Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Things I Mind on Twitter and Things I Don’t Mind

Posted on: July 8, 2019

If someone calls me stupid or old or quips about the name Lazarus (a valued gift from my ex-husband), I can shrug it off.

If they use pejorative language from the modern lexicon for abusing Jews, I get angry.

The modern lexicon, as opposed to the traditional dictionary, includes ‘supporter of apartheid’ and ‘apologist for child murder’ which references their perception of Israel and attributes to me or like-minded people the features they believe they discern in the State of Israel.

There are at least two possible answers here. One is that I don’t control events in Israel. Another is that they have a false perception of it as uniquely racist and murderous. If I go with the first, I allow them to get away with the usual calumnies. If I go with the second, I allow them to set the parameters of the conversation as being about Israel.

When the suspension of Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North, was discussed on BBC Question time, a gentleman in the audience said:

The Jewish community is very vociferous and obviously they feel they’re being hurt but what’s happening with the Palestinians – the siege, the torture, the kidnappings? I’ve never heard a Jewish community complain about that.

Members of the panel responded to the attempted tainting of ‘the Jewish community,’ but not to the damaging hyperbole about Israel. I don’t blame them. It isn’t easy to extemporize a brief response to both points.

Tweets about the iniquity of Jews depress me. Before Corbyn, they tended to come from the far right; now from both right and left.

Tweets about the iniquity of Israel depress me and are harder to answer, as I am in what Judah Halevi called the edge of the west. (He meant Spain and I’m in London but the expression serves.) If they show an image of an injured child and claim that it illustrates Israeli cruelty, I can query the provenance of the photo, the context and even the authenticity but I can’t swear that it isn’t from Israel unless, as has occurred before, the soldiers are in Guatemalan uniform.

If someone tweets to me that I’ve judged them unfairly, that they didn’t mean what I thought, or understand the implications of their words, I try to listen and give them credit for their serious answer. Any transition from bitterness to civility is both valuable and rare.

I aroused ire by tweeting sympathetically about Kevin Spacey and was persuaded by the responses that I’d been wrong, but didn’t delete my tweet. I’ve tweeted my pro-Remain opinions and been rebuked by Brexiteers whose opinions I value. It doesn’t bother me.

I’ve been called an antisemite by antisemites. That does bother me, because I know it’s a ploy, which can confuse the innocent bystander reading the conversation. It is like a Monty Python sketch set in a psychiatrist’s room where two men wrangle over which one is the psychiatrist and which one the patient. Of course, both claim to be the psychiatrist.

I dislike formulations such as ‘weaponising antisemitism,’ ‘hasn’t an antisemitic bone in his body,’ ‘just because he supports the Palestinians.’ I dislike the term Khazar which is used by both far right and far left. Presumably someone in the world really is a Khazar, and good luck to them.

I don’t tolerate islamophobia from any side. The tweeter will pick out some disreputable deed and attribute it to all Muslims: racism’s modus operandi since time immemorial. They will quote the Qur’an to imply bigotry in Islam. The bible can likewise be quoted, to the apparent detriment of Judaism and Christianity. Orwell can be quoted to his disadvantage and TS Eliot more so; Dostoevsky and Dickens and – not that one cares – Hilaire Belloc.

Nobody likes being on the end of sarcasm but I do produce sarcastic tweets, probably daily. It’s something to bring up when the Selichot season gets underway.

Twitter can be our friend. We can discuss films, books, music, TV, sport, philosophy, languages, recipes, if we find an amenable account. I have made friends. Soup has changed hands and drinks have been consumed.

’The whole world is a very narrow bridge,’ as Nachman of Bratslav pointed out.

כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד.  והעיקר לא לפחד כלל.

The whole world is a very narrow bridge and the main thing is to have no fear at all.

If Rabbi Nachman had tweeted this, he would have garnered so many likes, but there still would have been somebody calling him a Khazar.

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  • 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?
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