Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for January 2020

More than once in my Twitter life, I’ve posted a link to ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me,’ a scene from the 1972 film Cabaret directed by Bob Fosse. Back in 1972 when I saw Cabaret in the cinema, I thought the blond youth in a German outdoor café was rather drippy but now I’m at the age when no young person looks drippy and I see how the boy, aged perhaps seventeen, appears to be the epitome of Aryan beauty and innocence.

He stands up and sings solo while gradually others join in. I often find this an effective and moving device in films, from Non Nobis Domine in the Kenneth Branagh version of Henry V to Tomorrow in Annie and Santa Claus is Coming to Town in Elf.

While the boy sings Tomorrow Belongs to Me, the lens zooms back to reveal his Hitler Youth uniform and swastika armband; then the camera pans round the café to show that all are entranced  – except for one uncomfortable, uncomforted old man – and inspired to join in. Eventually the café clientele are standing up and singing fervently in unison. The atmosphere becomes martial as the camera rests on two other youths, also in nazi uniform but with baleful expressions, lustily singing, ‘Fatherland, fatherland, show us the sign…’ The soloist is now visible full lenth, adopting a fanatical look and stiff posture which segues into a full blown Hitler salute.

The episode is witnessed by Cabaret’s protagonist, based on Christopher Isherwood and portrayed by Michael York. He says with evident irony to his friend (played by Helmut Griem) as they hurry away into a taxi, ‘You still think you can control them?’

The scene is very cleverly done. It shows the manipulation of a crowd through a display of recognizable desiderata: beauty, song, love of country, hope – all in a horrible confluence of the aesthetically pleasing with the morally repugnant. The camera cuts away to the sinister figure of the Master of Ceremonies – an unforgettable and multi award-winning Joel Gray – nodding directly at us, the audience, with a knowing air, as if we too are complicit.

Why did I find reason to post this scene not once but twice or possibly three times on Twitter? What is the precise resonance with today’s predicaments, which seem to forecast storm clouds for tomorrow and beyond?

In my opinion, imho as they say, the film shows how fanaticism appeals to self-righteousness, and offers an adrenalin hit which impels lunch time diners or a street rally or an army to rise to their feet, voicing their consensual determination – to do what? In the case of Cabaret, we know that we are looking at the preparatory manoeuvres of the nazi killing machine. Yet there are many occasions when we are happy to stand up and sing for a cause, whether it’s a national anthem, Blake’s Jerusalem at the Proms or Handel’s Messiah where I’m usually one of the first to rise for the Hallelujah chorus.

‘Are we the baddies?’ asks David Mitchell’s character in the famous sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look.

In recent years, I find there are online places where  I personally am designated ‘the baddie’, for which I qualify by being a Zionist, or ‘arch-Zionist’ as one antagonist described me. So can we tell if we’re the baddies? We can use the well-worn tools of deontological, utilitarian or intuitive ethics; we can make altruism an absolute value and we can watch out for the consequences but I doubt that any of these methods are a reliable way of keeping on the straight and narrow.

Like much else, it’s a conundrum and I will probably think about it tomorrow.

After all, tomorrow is another day… so long as nobody tries to hog it.

  • The title of this post is from a song in the musical ‘Annie’. I could not bring myself to devise a title concerning the ownership of tomorrow. Why should any group have proprietorial rights over the future?

Contenders for the Labour leadership who received sufficient support from the Parliamentary Labour Party are Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips, Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry. All have voiced a determination to turf out Labour antisemitism, a goal which has been extremely unpopular with online Corbyn supporters and, I am told, in some Constituency Labour Parties.

All the candidates have signed up to ten pledges put forward by the Board of Deputies. In brief and with some of my own paraphrase, the ten pledges are:

  • Resolve outstanding cases
  • Independent process for Party discipline
  • Transparency rather than secrecy
  • Not readmitting prominent offenders
  • Labour members not to campaign for or give platforms to those expelled or suspended for antisemitism
  • Adopt IHRA in full and use it in disciplinary cases
  • JLM to be involved in anti-racist training
  • Engagement with Jewish Community organizations rather than the anti-Zionist, Corbynist activists of JVL
  • Use clear communication rather than repetition of clichés
  • Leadership to take responsibility

The backlash from determined Corbynists has been intense. Lee Harpin writes about it today, 14 January, in the Jewish Chronicle.

I have followed the discussions on those Corbynist forums which have not yet expelled me and in fact was expelled from one of them this week, presumably for querying one of the antisemitic comments. During the last few days, almost all the discussion on the forums is about the dangers of Jewish Zionist domination in western politics. Striking through the word Jewish reminds me, when a gentleman referred to the Jewish Lobby, he was advised by another member of the group to change his words to Israel Lobby. In due course he did so, saying that he was being careful as someone (Facebook? Labour Party?) had imposed a ban on his output.

I suppose everyone knows this joke: two Jewish men are sitting on a bench in Berlin in 1938. Both are reading newspapers. One notices that the other is reading Der Stürmer.

‘Why are you reading that antisemitic rag?’ he asks.

‘Because,’ replies his companion, ‘it says here that Jews have all the power and all the wealth in the world and, in these wretched times, I need something to cheer me up.’

It is a falsehood universally acknowledged by the far left, the far right and, sadly, some closer to the mainstream, that Jewish organizations hold sway over UK politics. In their eyes, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Labour Movement, Labour Friends of Israel and much of the UK rabbinate ‘bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.’

Three days have passed since I wrote the above, and the Board of Deputies remains a matter of absorbing interest on the Corbynist forums. Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain have devised their own ten pledges, which the Labour candidates have endorsed, as they did with the Board of Deputies pledges. This is not a subject for discussion on the forums. After all why should a minority community not lay out a list of their priorities, so that a possible government would pledge to protect them from racist persecution?

It seems to be only the Board of Jewish Deputies which is perceived to be taking over the world.

It’s nine days since I published this post, but the wrath of the forums has not abated and the Board continues to arouse lively conversation, uniformly contemptuous, disbelieving and abusive. I continue to update the screen shots. Excuse me if there is any overlap.

Extra screen shots have been added.

  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thank you Keith.
  • keithmarr: Dearest Gillian < div dir="ltr">Not only do you manage to read all this filth without throwing up but you manage to make me laugh
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Unless they are members of the group in general agreement with the Labour manifesto of 2019 but against the excesses which are often found in these gr