Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for August 2019

The toys I played with the 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.

 

 

An account called JVL Watch has done the heavy lifting in exposing an organization called Jewish Voice for Labour, which sprang fully-formed from the group  Free Speech on Israel, at the Labour Conference of 2017. Their original purpose was to defend Jeremy Corbyn against charges of antisemitism, but JVL has gone further, defending anyone accused of antisemitism from what they regard as a witch hunt, perpetrated by Zionists and even by non-Zionists, such as Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum.

The unique selling point of Jewish Voice for Labour is their claim to be Jewish while being firmly opposed to the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Jewish Leadership Council, Labour Friends of Israel and of course the Israeli Embassy. They also hold in opprobrium such MPs as Margaret Hodge, Ruth Smeeth, Luciana Berger, Louise Ellman, Chuka Umunna, Wes Streeting, John Mann and the Labour deputy Tom Watson. They admire Richard Burgon, Laura Pidcock and Chris Williamson and many on their forum express warm feelings towards George Galloway and Ken Livingstone.

Anyone in Labour accused of antisemitism becomes their protegé.

I have been following the public JVL forum on Facebook, which resembles other Labour forums in making the perceived wrongdoings of Israel and ‘Zionists’ their principal concern. In point of fact, Israel and Jews are the only topic on JVL. It is, after all, ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’. Its Chair and media officer are Jewish, anti-Israel activists and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, possibly because he provides stronger opposition to Israel and Zionism than any previous Labour leader.

Their mission statement from 2017 appears almost blameless.

We stand for rights and justice for Jewish people everywhere, and against wrongs and injustice to Palestinians and other oppressed people anywhere. We uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities, such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. We oppose attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as Jews.

At a time of profound divisions in Jewish communities, JVL offers a space to explore and debate the many questions (personal, social, cultural, political) that are important to us as progressive Labour Jews.’

Like Mr Corbyn himself, they self-identify as pursuing justice, fairness and peace.

No wonder Ken Loach and Len McCluskey attached themselves to JVL from its inception – as supporters not members, because JVL insists that only Jews are granted full membership. The disputed Jewish status of Jackie Walker and Sally Eason is not a problem for JVL and, when they write to the press, they include signatories who would possibly fail to satisfy a Beth Din, whether orthodox or progressive.

The Facebook forum is a fairly busy hub of activity with over six thousand followers. It expresses its mission statement thus.

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.

Original posts do not come from named individuals but from the collective term ‘JVL’. Many posts cast doubt on the probity of politicians and journalists who campaign against antisemitism. The defence of Jeremy Corbyn is axiomatic.

JVL have extended their brief to defending anyone within Labour accused of antisemitism. In this way they have an affinity with Labour Against the Witch Hunt.

They share articles from the online Corbynist websites, The Skwawkbox and the Canary, particularly those which target prominent Jews.

The names of the most active contributors to the JVL forum are familiar to me from several Facebook Labour Forums characterized by their demonization of Israel, Zionism, Jewish activists, organizations and press. Some may have been suspended from Labour for antisemitism which they do not believe exists in Labour.

Over the last few months, I have made numerous screen shots of diverse threads on the JVL forum.

It does not exactly surprise me but I do feel occasionally perplexed when I think that the original JVL members must look at the comments on their forum and see the extremely negative perception of Jews and of Israel that they have encouraged among their following.

My contention is that, while JVL draws support from both borderline and unambiguously antisemitic supporters of Mr Corbyn, it is not trusted by many of those in the Jewish community who are aware of its existence. It is therefore not appropriate for the Labour leadership to turn to JVL for purposes of liaison vis-a-vis the Jewish community or to appoint JVL members to provide education for Labour members  deemed by Labour officials to have a poor grasp of the manifestations of antisemitism.

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  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: I've approved your comment Jones, rather than trashing it. It seems to me a snapshot of contemporary online exegesis. Can you say something about you
  • Jones: You're just a typical white racist tory who has no problems with Windrush deportations or tory Islamaphobia. You get no support from the BAME communit
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thank you Joanne!