Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for February 2021

I have two inchoate strands of thought which I would like to disentangle.

One of them is about understanding what an adversary really thinks (as opposed to what they say).

The other is about antisemites‘ anti Zionists’ perception of British Jews’ relationship with Israel.

No one admits these days to being antisemitic – not even neonazis! I need another word; Judeosceptic comes to mind but anti Zionist is the word that anti Zionists are willing to own.

In olden times before social media, it seemed to me that I had no enemies and would halt over passages in the Psalms where David speaks of the foes who pursue him across Saul’s kingdom and into the land of the Philistines. Now that I read occasionally very disobliging comments about myself online, I can participate more fully in the sense of having enemies. This occurs in relation to my activity against antisemitism of the left, the right, and also the centre, when its walls get breached due to strong currents coming from right and left.

Apart from remarks about my ghostly appearance – always with an allusion to Lazarus of Bethany (John 11) – online antagonists attribute my stated opinions to a relationship with Israel which strikes me as so implausible that it is most likely not believed even by those who proclaim it.

A very common riposte to all who oppose antisemitism is ‘How much is Israel paying you?’ If asked that question this minute, I would answer, ‘How come you don’t know?’ We make jokes on the subject of our salaries from Israel, talk of cheques lost in the post, being paid in rugelach and so on. Essentially, the accusation that we are paid for activism is water of a duck’s (see below) back as it seems no one can take it seriously, not even the accuser. Even so, there is seldom a day, as I read the outpourings against Keir Starmer on Corbynist social media, when I do not see an allegation that he is paid by Israel and, as proof, a meme is presented showing Trevor Chinn’s £50,000 donation to Starmer’s leadership campaign. The fact that Sir Trevor Chinn is a British Jew and a philanthropist never arises. Synecdochally, he is Israel, as far as they are concerned. They do not draw the line at Sir Keir. David Lammy, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and many more MPs are named as the improbable recipients of Israel’s largesse.

The comrades who make these allegations – do they believe them or do they believe something else, more nuanced which is harder for them to express?

Do they believe that we have an emotional bond with the State of Israel? That would be true of many of us, self included, but apparently not all. Jon Lansman, for example, the founder of Momentum and no Zionist, was accused of working in Israel’s interests when he complained of antisemitism in the Labour Party. David Baddiel, who famously disavowed enthusiasm for Israel, is targeted for his vocal opposition to antisemitism. He may not have a bond with Israel but he is connected to it, the connection being made almost invariably by his detractors.

I have written often on this blog about the use of articles and photos posted almost daily, sometimes more often than daily, on Corbynist forums, from various Palestinian presses or UK publications such as Electronic Intifada, Skwawkbox and The Canary. Typically, the photo will depict a child, crying or smiling. If the child is crying, the text explains that they are being terrorized by the IDF. If the child is smiling, the text reports that the child has been murdered by Israelis. The difficulty is that one cannot know the circumstances behind the photo. Is the report truthful, the translation accurate? If, baruch Hashem, research shows that the child is alive , one can assume that reports of their murder are exaggerated. These pictures with their unreliable textual interpretations always trigger responses along the lines of ‘Murderers. Inhuman bastards. They learned everything they know from the nazis. Worse than nazis. If being against child murder makes me an antisemite, so be it. This is what Keith [sic.Their name for Keir Starmer] supports.’

Are the comments performative, to gain approval from the other comrades, or do they entirely believe what they are saying? Or do they just not think deeply about it? The remarks often strike me as unsophisticated, ill-informed and not entirely literate. The original posts and the articles tend to come from another demographic: politically active persons, dedicated to changing society which they perceive as being hamstrung by Zionist influence. Rarely would they speak of Jewish influence, preferring circumlocutions, including ‘Chosenites’ and ‘Paymasters’. Non-Zionist Jews are cited to show that the speaker is free from the taint of antisemitism: JVL, Jewdas, Neturei Karta, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and the late Gerald Kaufman. The comrades profess undying devotion to Miriam Margolyes. How could anyone so frank and uninhibited be suspected of self-promotion? The rest of us, including David Baddiel and John Lansman, are stigmatized as Zionists because we speak against left antisemitism – as well as the racism of the far right, which is acknowledged by all.

It seems that, whatever relationship we have with Israel, we cannot disconnect ourselves from it when we oppose Jew hate in the diaspora. Unfriendly first responders will say ‘What about Israel?’ A recent tweet of Tracy-Ann Oberman, referencing antisemitism she received after a television appearance, provoked references to Israel in nearly all of the hostile replies.

Professor David Miller of Bristol University has been in the news in recent weeks and has described the students in the University’s Jewish Society as ‘pawns of Israel’. I do not suppose he believes that they are getting coded Whats App messages from Mossad, at least, I hope not. I think he believes Bristol’s Jewish students are controlled by a complex, interconnected framework of influence, as shown in his map, featuring Jewish education, social care, media, business and prominent individuals – influencers. Behind it all: Israel. Neither do I think he believes we are all paid by Israel but that we have been worked on subliminally by Zionist powers. This is likely to cast someone like me as an influenced person as well as an aspiring influencer. The network of propaganda catches me in its web and I do its bidding.

There is always a question about the deterministic force of our background and situation in life but this is not something which applies only to Jews or only to Zionists.

Miller has gained support as his notoriety grows from the the very people who were the most vocal supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. Jewdas, to be fair, have stepped back from supporting him but Na’amod appear at this point to be largely in the Miller camp. I have not been able to find any statement about David Miller from Jon Lansman. Zog gornisht is probably the way forward there.

Do Professor Miller’s supporters believe in a sinister, orchestrated network of Jewish organizations in the UK? I think they do. (At the current time, November 2022, David Miller proffers wilder fantasies to the viewers of Iranian state controlled media than I had antcipated when I wrote the paragraphs above.)

What do the adversaries really believe? What did people really believe in medieval Lincoln and York, or in the service of Chmelnycki in the Ukraine or on Kristallnacht in Germany? Pass.

It was a person of great wisdom who said ‘If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.’

As if to illustrate my point that other people’s beliefs are not always comprehensible, even if one could know them, a very toxic troll commented on this blog post, as shown. I trashed the comment, but display it here, as an example of the unknowable Other.

  • James Casserly: Unfortunately there seems to be no middle ground, no nuance and even less humanity on Twitter. Like you, there are people I have no time for, some I a
  • keithmarr: G < div dir="ltr">Twitter is such a cesspit you can more or less guarantee any opini
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: You're Nathan Hull, aren't you, an abusive troll who uses the alias Gerard O'Neill?