Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for August 2019

The toys I played with most, when I was a small child, were eight little plastic dogs,  forerunners of the more elaborate Schleich animals which I buy for my grandchildren.

My mother bought the dogs in Woolworths, Mare Street. They were white and I referred to them collectively as The Little White Dogs.  I asked my mother the names of the breeds and named the dogs accordingly: Poodle, Retriever, Boston Terrier, Hound, Spaniel, Scottish Terrier, Bulldog and Dachshund. I turned a shoe box into a stage with a proscenium arch, the way my sister showed me, and got the dogs to perform plays, especially pantomimes. The dogs were dressed in shiny coloured paper from Quality Street wrappers. I believed in high production values.

After a while I realized that I hadn’t attributed gender to the dogs but that Spaniel was  female, because of her long ears and because she looked like Lady from Lady and the Tramp. Spaniel married Hound.

My mother bought me some more dogs. One was a Labrador but, disconcertingly, the other two were another poodle and another dachshund. I was ambivalent because I hadn’t factored twins into their narrative.

I said to my mother, regarding Poodle 2.0, ‘I’m going to call this one Phoodle.’

And regarding the second dachshund, which I pronounced and spelled ‘ducksant,’ I said ‘I’m going to call him Fucksant.’

My mother looked pained and said ‘Don’t call him that – it isn’t a nice word.’

‘Is it all right if I call him Tucksant?’I asked. My Mum said that was fine.

One day, I was playing with my cousin who was a year older than me. She said she knew a bad word but couldn’t tell me. However, she wrote the word on a piece of paper and handed it to my sister. Provoked at being excluded, I jumped up behind my sister, trying to see the paper, and caught sight of four letters, FUCK.

‘Oh! Fucksant!’ I breathed, aghast.

My Mum and my sister were shocked in turn and told me this was a word I must not say.

A fairly obedient child, I refrained from saying ‘Fucksant’ for some years but one day, when I asked my sister to tell me some swear words,  she kindly explained that the F word wasn’t actually fucksant  but the four letter monosyllable we all know so well.

When I was nine, ten and possibly eleven, I still played with the dogs, but by now gender was important. I had added to the collection a few little dogs made of china, and they were all girls to make up the numbers. They married some of the original white dogs and had families, also china. One of them was in fact a small Bambi but I pretended it was a dog.

Then they started to have careers. Some were film stars. In those days, there was no stop motion film making at home, but I drew pictures of my dogs in glamorous costumes.

The little white dogs had come a long way, from Woolworths to Hollywood. There were dramas in their lives and adventures, successes and awards.

It was comparable to a child’s transition from  playing with baby dolls to a different kind of game, with teenage dolls.

I’ve always held the view that children want to play with toys for longer than adults realize. I used to think it must be terrible to be grown up and not play anymore.

Obviously child’s play today often involves computer games and creative play is assisted by a multiplicity of attractive apps. The small children in my life do this but they also move figures about and make them talk: Lego people, Playmobil people and Schleich animals too.

It seems important to me that children play with toys for as long as possible, even if the nature of the playing is determined by the child’s growing interest in adult life. It is hard to imagine the coupling of Barbie and Ken in the absence of pudenda, but better those two than something on a screen.

Besides, Barbie and Ken may be ill-equipped for coitus, but it doesn’t mean that they never fucksant.

Jewish Voice for Labour was created at the Labour Conference of 2017, a revamp of the group Free Speech on Israel, but with the new and specific purpose of defending Jeremy Corbyn against charges of antisemitism. Ken Loach and Len McCluskey attended the inaugural meeting and Ken Loach was subsequently on a sticky wicket, being interviewed on Politics Live. Jo Coburn challenged him about some leaflets including Holocaust revisionist content handed out at Conference and Loach replied ‘I think history is for us all to discuss.’

Although JVL was boosted by non Jewish supporters such as Loach and McCluskey as well as Jeremy Corbyn and Chris Williamson, their Jewish membership was not at all dissimilar from the Free Speech on Israel membership. Interviewed by the BBC when the channel wanted to give a two-sided account of Labour’s antisemitism issues, the JVL leadership were often on the box.

It soon became apparent that they would defend anyone accused of antisemitism, for example Jackie Walker, Pete Willsman and Chris Williamson. Later on they expressed solidarity with Professor David Miller when he was sacked by Bristol University and with many more: any Labour, Trade Union or student officer who was considered antisemitic became a protegé of JVL . They blamed Zionists but, mistakenly, they considered non-Zionists, such as Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, to be a Zionist, because he acknowledged the problem of antisemitism in Labour under Corbyn. This applied tenfold to David Baddiel, particularly in the wake of his book ‘Jews don’t Count’.

The spécialité de la maison of Jewish Voice for Labour is their claim to be Jewish while espousing the cause of anyone hostile to Israel and maligning anyone who speaks out against antisemitism. In common with all antisemites of the far right and far left, they deny being against Jews and make a convincing case compared to some. They hold Passover seders themed around freedom, as Passover seders generally are, but one has to suppose without the words, ‘Next year in Jerusalem.’ Indeed, it’s hard to imagine which parts of the Passover Haggadah they do find acceptable.

Vigorously, JVL opposed Labour’s adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

In March 2018, there was a demonstration in Parliament Square, called by Jewish community leaders, to protest against the antisemitic ethos which now pervaded the Labour Party.

JVL organized a counter-demonstration and were present on the fringes of the crowd, holding up placards to show their support for Jeremy Corbyn and their contempt for the protestors.

Antisemitism was hitting the headlines and, over a period of time Simon Schama, Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Howard Jacobson, former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l, Deborah Lipstadt, John Le Carré, John Mann, Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth, Margaret Hodge, Ian Austin, Louise Ellman, Tom Watson, Tracy Ann Oberman, Rachel Riley, Eddie Marsan, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, Maureen Lipman, Baroness Deech, Lord Triesman, Baron Mitchell and, just before the General election of 2019, Chief Rabbi Mirvis spoke out against the spectre haunting the Labour Party. All these and many more were denounced and reviled by Corbyn loyalists, JVL among them.

As soon as I began to watch the JVL group on Facebook, I saw that they had attracted many non-Jewish supporters whose names were familiar to me due to their activism on anti-Zionist social media.

This is the mission statement on JVL’s Facebook page.

Jewish Voice for Labour is a new organisation for members of the Party who believe that the Party must listen to a range of Jewish voices including those that support Palestinian rights and oppose witch hunts.

Who could object to listening to a range of Jewish voices? I have heard Jews arguing about Israel more times than I could possibly remember: about the borders, the wars, the way wars are prosecuted, about the Israeli right, the Israeli left and the religious parties which often hold sway when there is a hung parliament. I haven’t heard any of them express a wish for Israel to be destroyed. Given the broadest possible range of Jewish voices, that wish comes only from the outermost fringes.

Does JVL advocate the destruction of Israel? I haven’t seen them say so; neither has Mr Corbyn, at least, not in so many words, but – again like Mr Corbyn – they champion and attract people who do say so.

Most problematic is a dynamic in their Facebook group, now with fourteen thousand followers, where JVL will post, usually twice or three times a day, an article or information which puts Israel or opponents of antisemitism in a bad light. The replies are always somewhat more extreme than the original posts, often including old tropes and conspiracy theories about Jews. It is at such times that I would expect the JVL administrators to intervene; to explain that being anti Israel need not involve anti Jewish prejudice.

They never do.

It occurred to me that they might be overly relaxed in their administrative role, perhaps not bothering to read many of the comments on their page.

Apparently this is not the case. Friends of mine who argued back had their comments deleted. Others were blocked. If someone pushed back against an allegation against Israel by providing an article or information inconsistent with the JVL assertion, it would rarely, if ever, be left in situ. The admins are stringent in removing comments which are not explicitly anti Israel or which support their adversaries: Keir Starmer and his supporters, David Baddiel – a non-Zionist whom they call a Zionist – and the personnel of Jewish communal organizations.

Such is their range of Jewish voices.

There are JVL members who have long had mutual bonds of friendship and affection with Jeremy Corbyn. Confident in his esteem, they cannot believe he ever entertains an antisemitic thought and they share his antipathy to Zionism, and to Israel, which is anathema to their diasporic vision. As their friend rose from backbench obscurity to national and possibly global celebrity, they too rose in public visibility. In this new limelight, anti Zionism became the unique selling point for JVL while, for Corbyn, it was a magnet to all kinds of enemies of Israel in larger numbers than before. I do not think JVL want to give up all this, even if it means making room in their bed for the people whose comments are shown in the screen shots below.

These are not in chronological order. Some relate to recent events, the Ukrainian war for example and others date back to previous years. The Forde Report has made its appearance, and is commented on. The JVL admins exhort their supporters to greater excesses, and even the comrade who calls Judaism ‘a violently xenophobic ideology’ encounters no word of dissent.

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  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thank you for reading it Keith. As always, I value your opinion.
  • keithmarr: Gillian Thorough research as always. I always keep these posts and hit any challenge between the eyes. They represent a real armoury of evidence. Bl
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: I can never make up my mind whether it should be illegal and tend to think it shouldn't be. On the other hand, social media could do more to stop it p