Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

The Sense of Having Enemies

Posted on: January 7, 2019

I used to open the book of Psalms at random, looking for inspiration, and was often disappointed to find the author, usually King David, calling on the Almighty to vanquish his, David’s, numerous enemies.

They swarmed about me like bees, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.(Psalm 118:12)

This wasn’t the verse I was looking for. Generally, I was seeking something to help with a little mild depression. If Saul had written psalms, they probably would have suited my purpose.

Even now, this minute, I open Psalms just to see what will come up, and find:

Thou hast been a refuge for me, a tower of strength in the face of the enemy. (Psalm 61:4)

I follow a Twitter account which quotes ‘They swarmed about me like bees’ in his or her Twitter bio. I can’t remember the name of the account but, like mine, it’s one of those active against online antisemitism. If you mention antisemitism on Twitter, they will swarm about you like bees, make no mistake. If you link antisemitism with Corbyn’s Labour, they will sting if they can.

A journalist from the Jewish Chronicle was kind enough to mention me in an article about fighting antisemitism. The next time I saw my rabbi, the first thing he said was ‘Have there been any repercussions from that article?’ There had not, but a little time has elapsed and I find it is sometimes mentioned in unfriendly accounts.

Twitter is a rough playground. Prior to my activity on Twitter, I wasn’t accused of anything worse than being unworthy of my driving licence. Nowadays, angry tweeters sometimes call me a murderer or a mass murderer, an apologist for infanticide and, more frequently, the paid agent of a foreign power (one whose national anthem starts with the words ‘Kol od balevav’).

My own experiences of hostile reaction on Twitter are a microcosm – a nanocosm – of those who are prominent in the fields of entertainment, journalism, and politics; celebrities in other words. This month, a young Jewish woman, famous for her television appearances, is the victim of the usual accusations, insults and gibes, because she has spoken about the problem of antisemitism on the left. It makes me inexpressibly sad to see the torrents of ill will which have come her way.

A Jewish lawyer who happens to have a debilitating physical illness received tweets wishing for his death. He replied in kind and was penalized by the Law Society. On Twitter, an enemy will ‘dox’ (or is it ‘doxx’?) you if they can, contacting your employers, especially if you are a professional or hold a position of responsibility.

This is not something I personally have to worry about, as a retired Waterstones grunt, but I worry a great deal about the possible injury to others who fight the good fight.

Rabbi Lord Sacks, esteemed for his scholarly books promoting interfaith harmony,  last year accused Jeremy Corbyn of antisemitism, following the ‘English irony’ video.  The obloquy from some of  Mr Corbyn’s supporters was eye-wateringly vindictive. Rabbi Sacks had made a provocative and courageous statement and it gave comfort to some who were afraid to say as much openly. I thought, ‘Now that Rabbi Sacks has spoken about it, they’ll understand.’ That was very far from the truth.

I have seen my own name and profile photo, like a Wanted poster, on the Twitter timelines of people who block me. They warn others about my account and say I am in league with their most feared adversaries.

There is a comfort in online solidarity – being ‘in league’ – for all of us, on all sides. This is true for me and true for those who post about me from behind a block. Yes, one feels friendship for a supportive group – for any support at all, because the fact is, they do now swarm about us like bees. I understand that these ‘enemies’ see us likewise as swarming around them and around Jeremy Corbyn. I can imagine what that feels like and the anxiety they suffer is not to anyone’s advantage. These people who call us ‘Chosenites,’ ‘Khazars’ and ‘Zionazis’ nevertheless are the enemies I have now acquired.

Post Script

We are now in the year 2019; Mrs May’s deal for Brexit has been defeated and her government has survived a vote of no confidence. Social and political divisions are increasingly acrid and I am immersed in Twitter wars of attrition where, as I tweeted a day or so ago, the enemy faints not nor faileth. I received a little more attention than usual, positive and negative and some prominent British Jews are being bombarded with negative attention, because they have taken up a position against Labour antisemitism. Mr Corbyn continues to enjoy the support of some Jewish individuals who devote themselves to discrediting those who oppose him. This is not a division of orthodox and Reform, nor even of Zionist and ‘meh about Israel,’ nor of Brexit and Remain nor of Labour and Conservative. The divisive notion is Jeremy Corbyn, generally perceived as very good or very bad and not much in between. Myself, I have no doubt that he is very bad.

Those who’worship the trousers that cling to him’ use invective such as ‘fascists’ ‘supremacists’ ‘smear merchants’ ‘shills’ and, recently, ‘child-groomers’ and some of  Corbyn’s Jewish supporters participate vigorously in derogating the anti-Corbyn Jews, brushing shoulders with hardcore antisemites in their earnest defence of the Labour Leader. The forum ‘Truthers Against Zionists Lobbies’ which I archive on this blog includes one or two contributions from Jewish bloggers.

Each side claims to be representative, either of the ruakh, the spirit of Judaism or of the Jewish community. People in the circles in which I move are anxious and speak of Corbyn as a threat, so to my mind, his Jewish supporters are a small minority.

Each side knows the arguments of the other side so well that bingo cards are devised, citing the expected arguments of the opposing Z group or the J group, where J is for Jeremy and Z, I don’t need to say.

When I began this blog post, a couple of weeks ago, I was remembering the Jewish tradition, in desperate times, zog tehilim – say psalms when all else fails.

I open my book of Psalms and am awed to find that that the Psalmist seems to have knowledge of Twitter.

64 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; 

preserve my life from dread of the enemy.
Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
    from the throng of evildoers,
who whet their tongues like swords,
    who aim bitter words like arrows,
shooting from ambush at the blameless,
    shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
They hold fast to their evil purpose;
    they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, “Who can see them?”
    They search out injustice,
saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.”
    For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.

Yes, I know there are some who think of me as the secret plotter, whetting my tongue like a sword. All of us are all this to our enemies. Can there be a time when our own Jewish community in the UK are not at loggerheads, whether over the ordination of women, over Israel and the Palestinians, or over Jeremy Corbyn? Bechayeichon uveyomeichon: in our lifetime and in our days, speedily may it come.

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  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thank you Monica
  • Monica: Really really interesting and an informative Well written piece And lovely too, Well done, Gill,
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Sometimes I can't believe what i'm seeing from the Left. I wonder - was it like that, in the time I was writing of, and I didn't realize. But I think
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