Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for February 2020

When you spend/waste as much time as I do looking at Corbynist forums on Facebook, the experience is like following a soap opera of the written word. Spellings and grammatical solecisms, syntax and opinions can be identified with particular personalities, although these come and go over the months, while my stalker-like attention remains a constant.

As I have recorded, extreme hostility to ‘Zionism’ is de rigueur and many of the world’s ills get attributed to Israel. Since the General Election in December, there has been an upswing in  expressions of veneration for Mr Corbyn. Whereas he was previously regarded as a flawless person, he is now perceived as a flawless person undergoing profound suffering and victimization, in order to make the world better for us all.

As Theresa May said at the dispatch box, channeling Mrs Thatcher, ‘Remind you of anyone?’

The sanctification of Corbyn is one side of a coin and on the other side is the demonisation of Israel to which global power is attributed. This simplifies the narrative. Corbyn is designated the one politician who stands up to the Israel Lobby and the Israel Lobby includes all Corbynsceptics, Jewish or not, Labour or not, British or not.

One of my observations about the forums has been that contributors have often reached a mature age, describing themselves as past retirement and with long memories. Sometimes they write and spell like people who have not used writing as a preferred means of communication. The internet has enabled them to socialize from home and to express opinions which are weighed and valued. The reward is that ‘likes’ and words of encouragement pour in. The rules are simple, Corbyn good, Israel bad, and once you have mastered this axiom, you are set to go. The forum may be your new family.

Corbyn’s goodness and Israel’s badness are not seen as naturalistic qualities, as in a good politician or a bad government. They are preternatural attributes which no contingent circumstance can dent.

Some of the Labour forums have a key word search facility which I have used occasionally, entering a topic of interest or, out of curiosity, a word, such as vermin to quantify the usage (prolific). Aware that, since the General Election, the discourse about Corbyn is increasingly pious and worshipful, I inserted the word crucified which I noticed was coming up frequently, in respect to the outgoing Labour leader. I tried this on just one Corbynist forum and found that the occurrence of crucified was too extensive for me to log more than a sample.

I have a theory that many of these elderly Corbynistas were brought up in a Britain where Christianity was the prevailing religion but that, under the sceptical influence of the times, they have long since let go of faith in the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit would be right out of the picture.

It goes without saying that they retain a distinct memory of whom to blame for the crucifixion.

 Judaism has Isaiah’s Suffering Servant who is despised and rejected; Christianity builds on that concept in the crucifixion narrative.  The suffering of the righteous strikes a chord in every generation, however godless.

The Labour Party is in the middle of a leadership contest which seems, so far, to arouse less bitterness than Owen Smith’s challenge to Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. Furthermore, all the candidates have expressed a determination to rid Labour of antisemitism, a Herculean task if online Corbynism is anything to go by. On the Labour forums, opposition to the MP for Islington North is perceived as a crucifixion. He has become their god and they glorify him.

In the wilderness, when Moses was gone some time up on Mount Sinai, the mixed multitude he had led out of slavery in Egypt made themselves a golden calf and worshiped it. Within just a few weeks they had forgotten the circumstances of the exodus from Egypt, but they remembered how to worship. Perhaps this is innate knowledge which never leaves us.

Considering the fact that I set great store by politeness,  I was not a well-behaved schoolgirl, at least, not according to a powerful triumvirate of middle-aged, single and judgmental women: the headmistress, the gym teacher and the music teacher.

The headmistress was a missionary manquée, much influenced by the remarkable life of Gladys Aylward. Instead of venturing into Yangcheng to make Christian converts, she delivered religious assemblies each morning at a girls’ grammar school, east of Islington. Out of praiseworthy consideration for the large proportion of Jewish pupils, she refrained from any direct mention of Jesus in these assemblies, while availing herself of texts from Saint Paul and Saint Francis, as well as our own psalmist, King David.

On the occasions when I was sent to her for misdemeanors such as talking at the wrong time or drawing in the chemistry lesson, she suggested that I was not a good person.

‘What does your mother think of you?’ she asked, when I was about fourteen.

‘I don’t think she sees me as you do,’ I answered. This would have gone down, as do all smart-arse answers, like a lead balloon.

As for the gym teacher, I suppose she was harmless enough. She had an MBE for services to netball. When Friends Reunited became a thing, I took one look at the old girls’ page for my school and saw that several women expressed unhappy memories of her tutelage, if one can call it that.

The teacher who disliked me most was the music teacher, an effective personality, who produced an oratorio each year for school concerts. She was prone to telling anecdotes about her war years and her two siblings,  and expressing contempt for the contemporary pop scene. Why I was her bête noire, I was never sure. I liked classical music. I was a teacher’s daughter, a fact she alluded to as follows.

‘You’re one of the few second generation grammar school girls at this school so your delinquency is unexpected.’

In my own defence, I must tell you that I only ever smoked in the toilets once, in my whole school career. I was law abiding and did not swear in front of teachers. I suppose I was seen as quick to answer back. On one occasion, the music teacher called out from the piano ‘Three girls are talking and I notice you’re all Jewish.’

I believe I uttered the audible words ‘What did you say?’

‘I’m not prejudiced,’ she persisted, ‘but other people might be so you ought to be careful.’

In her favour, she encouraged the girls who had beautiful voices and there were many. Not me, sorry to say. Singing was no more one of my talents than gym and that is litotes.

Not all the teachers were hostile. English teachers were almost always friendly and, by the time I was seventeen and attending meetings of International Socialism, I was mixing in the same circles out of school as the three or four Trotskyists on the staff.  One of them said to me, about the music teacher, ‘She’d like to smash you against the wall.’ It was terribly vivid language. Maybe I would have preferred not to have known.

Now I come to the point of this blog post. A student teacher appeared in the music lessons,  a Miss Fry. She was a pale faced twenty-year-old without make up or concession to 1960s fashion and, for all I knew, without a voice, as she was mute while the music teacher held forth. Eventually she was left alone in charge of the class and sat down at the piano. Somewhere in the back row, a couple of girls kept up a buzz of chatter until Miss Fry, without looking up from her sheet music, rapped out the words, ‘Be quiet Gillian.’

There was an intake of breath from the whole class. It was too clear that poor Miss Fry had been warned, if there was any trouble, it would come from me. The music teacher, returning to relieve Miss Fry from her moment of authority, singled me out explicitly as a wrongdoer who led others astray. To this day, I’m not certain what caused her very pointed animosity to me, but here I am, age seventy, and in a sense answering back even now, although she has long since gone the way of all flesh.

Anyone who has been kind enough to read my previous blog posts might already know: I resent a phenomenon I see very regularly from the political extremes of left and right, namely, the attribution of all evils to ‘Zionism’. Whether it is 9/11, the war in Syria or terror on the streets of Europe, it is always there, a voice of the neo-nazi right or the more widely credited left saying ‘The hand of Israel. The Rothschilds. The New World Order. The Zionists are behind it.’

As with most of my co-religionists the world over, this makes me feel despairing, angry, contemptuous and afraid, above all because of the absence of reason and the quick draw, ill-informed inference which gets magnified, amplified and disseminated on thousands of online sites.

It occurs to me now that, like Michael Corleone, I’m ‘taking this very personal’ and maybe it’s because the kneejerk reaction ‘Israel did it’ echoes the ancient memory of Miss Fry, coached by the music teacher to respond to any disturbance with ‘Be quiet Gillian.’

Michael said ‘It’s not personal Sonny. It’s strictly business.’ But Sonny and Michael were both right. Some things are strictly business and also personal. Everything is personal.



  • 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
  • L. Sordo: This is an eye-opener. These kids have obviously got a lot of humanity and compassion but relentless anti-Israel propaganda outweighs their limited k