Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for June 2019

This is too long to tweet but perhaps too short to blog.

Scene: Sainsbury’s, Winchmore Hill

Gillian, standing by the newspaper rack, reaches up for the Jewish Chronicle on the top shelf. She usually reads it online but wants a hard copy of an article of particular interest. Noticing a headline about kashrut, she realizes that this is last Friday’s edition.

‘Not very good for animal rights, is it?’

Gillian turns to see a small, fifty-something woman, smiling with her teeth but not her eyes.

Gillian (face has frozen into G-d knows what expression): Why do you say that?

Woman: You know they cut their throats and hang them upside down?

Pinteresque pause

Woman: Like with halal.

Gillian: Would you want to prevent halal slaughter?

Woman: (no longer smiling) No…you can’t stop people doing what they want, can you?’

Gillian: No

Resume first person. I swept past her, without taking the Jewish Chronicle, walking quickly. I did not linger by the grapefruit to see if they had pink or only red and yellow; I felt for some reason a need to put distance between myself and that woman. In fact, I felt a wish to complete the shopping and leave the store, to go home.

Even in  the car, my foot went down harder than usual, bearing in mind that I’m a senior citizen who has only once been done for speeding.

On the way to Sainsbury’s, I’d been thinking about my cousin who, at the age of seventy-five, has decided to make  aliyah, ‘to live my remaining years in Israel,’ were his words.

When I reached for the Jewish Chronicle, the thought was in my subconscious that a stranger would comment, yet when I heard the woman speaking to me, I half expected her to say ‘Price of a kosher fowl is something shocking these days.’

But no. It was ‘They cut their throats and hang them upside down.’

Look. I eat meat once, maybe twice a year so I’m de facto vegetarian most of the time. When I do eat meat, it does indeed have the hechsher of the London Board for Shechita.

Maybe the woman was being friendly. If I’d reached for today’s Financial Times, would she have said ‘Private equity is going great guns today’? If it were the Radio Times, would she have commented ‘So Judi Dench is 84? Looks marvelous doesn’t she?’

I don’t know. I just know that if it had been the FT or Radio Times, it would have been a whole different scenario. I didn’t buy the JC today because I remembered that this week’s edition would be out tomorrow. Maybe I’ll buy it in Sainsbury’s in Winchmore Hill.  It seems to be a bit of an ice-breaker. Lol.

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At the time of writing I am displeased but intrigued by the fact that someone on Twitter has created an unfriendly parody of me. The avatar is a cartoon of a thin faced blonde woman with enormous breasts radiating lasers. The tweets are sexualised with mildly pornographic imagery but, worse than this, they target other accounts which are friendly to me and which are active against online antisemitism.

This morning in my synagogue, my thoughts turned to the person – likely a woman – who runs the parody. I imagined myself reaching out to her via a tweet, along the lines of ‘I expect you’re motivated by loyalty to a friend who you think has been badly treated.’ The ‘friend’ in question is an equally aggressive account.

I then reflected further on the projected reaching out. It would be disloyal to my own friends who are also targeted by this account, which goes under the name of – I have to check – GillianRazorLaserBoobs. Furthermore it would be passive-aggressive virtue-signalling, which is not a good option.

For so long, the topics of this blog were biblical prophets, reflections on Kings Hezekiah and Josiah and three separate posts about the books of Enoch, categorized as Old Testament pseudepigrapha. It comes as a surprise to me, to find myself writing about a pop-up Twitter account called ‘Laser boobs’.  By contrast with my scribblings on Enoch, where there was not much likelihood that Enoch himself would be paying attention, these words may well be read by the author of ‘Laser Boobs’ who may even parody this very blog post in her ribald Twitter account; again so unlike Enoch.

Home from synagogue, I read her tweets of today and was struck again by the malice towards people I esteem, so any thoughts I had of reaching out dissolved in her steamy ill will.

Do I feel personally threatened? Not at all. Do I feel that the Laser Boobs account is threatening? Yes. I think her intention is to threaten and to intimidate.

There are problems arising from anonymity. I use my own name as, when I opened my Twitter account ten (is it really ten?) years ago, I expected to engage in conversations about Shakespeare, John Le Carré and the Pre-Raphaelites. If I were opening an account now, I would choose anonymity as a matter of security. However, anonymity causes speculation about true identity. There is guesswork and hubristic false identification. Gender is not revealed. The power of penetrating anonymity becomes an end in itself, in these Twitter wars of attrition.

Due to prolific reporting, the hostile account is likely, I hope, to be suspended by Twitter before long, but another will pop up, an ad hoc parody from the same stable of someone I know or of someone I don’t know.

Rarely, but sometimes, an intense argument on Twitter can be closed with civility. At such times, it seems to me, both parties want to be free, to walk away and resume their own affairs, put the kettle on, watch Line of Duty, compose an email about a council tax miscalculation, take the dog for a walk or maybe even – though less likely – phone a friend. Then one types the words ‘We aren’t going to agree on this.’ Occasionally one or other participant will say ‘Thanks for being civil.’ Once these words are exchanged, one feels a degree of goodwill towards the antagonist: gratitude that the altercation didn’t become worse and that they departed in peace. I have even had this resolution from time to time with people I considered antisemitic.

Yet still I don’t know, do we want our adversaries to go in peace, leaving us to pursue our work and our leisure, to give some attention to our families and our friends? One can be pacific or one can appease and there can be no doubt that Chamberlain gave appeasement a bad name.

One can hold out a conciliatory hand, but we only have two hands and I do not want to let go of the hands already holding mine.

 

June 2019

 


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