Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Nothing succeeds like success

Posted on: December 8, 2019

The synagogue hall in our previous building was too small to accommodate the whole congregation on the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, so these services were held in the large, draughty but capacious hall of a local sports centre. As a parent, I was sometimes obliged to do security duty, so in late September 2001, I was outside the sports centre with a walkie talkie in my hand, to connect me to the security officers in the event of anything untoward.

At about 4pm, when school was out, a group of boys, aged perhaps twelve, thirteen or fourteen, straggled cheerfully along the nearby road, chanting ‘Osama Bin Laden!’

Those children are thirty now, grown men, and perhaps they put aside their hero-worship of the man who masterminded 9/11. At the time, I wondered what was the appeal for them, in the person of Bin Laden. who brought death and injury to some thousands of innocent people. Urban legends which have proliferated over nearly two decades throw doubt on the role of Bin Laden and Al Qaida, preferring to finger the CIA, the FBI, George Bush, Israel and various other agents, but two weeks after the atrocity, it was not contentious to believe in the involvement of Osama Bin Laden.

The appeal, I came to believe, was in the successful execution of the act; it’s uniqueness and drama; the manifestation of terrorist force against civic might.

I would probably have forgotten about the boys outside the sports centre, except that there ensued a perceptible axial shift in political discourse.

The USA and George Bush were more hated than before. Tony Blair was disliked but re-elected in the General Election of 2005, though with a much reduced majority. The anathematization of Tony Blair did not reach its full fury until a year or two later and intensified after he stood down as Prime Minister in 2007.

Was it because facts relating to the war with Iraq war were not known until this time? I think not. When the findings of the Chilcot Report were made public, there was some disappointment among many on the left that Blair was not to be prosecuted. In the ensuing years, a staple of left wing discussion was to call for the trial and imprisonment or even execution of Tony Blair. Many who considered themselves opposed to capital punishment expressed a preference for a public hanging. The talk became increaingly bloodthirsty and when Blair’s name was mentioned on political debate programmes such as BBC Question Time, the audience would howl anathemas.

Blair had become fair game because, like Sejanus, he had fallen. It is not only the toppling of statues which signifies the end of both authority and reputation. Thus, when the Twin Towers collapsed so hideously and apocalyptically, there plummeted also the authority and reputation of the West, the USA, the allies of the USA and the First World. Some of those suffering anomie no doubt rejoiced and the London schoolboys chanted Bin Laden’s name.

Today, we are four days away from a UK General Election, after which the Prime Minister almost certainly will be either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn. It is unlikely that an MP from one of the smaller parties, Jo Swinson for example, will be asked to form a government. I feel more profoundly invested in this election result than ever before in my life. In the past, as a member of the Labour Party, I performed grunt-level actions to help the campaign: leafleting, stuffing envelopes, checking electoral registers. More often than not, I suffered the deep disappointment of Labour losing to the Conservatives.

This time, being Jewish has made a difference to me. More than that, it has reversed my previous sympathies and, believing as I do that antisemitism is now out of control in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, I would like to see Labour lose and lose badly.

I have heard Sir John Major and Tony Blair agreeing that a hung parliament would be the best outcome, enabling the Remainers’ cause. I am a Remainer myself, or was. However, the danger to British Jews weighs even more heavily with me than Brexit.

In the General Election of 2017, Labour did better than expected, which showed that Corbyn was far from unelectable, an accusation which had so often been leveled agaiinst him. As the Tories lost their majority, the Labour performance was hailed as a great success. There was a triumphalist mood among the membership and Corbyn achieved cult status. It was the summer of Oh Jeremy Corbyn, the Absolute Boy.

When we persisted in opposing the antisemitic ethos gathering pace in the Labour Party, we were seen as spoilers, traitors and fifth columnists; condemned as agents of Israel, paid members of Mossad, racists, apologists for child-killing and so on. Such was the language every day on the online Corbynist forums to which I had access. Celebrities who spoke out for Corbyn and against Israel became the saints of Corbynism and those who were Jewish had particular status: Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Michael Rosen, Miriam Margolyes, JVL (born fully clothed from the forehead of Free Speech On Israel) and the ultra-orthodox outliers of Neturei Karta. These individuals and organizations were tranfigured by the Corbyn movement into instantly recognizable memes. The momentum was with Momentum, the Corbynist grass roots and the front benchers who had risen like Corbyn from relative obscurity.

Now we must vote, or make our civic contribution by not voting. It seems that much of the country will be voting against, rather than voting for; voting against the empowerment of whichever side they think will be worse.

Why has support for the LibDems, Greens and Brexit Party fallen away? Because nothing succeeds like success, and it is discouraging to vote for a party you think has already lost the battle. The outcome of the election seems less predictable than usual because of rewritten alliegances due to Brexit.

My hope is that Labour will lose so that the triumphalism which characterizes Corbyn’s supporters will topple, like the statue in Firdos Square and we will not have to look at it any more. Otherwise I fear others will fall and it will be a catastrophe.

8 December 2019

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  • Tell Facebook | Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus: […] There are two or three who argue back. By chance, they happen to be Jewish and they call out the more intemperate examples of antisemitism,
  • L.Sordo: They always strike me as being immature, semi-literate and gullible.I assume they're late teens or under 30 left school at 16 as did I. I read every
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thanks, L Sordo. One word I question here - 'kids'. Many of these participants are mature, one might say senior individuals. Observing over a period o
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