Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for May 2020

It’s a long title but I like polysyllables. I sneer inwardly and sometimes outwardly at people who spell Israel and Keir ‘Isreal’ and ‘Kier’ although I’ve known many brilliant dyslexics. And, in my favour, I know a gibbous moon when I see one.

Enough of the autobiographical musings.

People who criticize my obsessive chronicling of Corbynist groups on Facebook sometimes accuse me of selecting comments out of context to show the whole group in a bad light. They say, rightly, that ill-judged posts can be found on any political forum and that moderators cannot control every comment on the site.

My response is this: if posts hostile to Israel, Zionists and Jewish communal organizations are found every day on all Corbynist sites open to public scrutiny, they are not random and my screen shots are not anecdote as opposed to evidence.

They retort, ‘Opposition to Israel isn’t antisemitic.’

You can make a case for this distinction. I think it’s problematic in practice but anti-Zionism is a broad church, from those who want Israel exterminated to those who are merely ‘Meh about Israel’.

Much depends on the form of opposition to Israel. It’s a commonplace on the far left (and possibly also the far right) to call Israel a racist endeavour, as a middle finger to the specifics of the IHRA definition. The ghettos and pogroms over the centuries and then the Holocaust are not factored into this perception. When Israel is called a Khazarian colonial enterprise by both left and right, the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands is likewise ignored.

The moderators of the group make a difference. Some of them are alert to Holocaust revisionism, Rothschild tropes and breaches of the IHRA definition and intervene to challenge them. This effectively contains the antisemitic ambience in the group. I have seen this kind of intervention by individual administrators in mainstream Labour forums and in one of the Corbynist groups. Even irregular interventions can help. On one forum, intemperate articles about Israel, sourced from Middle East Monitor, Mint Press and Electronic Intifada appeared hourly, posted by one member of the group. When he left or was possibly ejected, the antisemitism decreased. The fact is that posts such as his prompted a great many comments, demonizing Israel, Israelis, Zionists and, more recently the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Labour Movement.

Where there is no moderating activity, except against suspected Zionists and Tories, the antisemitism tends to run wild. Sometimes, contributors will refer to Jews, rather than Zionists. I have seen a thread where a lady is advised, ‘Don’t say Jews. They’ll use it against us. Always say Zionists.’ Kathleen thanked them for the guidance and thereafter spoke of the malign global reach of ‘Zionists’, which was considered acceptable in a Labour, Corbynist milieu.

As I have often mentioned, photos are posted showing Israeli soldiers adjacent to distressed children or elderly men in keffiyehs. The text explains that the child is being kidnapped or terrorized, the old gentleman manhandled or worse, which interprets the image according to the bias of the person who uses it.

‘Monsters!’ ‘Inhuman!’ come the replies and, very often, someone will make a comparison with the Third Reich, from which, they fear, we failed to learn our lesson.

I have observed time and time again – and I concede that this is anecdotal rather than evidential – that participants in these discussions are very often elderly, even older than myself, which is not a huge online demographic. Their photos and their long memories are indicators of age and the overwhelming majority are white.

Feeling obliged to back up what I say, I post on Twitter an unconscionable quantity of screen shots showing daily antisemitism. These fail to impress Corbynists, now a vociferous remnant in Labour under Keir Starmer’s leadership. Corbynism is not the same as Corbyn, the tabula very nearly rasa on to whom the hard left and lapsed Christians project their ideals, but he encourages their projects. As I saw from the group moderators, a little intervention goes a long way but Corbyn does not intervene to help out us ‘Zionists’.

With a slight shock, I sometimes see my own name or photo on the forums, in posts warning of my activities. I am often referred to as a ‘frothing Zionist’. After due consideration, I don’t think ‘frothing’ can be right in this case as I am well to the left of the Likud Party. ‘Frothing Jew’ would probably be more accurate.