Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for July 2020

Foreword

How do I introduce this collection of screen shots, threads and comments from Corbyn supporting forums, during the forty-eight hours of a Twitter walk-out? In the wake of the Wiley scandal, it is quite startling to see the same outpourings as those voiced by the Grime musician, with the difference that the words Zionist and Israel are substituted for Jews. This substitution makes any assertion permissible, however irrational and offensive. If anybody objects to the terminology, the generalizations and the premise of global Zionist power, that person is said to have a harmful Zionist agenda and, according to some comments, to be complicit in murder. They are shown memes and links to articles decrying Israel. If they challenge the information or its provenance, that is regarded as clear evidence of their Zionism. It is a terrible thing to see it unfolding in real time. I was fortunate to miss Wiley’s tirades as they happened and to learn of them afterwards, when they hit the news. Wiley and the forums – they are not dissimilar, but the forum supporters believe themselves above reproach. If one of them carelessly refers to Jews, rather than Zionists or the Zionist Lobby, they are admonished by the more experienced comrades, ‘Be careful because the Zionists may be watching and they will weaponise it.’

*

A religious fast lasting twenty-five hours has a low point which occurs about nineteen or twenty hours into the fast, when hunger has kicked in but the end is not yet in sight. Coming up on Wednesday night is the fast I don’t like but observe, for reasons which are not going to be the subject of this post. This is Tisha b’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem in 587 BCE and of the second Temple in 70 CE. The memorialization of other catastrophes attach themselves to Tisha b’Av and it occurs after three weeks called ‘between the straits’ so it is experienced as a sombre period every year during high summer.

Prior to this year’s fast, there has been another deprivation, the forty-eight hour Twitter walk out with the hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate. This was instigated when Twitter and Instagram failed to act swiftly against a series of tirades from the Grime rapper Wiley, who targeted Jews in tweets and videos, for a period of two days. The forty-eight hour withdrawal, currently being observed by thousands of Twitter accounts, is not so much a protest against Wiley’s insistence on the reality of evil Jewish power, but against the hospitality of social media to expressions of Jew hate.

Many MPs, celebrities and members of the clergy have shown solidarity by withdrawing from Twitter on Monday at 9am until tomorrow, Wednesday moening, but our usual detractors are unimpressed.

‘What about Katie Hopkins?’ they ask. ‘What about Tommy Robinson?’ ‘What about Israel?’ ‘Where were you when…?’ ‘How do Palestinians feel…?’

In reply to tweets mentioning Chief Rabbi Mirvis’s support for the walk out, someone has posted a picture of a Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Sephardi Chief Rabbi in Israel, known for using offensive racist language.

‘This one?’ asks the tweeter pithily, above the photo of Rabbi Yitzhk Josef, suggesting that he and Chief Rabbi Mirvis are one and the same. Nobody has replied with an even pithier ‘No’ because we are on the forty-eight hour silence. The chances are that the tweeter knows Rabbi Mirvis is not Rabbi Yosef but is hoping someone will be goaded into breaking the silence.

Meanwhile, on all the Corbynist forums on Facebook, Jews and our malign influence are once again virtually the only subject. The trigger this week is that Keir Starmer has overseen an apology and a settlement with the Labour staff featured in John Ware’s now Bafta nominated Panorama programme, ’Is Labour antisemitic?’ Keir Starmer is condemned on the forums as a Zionist puppet paid by Israel, the proof being a donation to his campaign from British Jewish philanthropist Trevor Chinn. The question is asked, who paid the judge? By way of an answer, there are links to the Al-Jazeera film The Lobby, in which an employee of the Israeli embassy boasts of influence over UK politics to the then MP Joan Ryan.

Last night, someone posted an article from two or three weeks earlier, about Richard Millett’s case of defamation against Jeremy Corbyn passing through the first stage in the High Court. This also triggered many expressions of outrage about ‘Zionist scumbags’.

Another topic which appeared on all the Corbynist forums last night was the Go Fund Me project, set up by a lady called Carole Morgan to cover Mr Corbyn’s legal costs, should he choose to fight back against the Panorama whistleblowers, John Ware the journalist and Richard Millett, the irony-free Zionist. This has reached £300,000 although some of the donors have displayed joke names, particularly of prominent Jews such as Bibi Netanyahu, Lord Sugar, Rachel Riley, Margaret Hodge or non-Jewish adversaries, Keir Starmer, Boris Johnson and, in the last five minutes ‘the pig Cameron fcked’. Some of the supporters on the forums declare that they will make regular donations to the fund, out of their modest incomes. It is not certain how the money will be used, but Mr Corbyn is said to be ‘in touch’ with Carole Morgan who said:

‘Although Jeremy did not know beforehand that I was going to start this campaign, Jeremy’s office has been in touch and he is deeply touched by this outpouring of love and support from you all.’

Aol.co.uk/news/2020/07/27

In recent weeks, there has been pushback against antisemitism on the forum called ‘Jeremy Corbyn should have been Prime Minister.’ Four Jewish people have said that antisemitism is alive and well in the group, way beyond legitimate criticism of Israel. They are all critics of Netanyahu, the settlements and the Likud Party and express themselves in quite a conciliatory way. Nevertheless they are dismissed as ‘paid trolls’. Their comments are treated by the group as hostile, just as they would be on a forum of the BNP, the National Front or any far right anti-Jewish milieu. They receive replies in the form of anti-Israel memes and slogans. They are asked to take responsibility for strictures against Palestinians. Their view that antisemitism is prevalent on Corbynist forums is utterly rejected and attributed to their underhand Zionist agenda.

This is the second day of the forty-eight hour silence and, like the afternoon of a fast day, it begins to feel uncomfortable.

Wiley, ‘the godfather of Grime,’ is not unusual in the views he expresses. On the Corbynist forums, many of the comrades have learned to be prudent. Someone expressed a wish for Rachel Riley to be hanged and was rebuked by a more seasoned member, who pointed out that there are people screen capping the threads and the optics would be bad. If an inexperienced supporter complains about Jews, they are advised kindly to change the word to Zionists. The Jewish Labour Movement and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Chronicle and all Jews who speak out even once against antisemitism are referred to as Zionists. Then a meme or a photo will appear, to underline the supposed inhumanity of Zionists.

There seems to be no way out of the circle. If you say there is a problem with left antisemitism, you are a Zionist, a liar and probably paid by Israel. If a Jew donates to the campaign of a Labour politician such as Keir Starmer, David Lammy or Lisa Nandy, he is a proxy for Israel and proof that they have been bought. If a judge finds for a plaintif against a Corbynist or against Mr Corbyn himself, they ask rhetorically who has paid the judge. If a news outlet runs an exposé of Labour antisemitism, that is proof of Israel’s control of the media. Anything disobliging revealed about Mr Corbyn is proof of his martyrdom and sanctity.

‘They fear him because he cannot be bought.’

Like very many Jewish activists, I would like to know who bought me. And who bought my buyers? As with the buying and selling of real estate, it seems as if there should be a chain free buyer somewhere along the line. A plaisanterie shared by everyone I know engaged in the same battle against antisemitism is that our cheques have been lost in the post.

And lastly, a member of ‘Jeremy Corbyn Should Have Been Prime Minister’ explains to Daniel, who complains of antisemitism in the group, that Israel is a racist endeavour and that Daniel himself is an antisemite, mistaking their righteous ‘abhorrence’ for Jew hate.

The religious needs and experiences of individuals have been matters of abiding interest to me for about half a century. I feel disappointed when I learn that a television series called Primates is about monkeys, not archbishops; when Luther turns out to be a moody detective rather than an equally moody theologian and I note the existence of a film called End of Days, but don’t watch it as I suspect it is an action movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Due to rebarbative aspects of social media, I have in recent years sometimes been called ‘Christ-killer’ and ‘supremacist’, either because I’m Jewish or because this passes muster as legitimate criticism of Israel, for which I am considered a proxy.

‘Supremacist’ lingers in my mind more than ‘Christ-killer’ and I ask myself this question: isn’t it quite usual for people of faith to believe themselves beloved of God or that the practice of their faith is a proper way to live their lives?

‘Seek the peace of the city to which I have brought you,’ God tells the prophet from Anathoth (Jeremiah 29:18) . Thus also with faith: there is a tendency to believe the faith we are born into and pray in that language.

This is an age when faith loses hold of imagination and a view like that of Lucretius holds sway,  that religion crushes, leads to crimes, wars and ‘the foul impieties of men’:

quod contra saepius illa religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta

(De Rerum Natura 1:80)

If you remove religion from society, some will go underground and practice in secret. In our relatively free society, many, perhaps the majority, believe that religion is an affront to reason and they are free to discard it, which is as it should be, freedom being better than compulsion.

There are those who would replace religion with the concept of historical necessity or any ideology of right or left, which promises a teleological fulfillment, a working out of things in a distant future time.

I contemplate the deification of Jeremy Corbyn on certain social media sites. I have written before about the frequency of the word ‘crucifixion’ used by Corbynists to describe the election losses and Mr Corbyn’s resignation as Leader of the Opposition. A crucifixion needs a Pilate, a Caiaphas, possibly a Tiberius and definitely a Judas and it needs a crowd of extras: Jews shouting ‘Crucify him, crucify him.’

Many were crucified but Jesus was a case apart, Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum. Being called ‘King of the Jews’ makes the crowd’s choice of Barabbas somehow implausible but we have had two millennia in which to ponder the inconsistency.

The epic narrative of the New Testament pervades the posts, threads and memes of Corbynist social media. Corbyn himself is seen as above and beyond all ordinary men. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was Corbyn. The comrades speak of his return to bring about a reign of justice and fairness, which no other person – not even John McDonnell or Richard Burgon can achieve. They were only ever mortal disciples.

Thus, I read with some horror the avowals of faith, juxtaposed with an obsession with Israel and Zionism as an unworldly evil, comparable – and, in Corbynist groups, very often compared – with Satan.

I can see clearly the beauty of Christianity and Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Jainism and the Bahai faith. Obviously I see the beauty of my own religion, Judaism. But the adoration of the former Labour leader looks to me like trouble. A Corbyn government was averted by a clear General Election result. Many Corbynists say it was rigged, by a combination of media lies, fraudulent counting and perfidious Zionists. and speak of the present government being overthrown. Perhaps they see an End of Days on the horizon. Maybe I should watch the film with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It can’t be as bad as anything the Corbyn worshipers have up their sleeves.

 

This week, I have what we call yahrzeit for my husband David Gould, that is to say, he died at this time of year. He died of cancer on 16 July thirty years ago, at the age of forty-one. Our children are now in their forties and late thirties and we still mourn. At the synagogue via Zoom this morning, many people spoke about their memories of David, an occasional leader of prayer services in the community, beautiful voice and beautiful appearance. Our rabbi said ‘I came to this community many years after David died and saw how people still spoke about him and still referred to you as Gill Gould.’

There is a lack of continuity in my names. Ten years after David died, when I was fifty, I married Mr Lazarus. We divorced, amicably enough, and I still wear his name, partly for logistical reasons – passport and bank account -and partly because I find it euphonic. Nasty people on Twitter sometimes compare me to Lazarus in the gospel of Saint John but not in a good way. Well, that is Twitter.

My name was Pressman. That was my father’s name and my mother’s but my sister and I got married and the name has disappeared from our inmmediate family. My first marriage was to a Mr Neuer, a name mispronounced on both sides of the Atlantic, so I have had four surnames and none of them really belongs to me. In Hebrew, my surname is Bat Yaacov, daughter of Jacob. Gila Bat Yaacov is the name on my ketuvot, the Hebrew marriage certificates, and the name by which I get called up to the reading of Torah in synagogue.

Most of us have numerous names. I am also called Mum, Auntie and Granny. Some of us have pet names and diminutives. Some are called names by bullies and internalize the name.

There are graves of unknown soldiers, commemorated by the epitaph, ‘Known to God.’ God also has many names, seventy-two, I believe is an estimate of the number, and answers to all of them.

‘Everyone has a name,’ said the poet Zelda Mishkovsky. Here is a translation of her poem and below that, the original Hebrew:

Everyone has a name
given to him by God
and given to him by his parents.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his stature
and the way he smiles.
and given to him by his clothing
Everyone has a name
given to him by the mountains
and given to him by the walls.
Everyone has a name
given to him by the stars
and given to him by his neighbors.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his sins
and given to him by his longing.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his enemies
and given to him by his love.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his holidays
and given to him by his work.
Everyone has a name
given to him by the seasons
and given to him by his blindness.
Everyone has a name
given to him by the sea and
given to him
by his death.

‘It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,’ said Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, quoting a song by rapper Puff Daddy and referring to the US government’s support of Israel. Later she apologized, writing ‘Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.’

Congresswoman Omar didn’t realize at first that it was antisemitism 101 to say that Jews are rich and use their money, deviously or openly, to exercise power, but she made an acceptable apology. It is said that those who rebuff a sincere apology three times, are themselves at fault for being unforgiving.

The trope about Jewish wealth goes back to medieval times at least and is one of the most recognizable – one might think. Here in the UK and now in 2020, not a day goes by on social media without someone claiming that a person the speaker dislikes or distrusts is in the pay of Israel. Left-wing social media (the far right wing obviously have their own specialités de la maison), are usually careful to say Zionsts rather than Jews. As I’ve documented many times, they offer tropes as follows:

Power: media influence, infiltration of political parties, domestic and abroad. Payrolling of Western institutions, political and cultural (overlaps with wealth trope).

Cruelty: Israeli-Palestinian conflict; blood libel, organ trafficking

Treachery: Acting against interests of domicile.

Mendacity: Telling lies about Jeremy Corbyn and anyone on the left accused of antisemitism. Subheadings, the Panorama documentary, Jewish journalists (overlaps with control of MSM), propaganda aka hasbara

Fake identity: Khazar theory, not Semites, colonialism, True Torah Jews are anti-Zionist.

Racism: Israel as Jewish nation, white supremacism, apartheid, treatment of people of colour who are Israeli citizens

Arrogance having the word ‘antisemitism’ as a sign of privilege over BAME people. The word ‘chosen’

Corruption Tax evasion, venial business practices, predatory behaviours, eg Epstein, Weinstein.

The particular aspect of antisemitism which has been on my mind for a few days falls under the heading of mendacity, not the lies told about us but the trope that we lie and the lies they say we tell.

On Corbynist forums on Facebook, the word antisemitism is usually found adjacent to the words ‘smear’, ‘lie’ or ‘false’.

What kind of people, the online Corbynists ask, are these ‘Zionists’ who lied about a saintly, even godlike man such as Corbyn?

Evil people, evidently: ‘We know they are liars, because they lied about antisemitism in the Labour Party. Nothing we say is antisemitic as it is actually about the Israel Lobby and it is antisemitic in itself to infer that it is about Jews.’

 I italicised those words because they appear so regularly, returning like a boomerang in reply to any challenge of the above mentioned tropes.

To those who were offended by the Mear One Mural, Corbyn’s defenders said, ‘Of course those old men with big noses don’t look Jewish. It is antisemitic in itself to make the connection.’

Following Keir Starmer’s sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey from the Shadow Cabinet, the view from the Corbynist side of the bridge is that Starmer is weak, giving in to the ‘Israel lobby’; that he is paid by Israel, a puppet of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Labour Movement and the comrades sometimes remark that he has a Jewish wife, adding the exculpatory ‘Just saying’.

On 29 June, the editor of the online Corbynist paper Skwawkbox lodged a formal complaint of antisemitism against Keir Starmer, for conflating Jewish people with actions of the Israeli government in breach of the IHRA code. This reminded me that, after Labour accepted the full IHRA conditions, which Corbyn had initially resisted, left wing social media positively teemed with accusations against Margaret Hodge, Tom Watson (who was supportive in the fight against antisemitism) and Stephen Pollard (editor of the Jewish Chronicle) , saying that antisemitically they conflated Jews with Israel. The IHRA conditions had been accepted, but when one door closes, another opens: they could use it – they thought – to punish Jews and our allies.

The conversation can go like this.

A: Zionists run all the political parties in the UK.

B: That’s antisemitic.

A: No it isn’t. It’s criticism of Israel which you’re conflating with Jews, which is antisemitic in itself.

Someone who says that the Rothschilds lost Labour the election or that Israelis did 9/11 is likely to answer, if challenged,  that this is criticism of Israel, and if we can see anything wrong with it, we must be an ‘Israeli shill’. A notorious example of myopia was the case of Thomas Gardiner, Labour’s head of Complaints under Mr Corbyn, who looked at a cartoon of a monster, marked with a star of David, smothering the Statue of Liberty, and deemed it acceptable criticism of Israel.

Corbynists on social media imply over and over again that to recognize the tropes is antisemitic in itself. It must mean we, not they, associate Jews with money bags and big noses. They, who post this sort of Stürmerei, are innocent of antisemitism they say, because it didn’t occur to them that the caricatures have anything to do with Jews and there must be something wrong with us, if we make the connection. They may admit that the image caricatured Zionists but, they say, many Zionists are not Jewish and many Jews are not Zionist. So honi soit qui mal y pense, yah boo, sucks.

Today a gentleman on Twitter called me a Zionist pig, among other things. If you oppose antisemitism on social media, you will be sent images of Netanyahu as, for example, a blood soaked puppeteer. Why do they assume we have a favourable view of Mr Netanyahu? The answer is easy. In their opinion, we would not be opposing antisemitism if it wasn’t for our love of Bibi – or the remuneration which allegedly he makes available to all of us. Wouldn’t we oppose it because it’s racism? No, we lie about it, because it isn’t racism and it doesn’t exist.

Thus, by complaining about the use of a Latuff cartoon, one might qualify to be sued by The Skwawkbox or the Canary for objecting to it and thereby conflating Jews with Israel.

I have been called a racist for making unfair generalizations about Corbynists, specifically, logging and displaying antisemitic comments from Corbynist groups on Facebook. I was generalizing and implying that all Corbynists hold such views, said Mr L, who, by chance, held precisely such views.

I sometimes think there are people who post about Israel all day long in ever more extreme and irrational terms (calling Israelis subhuman for example), in the hope that someone will call them an antisemite and then they can reply ‘Zionist fanatic’. Their crazed posts concerning the Labour MP for Barking are, they insist, about Israeli interference in UK politics. But Margaret Hodge isn’t Israeli. I don’t know whether she’s much of a Zionst. Her maiden name, they point out, was Oppenheimer and that’s a paid Israeli shill sort of name, if ever there was one.

What David Hirsh called the Livingstone Formulation is now an axiom among the Corbynist rump: if you complain about antisemitism, you must be lying and up to no good.

Since Black Lives Matter has been at the forefront of global consciousness, we are more frequently called white supremacists.  Some of us display BLM hashtags in our bios, but nevertheless we are said to be white supremacists because we are apologists for what they call apartheid Israel.  If it we object to a cartoon of a hand, a star of David on the cuff, dropping coins into a money box labelled Westminster, we are apartheid apologists.

Thus there is nothing opponents of antisemitism can say which isn’t turned around and mirrored by those who deny such a thing exists among the disappointed but not yet despairing Corbynistas.

They profess standard values.

They are against cults, specifically, the cult of Keir Starmer. What made them even dream this up, if not that they heard the expression ‘Corbyn cult’ many, many times, absorbed it and produce it now as a projectile attack on those intending to vote Labour (which, since Sir Keir became leader, is inexcusable in the eyes of many Corbynists)?

They are loyal to the leadership but only if it’s Corbyn. Starmer was disloyal to Corbyn, worse, is said to be a Zionist, so is not worthy of loyalty and should be punished for treachery.

They are for free speech and abhor the witchhunt perpetrated against the left by Zionists, Blairites and Tories who accuse them falsely.

Witch hunters are those who call anti-Zionists ‘antisemites’ and are the particular enemies of those expelled or suspended from Labour, who see themselves as victims. If you argue against the prevailing Corbynist geist on social media, you are a witch hunter. Witch hunters should be neither seen nor heard. As they see it, we are always the hunters and they are always the hunted.

I am conscious that the term ‘Corbynist’ is no longer quite right. Mr Corbyn has returned to the back benches and has little relevance, but his soul goes marching on. The movement which flourished under his aegis is still vigorous and they have added to their list of enemies – the Zionists, Blairites, Tories and neoliberals, LibDems and Centrists – they have added to these the name of Keir Starmer who seems set to rival Blair as their most hated Labour leader.

It would be easier for us opponents of antisemitism here in the UK if we weren’t always being challenged about Israel. The planned annexation of a part of the West Bank is going to hit us in the diaspora, as they charge us British Jews with land theft and, as always, murder. But of course, their purpose isn’t to make it easy for us. Making it hard for us has been finessed by that part of the Labour left which is now politically homeless, just as centrists were homeless when Corbyn was the leader. One can understand their point of view: if they don’t make it about Israel, how are they going to brush us off as hasbara, remunerated out of an infinite supply of shekels from the Bank Leumi?

The screen shots below are all from the last two or three days on Facebook.

For anyone accused of antisemitism, the standard reply is, ‘I will not cease to stand up for the oppressed Palestinian people, even if I am persecuted for it by Zionists making false accusations.’

This fits almost any charge of antisemitism and permits any trope, well-worn or contemporary. I just happen to have seen this, which I consider projection in action.

The charge from the Corbynist left against Keir Starmer, Margaret Hodge, Wes Streeting, Ed Miliband, Stella Creasy and Nia Griffiths is that, by opposing Labour antisemitism, they conflate Israel with the Jewish people. Reason sleeps.



  • 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