other members of the group. In a group of 20,000, fewer than a hundred are likely ever to contribute to the discussion and perhaps half a dozen do so several times a day.

The private group ‘Just Socialism the Corbyn Way’ currently features daily, sometimes hourly, posts from Yunus Elias whose memes are usually taken from Middle Eastern presses and blogs hostile to Israel. Mr Elias’s name has been attached to overt Holocaust denial but this seems to predate his activism on left wing forums.

Another private group, ‘We Support Jeremy Corbyn,’ had moderators who were unusually alert to antisemitic comments which they often confronted, even banning at least one person when he responded with verbal aggression. Nevertheless, they were not able to contain all the antisemitism of their members. It was a pillar on which support for Mr Corbyn rested.

In some groups, ‘Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn’ for example, rage and sentimental devotion jostle for prominence. On some days, posts about evils of the UK, the USA and Israel predominate while a photo of Mr Corbyn produces a hundred or more declarations of love and loyalty, generally couched in repetitive terms such as ‘The greatest Prime Minister we never had,’ ‘They fear him because he cannot be bought,’ and ‘Ohhh Jeremy Corbyn!’ As I never tire of pointing out, parallels are often made with Corbyn and the life of Jesus, the crucifixion and the resurrection. Mr Corbyn’s initials are regarded as an uncanny indication of godliness although nobody has suggested that Jesus’s middle name was Bernard. Instead of the annunciation,we have Mrs Corbyn Senior’s presence at Cable Street in 1936.

One of the most offensively antisemitic groups, ‘PAIS: Palestinian and Irish Solidarity’ went from public to private after being reported frequently for hate speech. They posted a meme showing rats with an apology that ‘Zionist trolls’ were present. On going private, they clamped down on membership and I was not able to gain access. PAIS, founded by an activist in County Down, was not particularly in thrall to Jeremy Corbyn but their antisemitism was virulent, including some Holocaust denial and many expressions of joy when Israelis, civilian or otherwise, were killed.

‘Truthers Against Antisemitism’ has been run for several years by Marino Robles, Rita Allison and Mahmoud Tashvishi, all of whom are active in various other Corbynist groups on Facebook. Originally, their header photo displayed Mr Corbyn pointing with a baleful finger but there was some Facebook intervention and the group closed, reappearing after a few months with a new header, a mock up of the Israeli flag displaying the words ‘Israel has no history, only a criminal record.’ Marino Robles and Rita Allison are both cited in the ‘Leaked Report’ of April 2020, as being expelled from Labour for antisemitism while Jennie Formby was General Secretary.

The JVL group on Facebook posts almost exclusively about Israel or the raw deal JVL members receive from Keir Starmer’s Labour. For any given post, the supporters’ comments tend to be markedly and crassly anti Jewish, in excess of the original post. It is a mystery that the JVL moderators allow some of the material. I speculate they may understand that people with such opinions are a load bearing wall of their own organization, just as they are for Mr Corbyn.

Participants in Facebook political groups are likely to be older than those who post on TikTok and Instagram and this demographic is evident in the Corbyn groups, where participants declare themselves very often to be septuagenarians or octogenarians. One can infer this too from their phraseology, their photos and even their names.

The more static these groups, the more closed they are to differences of opinion but I have seen changes which have turned the ambience around, generally when a Labour supporting group has ceased to campaign for Corbyn and thrown in their lot with Keir Starmer’s Labour. From his first day as Labour leader, Starmer took a stand against antisemitism and many Corbyn loyalists left the party or were expelled from it.

Tony Benn used to say ‘Look at policies not personalities,’ and Corbyn has sometimes quoted this but politicians gain and lose power on the basis of personalities and this is even true in Facebook groups, in microcosm.

The screen shots below are representative of many more in similar vein.

When I was a schoolgirl in the International Socialism group, later called SWP, there were certain doctrinal principles, some of which now seem to me counter-intuitive, but half a century has passed and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge.

Always support a strike

Even in the event of the strike having a racist impetus as sometimes happened when the work force opposed immigrant labour, one should join the picket line and argue the case against racism then and there.

Always support the armed struggle against imperialism

If the insurgent movement is autocratic and tyrannical, one should nevertheless give it full support and then wage revolution against the leadership when they come to power. ‘Permanent revolution’ may be mentioned here.

Participate in local tenants’ associations, colleges, workplaces and clubs

Make recruits

Join the Labour Party

The parliamentary Labour Party is counter revolutionary. One joins in order to recruit for the revolutionary cause.

Expose the failures of Parliamentary social democracy

Expose the failures of State Capitalism

The Soviet Union

Expose the doctrinal errors of rival Trotskyist groups

SLL/WRP, IMG, Militant

Tea or coffee to be prepared by the women in the group

This was fifty-five years ago. Women’s liberation had not quite penetrated the left, although Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963. I am willing to be corrected on the chronology of feminist consciousness in the UK left.

Anti monarchism


Unilateral nuclear disarmament


Temporary support for North Vietnam

Revolution against Ho Chi Minh to occur after the Americans had been seen off

Against South African Apartheid

Against the National Front

Against racism, literally in all its forms

It was not until the Six Day War that Israel received significant negative attention.

VIETNAM – OUR SPAIN!‘ flashed a headline on the SWP paper, then called Labour Worker. My generation wanted a cause that would resemble the Spanish Civil War, although Orwell had shown the mortal fracturing of the left in the fight against Franco.

On the demos, some chanted ‘Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh,’ like a mantra. ‘Wilson: Johnson’s poodle’ was crayoned on many placards. It was thought that Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson colluded with Lyndon B Johnson, implicitly supporting his war in South East Asia.

Thirty-five years later, in February 2003, there was what was said to be the biggest ever demo in London, against war with Iraq. I did not attend, but I knew many who did. In the Gulf War of 1991, Iraq’s reaction to a large coalition of nations responding to their aggression in Kuwait was to bomb Israel with eighty-eight scud missiles over a period of seven weeks. I did not know what to think about Blair and Bush’s proposed war on Saddam Hussein but I had no doubt that Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant..

I attended innumerable demos when I was young, the last that I recall being against the all white South African Springboks – the rugby team, I think it was – when I was an undergraduate in Manchester.

Later on, I noticed that all demos involved some unpalatable slogans, however progressive the cause.

‘Khaybar, khaybar ya Yahud’ is now heard, threatening death to Jews.

‘From the river to the sea,’ threatening death to Israelis, is a staple of progressive demos in the UK.

Stop the War UK, which organized so effectively in 2003 against war with Iraq now opposes what they regard as Ukrainian militarism. Are they as emphatically against Russian militarism? Possibly but it is a false equivalence.

For a while they headlined a Richard Falk article, advocating war with Israel. This was taken down eventually as it was seen as compromising their anti-war ethos; likewise a headline suggesting that the western powers were to blame for the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015.

So long ago that it seems like another life, my sister marched from Aldermaston to London with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, joined on the third day by my parents and me, still a child. When the time came, I too marched with CND from High Wycombe to London, Easter after Easter.

My marching days have long been over. It isn’t a question of septuagenarian debility. It’s a question of the slogans, the left’s answer to tabloid headlines. Slogans of left and right, peace and war, can speak with peleucid simplicity to a multitude and send them down the road looking for trouble.

Ça ira, ça ira was an exhortation to terror which followed the French Revolution.

Beware the catchy slogan and the rousing song. I like anthems as much as anyone, at the Proms or the Olympics or on the football pitch, but when they are accompanied by marching feet and bloodlust, I generally prefer to cast a cold eye.

Post script. I forgot that I attended two demos in 2018, in Westminster, against Labour Party antisemitism. Desperate needs cause desperate measures and indeed, this is why people resort to demonstrations and rallies. After what was called the Enough is Enough demo or the Dayenu (an allusion to the Passover seder) demo, I painted an impression of the event.

There’s nothing easier than listing the names I am called by hostile accounts on Twitter: racist, white supremacist, apartheid apologist, liar, child killer.

In the sunlit uplands of the past, I may have been told ‘Go and join the Tories’ but the invective is stronger now, just as the dosage of a medicine is increased when the body is desensitized to the original dose.

But who are they and who are we?

When the names are applied to me, I infer that they are due to to the fact that I’m Jewish, a Zionist, opposed to Corbynism and active on Twitter in connection with these issues.

The same names are thrown at most members of Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, with the additional appellations: backstabber, frontstabber, traitor, puppet.

I have never seen – and one can’t see everything – anyone who calls me, Jewish community organizations and the Labour front bench ‘racist’ confronting any of the right far accounts, which target black people, Jews and LGBTQ people. When these accounts with 88 or 18 in their Twitter handles show up on my timeline, the first responders to confront them are accounts I follow or like, but naturally Twitter works this way, showng the tweets of people we follow.. Perhaps the Corbynist left really do confront neonazis on Twitter and, due to some algorithm beyond my understanding, I never get to see it.

In the case of Kanye West, Ye as we must now call him, the UK accounts calling out his antisemitism were the usual activists against antisemitism – in all its forms, as Mr Corbyn might say.

The more attention given to any particular tweet in likes and retweets, the more it will garner negative attention.

In the world of Twitter, the battle lines are drawn. A sceptical reply to a known Corbynist can produce a pile-on and no doubt this works in reverse.

How can one learn to be indifferent to the names one is called on Twitter, particularly those tweets which call us/me far right? The insults which come my way from the actual far right are often nearer the truth as they tend to mention that I’m Jewish. And they don’t mistake me for one of themselves.

The names I am called – by the left, sorry to say, which can now be called the Corbynist left, regardless of whether their support is agreeable to Corbyn himself – are bestowed also on the journalists I read, the broadcasters I watch and the entertainers I follow. It is worse to see luminaries or friends being insulted, as I am then tempted to go in with virtual fists flailing, and this does not always help.

I avoid the use of insulting terms in my tweets but the same can be said of adversaries, who routinely end their barbs with ‘Enjoy your day’. The art of incivility is to accuse the other of what they hate. Sometimes, if I query being called ‘white supremacist,’ I am told that now I know how Corbyn felt, being called ‘antisemite’ when he doesn’t have an antisemitic bone in his body. So I am called these names as a punishment for what I say about Corbynists?

Tit-for-tat is as prominent as rebuttal in a Twitter altercation. If someone posts a photo of Corbyn with a terrorist from Hamas or the IRA, a reply may come in the form of a photo of Tony Blair or the late Queen standing next to a tyrant or a crook. Monarchs and Prime Ministers are obliged to meet all sorts, so these photos are not hard to find.

The most prominent UK activists against antisemitism are routinely called far right, so much so that those of our number who are left-leaning sometimes buy into the disinformation.

In the course of writing this short post, I find I have two new hostile notifications, one telling me that I know I’m wrong and, as for the other, I can’t make out exactly what they’re saying but I know I’m not supposed to like it.

I blocked both accounts. Blocking is an action one never regrets. It is harder to block when it seems compromising to leave a libel hanging out there without an answer, but one of the rare positives in online altercations is that one can switch them off.

Muting is a gentler option. ‘I’ve had Mrs Hudson on semi-permanent mute,’ said Sherlock.

I wish they all could be Mrs Hudson.

After the 2019 General Election, a Corbynist line of attack against their opponents in and out of Labour, in the Jewish community and in the media, was that we lied about antisemitism. The typical inquisitor on Twitter asks for evidence of Mr Corbyn’s antisemitism. Only the least cautious ask for evidence of antisemitism from supporters of Corbyn as this is easier to provide. Mr Corbyn was careful for the duration of his leadership, often declaring himself against antisemitism in all its forms. The mural, the irony speech, the friendship for Hamas and Hezbollah, the ‘hand of Israel’ interview, the wreath, the alliances with Stephen Sizer, Raed Saleh and Paul Eisen, the celebrations of the Iranian Revolution, all these things occurred before he became leader of the Labour Party. His inadequacies in dealing with antisemitism have been written about in the EHRC report and, to some extent, in the Forde Report but I think it is fair to say that he exercised some care, while leader, to maintain plausible deniability in the face of very many accusations of antisemitism. No longer leader, Mr Corbyn is freer to speak his mind and suggested in a recent interview with the Al Mayadeen channel of Beirut that Benjamin Netanyahu played a part in his downfall.

The position of Corbynist orthodoxy is that Zionists stopped Corbyn being elected, because he was a supporter of the Palestinian cause. How did we manage this? A frequent suggestion is that we subborned the media but there are more inventive theories involving Rothschild bankers, vote rigging, that we held Corbyn responsible for his supporters’ hostility towards Jews (a reasonable hypothesis) and, above all, that we conflated anti Zionism with antisemitism. There is a continual search for ‘proofs’ of a Zionist conspiracy. A video was circulated of a Jewish activist saying after the last General Election ‘We did it!’ – interpreted on Corbynist social media to mean that we did it through undemocratic subterfuge, rather than through the same electioneering practised by any other activist during an election campaign.

A delegate addressing a Board of Deputies meeting said that Labour would have to sacrifice Corbyn if they hoped to win a General Election. The speaker meant clearly that a different leader would be more likely to win an election. Every Corbynist forum I saw insisted that this speaker had advocated the murder of Corbyn as a human sacrifice, just as farmyard animals were sacrificed in Temple times.

Just recently, Al Jazeera has presented The Labour Files, in which the Labour Party under Starmer’s leadership is called ‘a criminal conspiracy’ and various activists against antisemitism are named as conspirators.

Daily, a Twitter eccentric called Simon Maginn posts a hashtag he invented, ‘It was a scam,’ meaning to say that talk of antisemitism was a cynical ploy of Zionists to stop a supporter of Palestine being Prime Minister. ”Everyone knows it was a scam,’ he insists. ‘It’s been proven. You’re busted. Will you continue with this scam or will you stop scamming and apologize? Yes or no?’ On one occasion, he assured us – the alleged scammers – ‘We’re coming for you.’ Sussex police were called in. Mr Maginn said that they were scammers too.

The scope of the present blog post is narrow, based on my observance of left wing Facebook groups to which I have access. Some are public groups; others are private and I joined them using a nom de guerre. I have been blocked by some groups for contradicting their statements about Jews, Israel and antisemitism and this includes several unofficial Labour Party forums, created during Corbyn’s leadership.

Not all the groups are avowedly Corbynist, an exception being PAIS, Palestinian and Irish Solidarity, which, as its name suggests, focuses on Ireland and the Middle East, rather than Westminster or Islington.

Truthers Against Zionist Lobbies were emphatically pro-Corbyn until they were removed by Facebook for antisemitism, possibly because they had come to the notice of Jennie Formby, then General Secretary of the Labour Party. The administrators of the Truthers group are mentioned for their antisemitism in the so-called Leaked Report of April 2020. They re-established themselves four months later without the header photo of Corbyn, replacing it with a meme of an Israeli flag overlaid with the words ‘Israel has no history, only a criminal record’.

We Support Jeremy Corbyn was different from other similar groups by having at least two moderators who recognized the antisemitism of some comments and intervened against them. However, there are still many antisemitic outpourings in their group and I imagine that it is a losing battle to keep them in check. I appreciate the moderators’ attempts to contain this aspect of their forum. It shows that the connection between Corbynism and antisemitism is empirical not a priori; in other words, they are not inevitably found together but, in practice, there is often a convergence.

As I have written before, the original posts on the JVL forum, while inimical to Zionism, are seldom overtly antisemitic but the supportive comments are almost inevitably so and they are never contradicted by the JVL moderators.

Holocaust revisionism works differently from denial, accepting that the Shoah occurred but arguing that Jews or Zionists were complicit with Nazism; that Churchill was worse than the Nazis or that Israel is worse. The numbers of dead in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (several thousands, over the years) are occasionally multiplied to make the number of Palestinians killed match the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The screen shots below are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. They display threads and comments which I have seen, in some Facebook groups but I am not on TikTok or Instagram. I take it as read that far right groups will be replete with Shoah denial and Hitler fandom. These screen shots are just a part of what I see on Corbynist, Fenian or far left social media. Very rarely does any participating comrade object to overt Holocaust denial. It is more usual for the denials to stimulate further comments, along the same lines.

Next time an antagonist on Twitter asks you to provide ‘just one piece of evidence’ of left antisemitism, I hope you will consider linking them to this post.


My finding is that Facebook permits Holocaust denial and hate speech.

As the sun begins to set on Yom Kippur, we sing the hymn,  Anu ameycha, ‘We are your people,’ to a melody which brings tears to the eyes of many in the congregation, weary now, anticipating the end of the fast, welcoming every opportunity to sit down rather than stand.

While the debate seems to go on for ever as to whether Jews are a race, a religion, an ethnicity or a nation, the word people is well supported by biblical and liturgical terminology.

In Tanakh, the name Jews is found in the book of Esther, written no earlier than the period of Achaemenid Persian rule and no later than the time of the Hasmoneans. The name Yehudah elsewhere in the bible refers to Judah the son of Jacob, or the tribe of Judah or the Yehudim, who dwelt in the territory of Judah, and are called Judahites rather than Jews.

עם, am, is the Hebrew word for people, cognate with the Arabic ummah. It occurs about five times as often in the Hebrew bible as גוי, goy, which means nation, a term also applied to the Israelites as well as other nations.

I happened to be at a shiva last night, a prayer service for a friend whose funeral had just taken place. I noticed the recurrence of the words am, amcha and ameycha – people and your people, inflected. I have never seen the expression ‘goyeycha,’ ‘your nation’. Goy is translated in the Latin vulgate as gens.

…et vos eritis mihi regnum sacerdotale et gens sancta

And you shall be to me a priestly kingdom, and a holy nation.

Exodus 19:6

Moses  speaks to God on Sinai:

וּרְאֵ֕ה כִּ֥י עַמְּךָ֖ הַגּ֥וֹי הַזֶּֽה׃

Consider, too, that this nation is Your people.

Exodus 33:13

respice populum tuum gentem hanc.

The Greek Septuagint translates am/people as laos and goy/nation as ethnos. Laos can mean a military force as well as a people.

καὶ ἵνα γνῶ ὅτι λαός σου τὸ ἔθνος τὸ μέγα τοῦτο.

Consider too that this great nation is your people.

In fairly recent times, and in the milieu of social media, it is a daily occurrence to encounter a hostile questioning of Jewish identity. Most common is the hypothesis that Jews from Europe – the Ashkenazim – are not semitic but of a European or Turkic identity: the Khazars. This was suggested in the twentieth century by Arthur Koestler and developed frequently since by those who wish to deny a Jewish connection with Israel. The theory takes as its source the Kuzari of Judah Halevi, who wrote in the twelfth century of the conversion to Judaism of the Khazarian king and his court. When the Khazar hypothesis is put to antisemitic use, it is asserted that Jews are not Jews and therefore have no claim to Israelite history; indeed, it is said that the true Jews are the Palestinians or, as argued by Mr Farrakhan:

You are not real Jews, those of you that are not real Jews. You are the synagogue of Satan, and you have wrapped your tentacles around the U.S. government, and you are deceiving and sending this nation to hell.

A Facebook group called PAIS, Palestinian and Irish Solidarity, defines its ethos thus:

PAIS is the Gaelic for the Passion, the suffering and persecution of the Palestinian carpenter Jesus. The religious element is not important here, but the location of the pain and suffering is. The suffering of the woodcarver from Nazareth has a strong association with the suffering of all Palestinian people.

The violent anti Israel posts of the PAIS group were almost invariably hostile to Jews and the group was much reported for hate speech. Eventually it became a private group on Facebook, visible only to established members. I have written about it here.

Ashkenaz in the bible is one of the territories inhabited by the descendants of Japheth and was the western extremity of the known world. In the Second World War, Jews living and dying under the Third Reich,  sometimes used the name Ashkenaz as a coded term for Germany, much as, in Rabbinic times, Rome was alluded to as Edom.

I often wonder if those who insist that Ashkenazi Jews are not Jewish recognize the Jewishness of Sephardim, Mizachim and Beta Israel. Do they recognize the Jewishness of those murdered for being Jews by the Nazis? I have seen the Shoah described as white on white hostility, a fearfully counter-intuitive description.

From the bible and the liturgy, we are accustomed to the name the children of Israel, Bnei Israel, literally the descendants of Jacob, who was renamed Israel by his divine wrestling partner. In the Mishnah and the Talmud, the name Israel designates the people, whether in the Land of Israel or the diaspora.

כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעלם הבא
All Israel have a share in the World to Come

Pirkei Avot

This saying is the header for all six chapters of Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, the most philosophical and moralistic tractate of the Mishnah.

In France, Israelite is the word commonly used for a Jewish person while in Italy, the usual term is Ebreo, Hebrew. We know that in German the word is Jude and in North and East Europe, there are similar words, all cognate with Yehudim: Polish Zyd and Dutch Jood.

What are we to say to those who strive officiously to tell us who and what we are?

I am not one of the people who deny the Palestinian identity of Arabs from Israel and the territories. The name Palestinian during the British Mandate tended to refer to Jews born in the Holy Land and now obviously has acquired a different meaning, indicating a different identity and culture, the people who speak Arabic but associate themselves with the land, just as we do, the same land, a different claim, often a rival claim.

To say that a non-practising Jew is not Jewish is a misunderstanding, a common misunderstanding by those who have no acquaintance with Jewish environments. My own early environment was Anglo-Jewish, where the elders spoke Yiddish because they had come from Russia and Poland. They gave us British sounding names: Gillian, Howard, Angela, Melvyn. My Hebrew name, Gila, is a name I took for myself and, with the patronymic, it appears on Hebrew documents as Gila Bat Yaacov. During my childhood and long after, my parents were secular; less so in their old age, but the etz chayyim, the tree of life, had been planted among us in antiquity.

Our names are the names we call ourselves.

The Israeli poet Zelda Mishkovsky (1914 – 1984) wrote this poem, Each of us has a name, called in the original Hebrew Lecol ish yesh shem.

Each of us has a name
given by the stars
and given by our neighbors

Each of us has a name
given by our sins
and given by our longing

Each of us has a name
given by our enemies
and given by our love

Each of us has a name
given by our celebrations
and given by our work

Each of us has a name
given by the seasons
and given by our blindness

Each of us has a name
given by the sea
and given by
our death.

לכל איש יש שם

כָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָּתַן לוֹ אֱלֹהִים וְנָתְנוּ לוֹ אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָּתְנוּ לוֹ קוֹמָתוֹ וְאֹפֶן חִיּוּכוֹ וְנָתַן לוֹ הָאָרִיג,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָתְנוּ לוֹ הֶהָרִים וְנָתְנוּ לוֹ כְּתָלָיו,
לכל איש יש שם שנתנו לו המזלות ונתנו לו שכניו,

לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָתְנוּ לוֹ חֲטָאָיו וְנָתְנָה לוֹ כְּמִיהָתוֹ,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָתְנוּ לו שׂונְאָיו וְנָתְנָה לוֹ אַהֲבָתוֹ,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָתְנוּ לוֹ חַגָּיו וְנָתְנָה לוֹ מְלַאכְתוֹ,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָתְנוּ לוֹ תְּקוּפוֹת הַשָּׁנָה וְנָתַן לוֹ עִוְרוֹנוֹ,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָּתַן לוֹ הַיָּם וְנָתַן לוֹ מוֹתוֹ.

I am watching part 4 of Al Jazeera’s Labour Files, entitled The Spying Game. The opening ten minutes revolve around Croydon – inevitably, in the world of espionage. The emails of Stephen Downes, a Croydon councillor, were hacked. Please hold on to this thought as I’m sure it will lead somewhere. They have already referred to Croydon as our Watergate.

This fourth slice of Labour Files reprises some of the material from the previous films. It promises to reveal that Jeremy Corbyn was undermined by a smear campaign. The narrator reports that pro Palestinians were silenced, that British Politics were undermined by spying. and that files reveal a hierarchy of racism.

There is a reprise of Damian McCarthy saying ‘This is absolutely shocking’ and another chance to hear Greg Hadfield saying ‘Labour is a criminal conspiracy.’

‘People are quite dangerous’ says an unidentified talking head.

To return to the epicentre of international espionage: Croydon, where supporters of Starmer upset supporters of Corbyn.

A David White of Croydon Labour Party was, in the words of the narrator, ‘immensely enthused by Jeremy Corbyn’. The General Secretary David Evans took an interest in David White and he was expelled, accused, says the narrator, of being an antisemite. This, says Mr White, was an absence of natural justice.

‘David White is not an antisemite,’ says Stephen Downes.

The editor of ‘Inside Croydon’, Mr Downes, explains that ‘strange things’ happened to some of the people he emailed. A digital device had been left in their email accounts. Essentially, their emails were being copied to the leader of the council.

‘The Labour Party’ condones the hacking of the press,’ says a gentleman whose name I didn’t catch, the press, in this case, being Inside Croydon.

Here endeth the fourth tranche of Labour Files.

If any Croydon Corbynist wishes to say I have got the names wrong or misunderstood whose emails were hacked, they will probably be right. It is not inconceivable that my attention wandered during the course of the film.

Strange as it may seem, when I started watching Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy in 1979, I wasn’t sure which of several intelligence officers was Toby Esterhase.*

*It was Bernard Hepton of course.

The third episode of Al Jazeera’s Labour files is now available.

It purports to expose racism prevalent in Labour, excluding of course antisemitic racism.

I don’t doubt that racism is rife in the Labour Party. A case in point is that Rupa Huq believed it acceptable to call Kwazi Kwarteng ‘superficially black’.

 The point of this third film in the series is that antisemitism is taken seriously in Labour whereas other forms of racism are permitted.

‘Labour is a criminal conspiracy,’ says Greg Hadfield, a Corbynist expelled from Labour.

Former Councillor Marcia Hutchinson alleges that she has encountered more racism and exclusion in the Labour Party than anywhere else.

It is reported in the third film – and this is not strictly breaking news – that senior Labour management exchanged mean and satirical messages about Diane Abbott and that dehumanising language was used. I don’t doubt it.  I am accustomed to seeing dehumanising language about Jews from Corbyn supporters. Dehumanising language is rampant in all political parties and on social media.

Shami Chakrabarti is mentioned, considered to be disparaged as a BAME woman.

Trevor Phillips, always a target for Corbynists, is accused of Islamophobia.

The Forde Report is cited, with respect to racism in Labour against people of colour. The Forde Report paragraphs about antisemitism during Corbyn’s leadership are not cited, so I will supply them, below.

Several of those interviewed say ‘This would not be allowed if it was said about Jews,’ referring to remarks about particular Muslims. The case being argued is that Jews are privileged in Labour, being protected from anti Jewish racism.

It is certainly true that Keir Starmer intends to uproot antisemitism. Was he aware of it during Corbyn’s leadership? I speculate that he has become much more aware since he became the target of antisemites who argue sometimes that he is untrustworthy due to having a Jewish wife and often that he is in the pay of Israel (shown in my screen shots below).

The third episode of Labour Files equals the first two in fatuity, repetitive assertions and portentous music, but the argument, about institutional racism and Islamophobia in Labour management is a serious allegation which only the Labour Party can answer.

Tremendous hostility is expressed towards Keir Starmer who is accused of anti black racism as he opposed the tearing down of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol and used the word ‘moment’about BLM.

Peter Oborne says that ‘there is a battle for the sewer between Tories and Labour for bigoted white votes.’

Marcia Hutchinson says that the Labour Party not only tolerates anti-black racism but promotes it.

Underpinning the film is the argument that Corbyn is the anti racist warrior par excellence, unlike non Corbynists in Labour. The familiar photo of a younger Corbyn wearing an anti apartheid sandwich board is shown and the narrator says ‘…a lifelong anti racist campaigner and champion of Palestinian rights.’

I was glad though that, unlike Mr Corbyn in his interview with Al Mayadeen, Al Jazeera did not claim  that Bibi Netanyahu was a driving force behind Corbyn’s failures.

The film was deferred and broadcast about 48 hours after the scheduled time. No doubt someone on Corbynist social media is already attributing the delay to Bibi.

Images below are from the Forde Report and Corbynist social media.

Some commentary on Corbynist social media.

  • James Casserly: Unfortunately there seems to be no middle ground, no nuance and even less humanity on Twitter. Like you, there are people I have no time for, some I a
  • keithmarr: G < div dir="ltr">Twitter is such a cesspit you can more or less guarantee any opini
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: You're Nathan Hull, aren't you, an abusive troll who uses the alias Gerard O'Neill?