Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

I learned from responses to the EHRC report, the ‘Leaked Report’ and also, going back to distant 2016, the Chilcot Report into Britain’s role in the Iraq war, that there is a wide latitude in the interpretation of long awaited reports, sometimes viewed through the lens of the reader’s preconceptions.

Now we have the Forde report, anticpated for so long by the Corbynist left that the very words Forde Report were used by them as a meme and a hashtag.

Like all the other reports, I find it could have been worse and could have been better.

Already I have seen Corbynists, including Mr Corbyn himself, reacting as they did to the Leaked Report, as if it denied antisemitism and vindicated the former Labour leader and his office. A spokesman from Momentum, Martin Abrams, on BBC’s Politics Live has said that the report reveals the repugnant racism from the staff of Labour HQ and Mr Corbyn also made this point, referencing ‘repulsive racism and sexism’ directed at Diane Abbott. This was the Corbynist response to the ‘Leaked Report’ and, so far, their perception of the Forde Report is no different.

The authors of the derogatory WhatsApp messages about Diane Abbott insisted that their hostility was unrelated to her being a black woman. Paragraph C6:8 of the report sees it this way.

The report faults both right and left factions of the Labour Party for considering themselves above racism and antisemitism. It points out that an anti racist record does not make one immune from prejudice, as shown by Mr Corbyn’s actions in perpetuating a culture of antisemitism, despite his perception of himself as a lifelong anti-racist.

‘…the failure of the elected leadership to countenance that (as lifelong antiracists) they could be behaving in a way which perpetuated antisemitism.’ This is something Mr Corbyn has always strenuously denied, to the extent of saying that the charges of antisemitism are made in bad faith, and often has not limited himself to accusing the staff of Labour Party HQ but implicated Zionists in general, Jewish journalists and Jewish communal organizations.

The knock on effect of this standpoint had a negative effect on Jewish members in some Constituency Labour Parties. The authors of the Forde Report express this clearly.

Ardent defenders of Mr Corbyn have often said that the ‘Leaked Report’ shows that there was no antisemitism in Labour, or that it was exaggerated or overstated but the Forde panel are right, in my view, to state firmly that this was not the case.

According to Forde, the authors of the Leaked Report believed that they were misrepresented as minimizing the problem of antisemitism, which they considered rife in the party membership. They rejected the view that it was exaggerated or ‘a smear’. When I read the Leaked Report in April 2020, I saw that they acknowledged the extent of the problem and I was sorry to see assertions on Corbynist social media that it proved – as Mr Maginn likes to say – ‘it was a scam.’

The thrust of the Forde report as far as I understand it is that factions of right and left, respectively Labour HQ and LOTO, had extremely rancorous feelings towards each other and used whatever they could to the other’s detriment.

It is axiomatic on Corbynist social media that, due to their hostility towards Corbyn’s leadership, the right wing of the Labour Party conspired to lose the General Elections of 2017 and 2019. The Forde Report rejects this allegation.

The report takes an even-handed view when apportioning blame between the factions, a degree of incompetence and confusion impeding the leader’s office, in their relations with Labour Party staff.

This even-handedness may be seen as a flaw, probably by both sides. My own perception is that one side, the Leader of the Opposition’s Office, perpetuated and nurtured antisemitism and, in opposing this, the staff at Head Office were justified in resisting them. This is not to say that Labour staff were justified in all things they did, least of all in the malicious WhatsApp messages, but their opposition to an antisemitic culture, confirmed by the EHRC Report, the Leaked Report and the Forde Report is not, in my opinion, culpable.

I am afraid that paragraphs such as C2.60, below, will be ignored or forgotten by those partisan to the previous Labour leader.

The most disappointing paragraph to me in the Forde Report suggested that JVL be included with JLM in providing education about antisemitism. I have written elsewhere about JVL attracting a significant number of antisemitic supporters and why I think their intense anti Zionism clouds their perception of classic anti Jewish tropes.

However, the point of my post here is that the report should be read, warts and all, and that it should not be misrepresented as supporting or condemning things it does not support or condemn.

Last night, I noticed a ‘Corbyn was right’ hashtag on Twitter apropos the report, and Mr Corbyn himself made a statement, to the effect that the report calls out racism towards Diane Abbott. He does not mention the comments regarding his own failures and perpetuation of antisemitism. This is from Jeremy Corbyn’s statement which also includes the usual reference to billionaires and repeats the slogan ‘for the many not the few’.

The report, in my opinion, largely corroborates the portrayal of Corbyn’s Labour in ‘Left Out’ by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire, as dysfunctional in many ways, perpetually circling round an indecisive but stubborn leader, out of his depth and out of his comfort zone which undoubtedly reached its apotheosis whenever he was informing his supporters at outdoor rallies about the iniquities of Israel. https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/442223/left-out-by-gabriel-pogrund-and-patrick-maguire/9781529113624

I am sure the perception of Corbyn as antisemitic was not the only reason whay Labour staff were hostile to the leadership. Some abrasive persons had been raised to positions of high authority and the situation of those answerable to them was unenviable.

For myself, it is a matter of overriding importance and the reason why I ceased to vote Labour.

I brace myself for the misreporting and wishful thinking which will be printed and posted in respect of the Forde report. Already I have been embroiled on Twitter and saw fit to highlight the sentence which the Corbynists will not want to read.

I had a quiet weekend, too much time for Twitter and it became consuming with all the replies informing me that Jews are Khazars and racists. Perhaps they meant that Zionists, not Jews, are racists – but who are the Khazars? I have never seen an anti Zionist Jew identify as a Khazar. Do those who adhere to the theory that Jews are from a Khazaria, which I cannot find on a map, maintain that the victims of the nazis in Europe were Khazarian?

They would have an answer to this, I am sure, as the quiet weekend was spent largely looking at their proliferating answers.

Today, I tried to trace the origin of a thread in which I was tagged, where adversarial accounts iterated the words apartheid, Khazar and other disobliging terms. Some accounts include the word apartheid in every tweet they write, with the compulsiveness of a child avoiding cracks in the pavement. They have articles by Amnesty, Btselem and Mondoweiss ready to hand.

The origin appeared to be a tweet from Chris Williamson, who quote tweeted Chief Rabbi Mirvis.

This generated some anger from those sympathetic to the Chief Rabbi and our answers provoked the ire of a panoply of ‘anti Zionists’, a sample of which will be shown below.

These anti Zionists abided by the Twitter tradition of tweeting with a jaunty self-confidence, jouissance almost, more marked as their tweets became more insulting. Of course this applies to all tendencies, not just those hostile to Jews, or should I say Khazars, as some of Chris Williamson’s fanbase like to call us. It is a commonplace for an individual accused of antisemitism to supply the spirited denial that, on the contrary, they are devoted to the semitic Palestinians.

It makes me weary. I would do better to go for a jog and then I would be weary in a good way, although to be honest, jogging no longer presents an option.

It makes me depressed, a word which the antagonistic accounts would replace with the phrase ‘playing the antisemitism card’.

And I am cursed with a desire to answer, for the performative value, for all the innocent bystanders who yet might be persuaded not to believe that an army of conquering Khazars traversed the Near East in the years after the Second World War.

Nevertheless, by the end of Saturday, I blocked all the hostile accounts in my notifications. On Sunday night, I blocked a lot more. One man repeatedly called me a racist. Eventually riled by this, I painted a blue Star of David on the back of my left hand, photographed it doing a middle finger salute, tweeted this to Kevin and then blocked him. The utility, if any, was merely to show that there is an end to my patience.

After this, the onslaught abated, except for one man called ‘Clemenza’ in honour of the Godfather character, who sent me a selection of iffy Talmud quotes famously assembled by neonazis.

When I think of the long, long arguments in the Gemara, often not resolved and finished only with the word ‘Teiku’ which indicated an impasse, I can’t imagine that Twitter would be the place to embark on Talmud apologetics.

However I will just quote the Mishnah (Avot 5:17) on arguments:

Every dispute that is for the sake of Heaven, will in the end endure; But one that is not for the sake of Heaven, will not endure. Which is the controversy that is for the sake of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Hillel and Shammai. And which is the controversy that is not for the sake of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Korach and all his congregation.

Not everyone will know about Korach’s rebellion (Numbers 16) or about the first century disputes between the sages Hillel (lenient) and Shammai (strict) but some arguments are worth having. Others are not worth having but you just can’t get out of them.

My Booba  (grandmother) bought me and all my cousins souvenir books of Princess Margaret’s wedding to Anthony Armstrong-Jones. It was beautifully illustrated with formal wedding pictures and informal photos of the happy couple, taken during their courtship. I looked at it many times. To my exacting eye, Princess Margaret was not truly beautiful, not like Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn or Jean Simmons. When you get old, any young person looks beautiful but I was ten.

I was a little surprised that Booba engaged with the celebrations of Princess Margaret ‘s wedding as  we were not what you might call royalists. Tsar Nicholas II was certainly no particular friend to the Jews when my grandparents left Russia and Poland. Booba was naturalized British but my other Booba, my father’s mother, was Russian all her life and had to report to the Home Office in accordance with the Aliens Act of 1905. The same applied to my father’s older siblings, he being the only child of his family born in England.

They were not Russian speakers as Yiddish was their first language but there was some syncretism: my aunt’s samovar, lemon tea taken in a glass; frequent use of the interrogative ‘Nu?’ and men dancing the kazatsky at weddings and bar mitzvahs. My father was able to execute a fine kazatsky, as did his nephew, my cousin Norman.

It was not so much the Russian connection as the socialist tradition which stopped my family becoming enthusiastic about the British monarchy. However, there was no resentment and when individual members of the Royal Family evinced kindly or conscientious behaviour, we liked them. My mother considered Prince Philip very handsome. I didn’t think so myself, until I became old enough to see, as I said, that everyone is beautiful under the age of about fifty.

In dramas about the English Civil War, we were on the side of the Parliamentarians and were irritated when they were portrayed as rigid killjoys while the Royalists got all the best lines, the good wigs and the cute dogs.

My brother-in-law, whose work in the charitable sector was recognized with an OBE, was invited with my sister to events where Royals, Ministers and sometimes Prime Ministers were present.  A photo of my sister and brother-in-law shaking hands with Prince Charles and Princess Diana adorned the walls of my parents’ house and was later displayed in their rooms in a Jewish Care residential home, along with a photo of my brother-in-law being introduced to the Queen. They also met – in reverse chronological order – Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Harold Wilson and Edward Heath. There was a photo of my sister shaking hands with Norman Tebbit, which she feared could be used as kompromat.

More than one member of my family met Princess Margaret but they did not warm to her. I am sure that it was mutual.

Some years ago, Prince Charles attended a COP climate change conference and was introduced to the UK team from the department of Ed Miliband, then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. My son was a young and minor cog in the machine at that time and was not introduced, but Prince Charles turned back before leaving the room, to speak to him and shake his hand.

Doos is a mensch!

I liked Princess Diana because she seemed so natural and kind. I read articles and and watched programmes about her life and mourned her untimely death with most of the world. Later, I hoped that Charles would be allowed to marry Camilla. Why should people who have loved each other so long be forbidden to marry?

I  watched with interest all of the Netflix series The Crown and took away from it the perception that personal suffering is not lessened or cushioned by royal status.

In recent years, finding myself at odds with the Left as never before, I  am offended by excessively hostile posts about the Queen and other members of the Royal Family although certainly they have some duds. Such is life.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee is sure to arouse strong feelings, pro and contra.

Did you know – of course you did – that Jubilee is a Hebrew word?

The Jubilee occurred every fifty years and involved leaving the land fallow for a year (shemita) as well as cancelling debts and releasing slaves.

יוֹבֵ֣ל הִ֗וא שְׁנַ֛ת הַחֲמִשִּׁ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה תִּהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם לֹ֣א תִזְרָ֔עוּ וְלֹ֤א תִקְצְרוּ֙ אֶת־סְפִיחֶ֔יהָ וְלֹ֥א תִבְצְר֖וּ אֶת־נְזִרֶֽיהָ׃ כִּ֚י יוֹבֵ֣ל הִ֔וא קֹ֖דֶשׁ תִּהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם מִ֨ן־הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה תֹּאכְל֖וּ אֶת־תְּבוּאָתָֽהּ׃

 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, neither shall you reap the aftergrowth or harvest the untrimmed vines for it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you: you may only eat the growth direct from the field.

Leviticus 25: 11 – 12

Yovel, the Hebrew word for Jubliee, becomes iobeleus in the Latin Vulgate. The Greek Septuagint uses a circumlocution which does not sound like jubilee but references the release which takes place in the fiftieth year.

All right, since you ask, the Greek version is:

 ἀφέσεως σημασία αὕτη, τὸ ἔτος τὸ πεντηκοστὸν ἐνιαυτὸς ἔσται ὑμῖν· οὐ σπερεῖτε οὐδὲ ἀμήσετε τὰ αὐτόματα ἀναβαίνοντα αὐτῆς καὶ οὐ τρυγήσετε τὰ ἡγιασμένα αὐτῆς ὅτι ἀφέσεως σημασία ἐστίν ἅγιον ἔσται ὑμῗν ἀπὸ τῶν πεδίων φάγεσθε τὰ γενήματα αὐτῆς

Leviticus 25: 11 – 12

Apheseos semasia, something like ‘a significant release’, is the term which translates yovel, jubilee.

In the case of Her Majesty, it is seventy years on the throne, not fifty. Her coronation is one of my earliest memories. Like so many other families, we acquired a nine inch television set for the purpose of watching it. I was bored by the coronation but soon discovered the delights of Muffin the Mule and Prudence Kitten.

I hope that this forthcoming Jubilee will be an apheseos semasia for us all, a time of release from the manifold troubles which beset us, royals and commoners, yeomen and labourers and all those who, like my grandparents, travel to this land from distant shores.

27 May 2022

This may be an urban legend. I have heard that George Stevens, director of The Greatest Story Ever Told, thought John Wayne, as a Roman centurion witnessing the crucifixion, uttered his line ‘Truly this man was the Son of God ‘ with insufficient spirituality.  ‘Can you say it with  awe?’ Stevens asked Wayne. ‘Aw, truly this man was the Son of God,’ said Wayne at the next take.

The story was denied by both George Stevens and John Wayne. As I supposed, it’s an urban legend. So many things are.

Apotheosis was a regular feature of Roman imperial life around the time of the crucifixion, give or take a hundred years. From my reading of Robert Graves, I seem to remember that Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar became gods. Caligula thought he was a god and Claudius was considered a god in Britain, a parochial deity.

In the modern age, the deification of political leaders is sinister, invariably resulting in the pursuit and punishment of allegedly deicidal persons. And not only political leaders. Being called deicides by the Church until the Nostra Aetate of Pope Paul VI in 1965 caused us Jews no end of trouble.

What I am doing here is procrastinating. This post, as you guessed, is about Facebook groups becoming increasingly worshipful of Jeremy Corbyn, which means my opening paragraph counts as deviation and hesitation, before I launch into the undoubted repetion of something I have mentioned many times before.

This way of talking about Corbyn as a godlike figure is not merely inappropriate or amusing. His opponents are invariably fingered as being Judas or Herod or Pilate or Caiaphas. Thus the Corbynist forums on Facebook become a veritable Oberammergau of Judenhass, with Israel often held responsible for Labour’s bad election result in 2019 or, by way of synecdoche, Keir Starmer, Margaret Hodge or Trevor Chinn stand in for the State of Israel and indeed for Am Yisrael, the people of Israel.

There has been no improvement in this state of affairs in the Corbynist social media I have seen. Whereas the suggestion that ‘the Rothschilds’ won the 2019 General Election seemed initially the opinion of outliers, it is now orthodoxy to say in these groups that Israel decided the election result. It seems ridiculous when you consider that Israel’s proportional representation leads time after time to inconclusive election results. It seems ridiculous for many reasons but it is an assertion which occurs repeatedlyin the Corbynist groups on Facebook and is by now an urban legend nearly as popular as the anecdote about the awe of John Wayne.

The screen shots are more or less in chronological order, although the last few, featuring crucifixion metaphors, are not chronological. The people making the comments are often the same individuals, members of every Corbynist group they can find and active in all of them. Can we put a number on them? The larger groups have more than 60,000 members and the smaller groups have fewer than 2,000. The usual number is about 10,000 members, a hundred of whom are regular contributors to the group.

And does it matter?

Does it matter if these predominantly elderly people have fixated on an elderly man who had little influence in politics until he was past retirement age, and whom they now regularly liken to Jesus? Many people whose opinions I value tell me that I’m focusing on a pathetic minority who turn to each other for the corroboration they can’t get in the wider world.

But I say, it matters if they think you’re Judas, Pilate, Herod and Caiaphas, rolled into one diabolical, election-rigging, scam-making, party-owning, blue and white T shirt-wearing entity.

Today being the sixth day of Passover, I decided to return some of the Pesach crockery to the top shelf of the big cupboard in my spare room. I had to remove suitcases and hangers from the cupboard until I could insert a kitchen chair with some degree of stability. I then climbed on the chair and returned some large plates, small plates, cups and saucers to their place. Moving my hand along the shelf to see what was there, I found a cardboard box, which I realized immediately would contain memorabilia which had belonged to my parents. I came down from the chair and out of the cupboard, with the box. It was full of letters, one from me aged fourteen, to my sister, written while on holiday. I related, with humorous asides, the experience of a student making a pass at me while thinking I was of legal age and that he withdrew when I told him I was fourteen.

There are letters to my parents and grandmother from my aunt in Sydney, Australia.

There is a glowing reference for my father, from the headmaster at the school where he taught although I know he remained on the staff for several more years.

Then there is this letter to the Observer, written early in 1960. The context is clear. The bereaved father of a British soldier killed in Mandate Palestine, 1947, had compared this to the Nazi genocide. Then as now, anything heinous was being compared to the Holocaust, a word which did not yet have currency in this context. Like many of us now, my father pointed out the error – I would say indecency – of the comparison. The occupation he refers to is the British occupation of what was Mandate Palestine until the State of Israel achieved independence in 1948.

His words about terrorists fighting occupation refer to the Irgun and Lehi, not the long terrorism of anti-Zionist violence in Israel and the diaspora. If someone challenged him today with a view to justifying Palestinian acts of terror, I think he would say that not everything can bear comparison but, in any case, he did not attempt to justify the activities of the Irgun or Lehi.

I don’t know if The Observer published his letter to the editor, but here it is, sixty-two years on.

ברוך אתה ” מחיה המתים

The Editor

The Observer

26 January 1960

Dear Sir

I am certain that Mr XXX of Bristol has everyone’s sympathy in the grievous loss he sustained by the murder of his son in Palestine in 1947 but to suggest, even indirectly, that these very sad but fortunately comparatively rare events, carried out by extreme right wing groups, whose activities are repudiated by thoughtful and moderate opinion, can bear any comparison to the organised campaign of mass extermination which was the deliberate and avowed intent of the Nazi government, is no more than the result of prejudiced thinking.

Whenever armies are in immediate occupation, and where the desire for freedom and self-determination among the occupied is paramount, clashes of an atrocious nature are bound to occur on both sides.

Mr XXX’s son was a victim of political and military circumstances and I am sure that right-thinking and humanitarian elements in Israel, as indeed they do everywhere else, deprecate most sincerely occurrences of this nature.

Yours sincerely

J Pressman

I can hardly remember joining Facebook, that day being lost in the mists of time. I was living in another house, still married to Mr Lazarus and my younger children were still at university. Or were they? I can’t remember. I posted favourite quotations, photos and made contact with former colleagues.

My Facebook page now is of course set on private and even so, I take proper care: names may be displayed but not together with places and vice versa.

The groups which I archive and report to Facebook are devoted to these things: hatred of Israel, veneration of Mr Corbyn, hatred of Zionists, veneration of anti Zionists; hatrd of the ‘Jewish/Israel/Zionist Lobby’ and veneration of any struggle inimical to Israel.

Facebook very rarely intervenes to remove a post or a comment, but is more likely to do so if there is swearing and if the word ‘Jewish’ is used, rather than ‘Zionist’. Thus a lady who commented ‘F***ing Jews, who do they think they are?’ got suspended from Facebook for a month and her comment was deleted. In contrast, the word ‘kike’ gets a pass, perhaps because it isn’t flagged up by Facebook algorithms.

When I report Holocaust denial, I get the reply from Facebook that it does not go against their community standards. In a long thread about the Zionist Lobby being responsible for all the evils of the world, the one person who carelessly wrote ‘Jewish lobby’ had his tweet deleted by Facebook.

The recent spate of terrorist killings in Israel, March – April 2022, has been lauded on some of the forums but reporting them for hate speech or the promotion of violence falls on deaf ears, if indeed Facebook has ears.

I have collated my replies from Facebook. If you have the tenacity to read to the end, you will see the one case where somebody violated their standards.

In some comments, numbers and punctuation signs are substituted for letters, as in Zi0ni$ts. Israel is spelled Izrael and Usrael, to avoid the censor. Why do they bother? Facebook isn’t bothered.

I have added some of the more recent decisions from Facebook.

If you scroll through the screen shots, you will see at the end that Facebook did remove a comment and, certainly, members of many of the groups shown below do complain that Facebook – which they consider Zionistic – removes many of their comments.

Facebook works in a mysterious way, its wonders to perform.

And finally, there was one time when Facebook agreed there was a problem.

And at last, perhaps we have Facebook’s ear, just once in a while.

My long exposure to contemporary Left, Corbynist, Palestinian or anti-West social media has served to acquaint me with extremist opinions about Israel, Jews, the UK and the USA.

When I post screen shots on Twitter, I am sometimes confronted by people who tell me that criticism of Israel is not antisemitic, that the antisemitic comments might come from fifth columnists or that Mr Corbyn, contrary to my insinuations, does not have an antisemitic bone in his body. Obviously I am also confronted by people calling me’old hag’ and similar terms of endearment. Nothing I can do about that: social media is what it is.

Here for example is a billet doux which I received today, 31 March.

You can’t please all of the people all of the time and certainly not on Twitter.

I am fairly intrigued by the argument that Jeremy Corbyn would reject, if he were aware of them, the propositions that Jews:

are Khazars

Cause all wars

Rig UK elections

Run UK and American poliitics

Caused his own poor showing in the 2019 general election

or that

The Rothschilds are behind everything.

In the more extreme groups, Holocaust denial is a regular feature and yet I have heard Corbyn repudiate Shoah denial in television interviews.

Where I agree with the Corbynists is that I don’t think he would voice any of the views listed above, comments to which they regularly reply ‘Spot on!’ or ‘100%’, so it is reasonable to assume he doesn’t hold them, even if they do. I think he has extreme views but not as extreme as some of his followers; that he would say Israel is the only cause of its own wars, but not of the Napoleonic wars; that there is a Zionist Lobby with influence in the UK but not that Zionists visited polling booths up and down the country to torch the ballot boxes. He will not call Ashkenazi Jews Khazars but will agree with JVL that Jews have such a welcome place in the diaspora as to make the State of Israel redundant.

To be honest, it is difficult to know if and how Corbyn differs from his most vocal and devoted followers.

Daily, I should say hourly, Simon Maginn posts ‘It was a scam’ on his Twitter account, habitually calling those who disagree with him ‘Filthy liars’ and demanding apologies which never materialize. It is not only Jeremy Corbyn whom he defends from imputations of antisemitism but also Chris Williamson, David Miller, the rapper Lowkey and anyone at all who was expelled from Labour for antisemitism. Maginn’s focus is not Corbyn’s probity but an ill-defined cabal of evil plotters (I assume I’m one) who speak about antisemitism.

Where would Corbyn stand on Maginn, if the subject came up? I think he would say it was certainly a scam to accuse himself of antisemitism, or Chris Williamson whom he promoted to his Shadow Cabinet, or anyone with whom he shares a platform. I think he would condemn the threats shouted through a megaphone from a car decked out with Palestinian flags as it drove through Golders Green but I don’t think he would see a problem in driving the car with the flags through Golders Green.

Like the first Queen Elizabeth and Ludwig Wittgenstein – an unlikely pair – I don’t believe in making windows into a person’s soul or even that there is anything inside the windows which is inaccessible from the outside.

The idolization, deification even, of Corbyn by people who concur with the antisemitic views I outlined above has the effect of making him still more toxic. When a devotee likens him to Jesus and then exhorts the comrades, ‘Don’t let them crucify him again,’ it gives the impression that, if Corbyn held political office, these zealots would become powerful, in a way reminiscent of the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution in China.

On the day when Russia invaded Ukraine, Corbyn stood up in Parliament and argued for the recognition of the State of Palestine. As some of his supporters pointed out, a debate on the recognition of Palestine had been scheduled for that day. One couldn’t expect him not to contribute on a matter of consuming interest to him.

As far as optics were concerned, it looked poor but predictable. The optics of Corbyn’s words, deeds and even wreath laying are very often the problem, being generally compatible with antisemitism but with a strand of plausible deniability.

If only he had separated himself from the fanatics, instead of sharing platforms with them and praising them, he might have had more credibility as a non racist man of the Left. If he had done so, he would not have been their idol as he is to this day, but someone else would have filled the role because there are people amenable to authoritarianism who require a totem, before whom they can gather.

Where there is a totem, there is likely to be a taboo. Who or what might that be, in this context?

Ha!

Foreword: 22 May 2022

PAIS is an prolific group now numbering nine thousand members but, as with all Facebook groups, their kernel of activists is probably not more than a hundred. Some of these activists post many times a day. They keep a close eye on PressTV, Quds News Network and Viva Palestina for breaking news stories. The mainstream news also offers continual developments, such as the sad death of Shireen Abu-Akleh, whose photo is now the profile picture of many of the group members. The group consensually favours the extermination of Israel and, in all their posts, they present reasons why they consider this desirable. They are not above contemptuous racist humour directed at Jews whom they consider a plague on the earth.

As I consider PAIS a particularly toxic group, I have often reported them to Facebook. Generally speaking, Facebook finds that the comments do not go against their communty standards but nevertheless, they have sometimes reacted by removing offensive posts, which is one reason among others to keep reporting.

*

The Gaelic word Pais, says Antán Ó Dála, refers to the Passion, that is to say, the suffering, of Jesus on the cross. In Antan’s own words:

‘PÁIS is Gaelic for the Passion, the suffering and persecution of the Palestinian carpenter, Jesus.’

The word is used cleverly as an acronym: Palestinian And Irish Solidarity.

Contributors seldom lose sight of their brief and, whatever problem arises in the wide world, they remember to relate it to Palestine. And Israel.

I have been following this particular Pais group (there are others) for about four months. I never open the page without foreboding and never fail to be shocked by the bigotry, extremism and anti Jewish obsession.

Facebook does not intervene against such groups and applies its censor so haphazardly that I assume some obsolete form of artificial intelligence is in charge.

It seems likely that, psychologically, the members of this group experience a frisson in expressing such extreme opinions, especially when they rejoice in the death of Israelis. Do they have a sense of transgression or a sense of virtue, or perhaps both, in an enjoyable paradox?

I present to you, PAIS (Palestinian and Irish Solidarity).

When Israelis die:

On the Shoah

PAIS news sources

Ukraine

It is not unusual for ‘anti-Zionists’ to profess concern for Jewish people, who, they claim, are made to suffer by Israel and Zionism and by those of us who ‘cry wolf’.

PAIS does not swerve from its anti Israel mission. Occasionally, Facebook deletes posts for false information, but one has to report the post for this to happen. Mostly, reporting has little effect but still, it’s better that some of their comments get reported, even when Facebook does nothing.

לא עליך המלאכה לגמור ואין אתה בן חורין להיבטל ממנה

It is not for you to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.

Pirkei Avot 2:16

Finally, house rules of the PAIS group. It has been reported many times by many people but they soldier on, with their never-ending Judenhass.

Prologue. It is 3 March and the Russians have been attempting to invade Ukraine for a week. Conditions are dire in the Ukraine and dire for Russian soldiers in tanks stuck en route while trying to reach Kyiv. Zelensky is inspirational but it seems that nothing good can happen.

Corbynist social media is now focused on Israel; on Israel being worse or on sympathy for Ukraine being unfair when people don’t respond as sympathetically to Palestinians.

An original post about vodka being removed from Co-op shelves triggers nothing on a Corbynist forum apart from ‘What about Zionst produce?’

23 February

As Russian troops enter eastern Ukraine, the Corbynist forums which I follow have their own views about the crisis, presumably in line with those of Mr Corbyn.

When US and UK troops withdrew from Afghanistan, they were at pains to compare the Taliban favourably with the Israelis.

When Bashar Al-Assad used barrel bombs, they declared that this was filmed at Pinewood studios under the direction of then PM Theresa May.

When the Skripals were taken ill in Salisbury, they posted links to Craig Murray’s article stating that Israel was the likely suspect.

I am going to spare you further commentary and deliver screen shots. Please read on.

Russia

Afghanistan

Iran

Syria

China

Myanmar

No matches found

*

Whatever and wherever the crisis, these are the questions the comrades ask each other:

What about Israel?

Isn’t Israel behind it?

Why is no one mentioning Israel?

You may laugh. My sense of humour has been eroded by exposure to their obsession. Probably Israel’s fault.

As the days go by and Ukraine is under attack, the comrades, initially uncertain, return to their default factory settings.

In the 1980 film Superman 2, as Superman rescues a child who is falling into the Niagara Falls, a little old lady among the admiring onlookers can be heard to say:

‘Such a nice man. Of course he’s Jewish.’

The creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were indeed Jewish but the Man of Steel himself, possibly not.

Christmas bank holiday Monday, when Boxing Day falls on a Sunday, I walk the mile to the M&S food hall. As I walk, I think about Oskar Schindler, the exemplar of the righteous gentile; thinking not about his righteous deeds so much as his personality. Schindler was a hedonist and hedonists, who appreciate comfort, are well placed to be empathetic to suffering. After the war, residence in Germany was untenable for him and he moved to Buenos Aires. By 1958 he was bankrupt and, leaving his wife in Argentina, he returned to Germany, where he failed to prosper. He was supported financially by ‘Schindler Jews’, those whose lives he had saved who were now settled in Israel. Schindler was honoured by the State of Israel as one of the Righteous of the Nations and is buried in Jerusalem, on Mount Zion. I have visited his grave there. Thomas Keneally’s book Schindler’s Ark and Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List are both fitting monuments to his memory, as are the descendants of those he saved.

What really made Schindler – an established, extravagant and flamboyant business man – risk his life and scatter away his wealth, saving Jewish lives? Many answers have been given; none of them solve Schindler’s enigma or dispel his mystique.

The Righteous Among Nations, ḥasidei ummot ha`olam, are of abiding interest, especially now as, even in the age of Medinat Israel, we Jews continue to need their support.

In the diaspora, antisemitism has not quite laid hands on us, outside of criminal terrorist acts which have claimed lives in Europe, the United States, South America, India, Australia, in the air and at sea, but it is globally resurgent. It breathes on us, making us shrink back from its acrid breath.

At this time, when it is difficult to be unconscious of a threat to our security, we find supporters who are prepared to make their own lives harder by standing up against anti-Jewish prejudice and hatred. It does make their lives harder and they are abused for it. They sustain losses, in their careers and in their friendships.

Why are they prepared to do so much for us? Like Schindler, they do not have to. Like Superman, they fly into the Niagara Falls while others watch from the sidelines.

And they are many. How could I begin to name those I know of?

Emma Euan Heidi Ray Jonas Warren Craig Zoe

John Ian Joan Stella Sajid Nadhim Eddie Helen Joanne

Angela Tim Derek Natalie Keith Fran Andrew Gavin Bev Malcolm Steve Kevin Graham Aboud Damian Tony Freddie Ibrahim Mike Mark Rosemary Richard Neil Chris David John Bob Tom Carl Dee Garry Gary John Fiyaz Dan Ayesha Steve

I don’t produce those lists we see on Twitter, paying homage to worthy accounts, as I will forget more names than I remember, and then remember afterwards that I forgot.

To paraphrase Nehemiah, And now, strengthen their hands, ועתה חזק את-ידיהם

Strengthen all their hands. You don’t have to be Jewish to be Superman.