Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Walking Out With Footballers

Posted on: May 3, 2021

Due to a bank holiday weekend walk out from Twitter called by football clubs, players, athletes and several sporting associations in protest against online racism, I was absent from twitter for this period, so found another use for my keyboard.

I was very grateful to those who joined a walk out last year against online antisemitic abuse and the least I can do is joint the present protest.

I am less exposed to anti black racism and islamophobia than I am to antisemitism, because my searches on left wing social media invariably turn up the latter not the former – unless the topic concerns a black, Muslim or Hindu Conservative. In those discussions, the person’s ethnicity is acknowledged in the context of treachery and there is even talk of deportation. Even BAME Labour MPs have not been immune from being called coconuts or Uncle Toms, if they were opposed to Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

My real life social circles don’t include people with bigoted or racist views, as far as I’m aware. Work, before I retired, was diverse and Ramadan was accommodated as far as possible in terms of schedules and lunch breaks. I was never refused time off for Jewish holy days.

In the 1960s, my parents were present on rallies against apartheid and, later on, so was I. When someone says that the older generation tends to racism, it does not resonate with me. Now I am the older generation, as were my parents when they boycotted South African goods.

The matter of online abuse is close to my heart. I’m a white, Jewish woman, active against antisemitism: Twitterati of the left call me a racist and apartheid apologist while the befrogged far right send me cartoons based on vulgar antisemitic templates. Occasionally I am told that I am responsible for the death of innocent Palestinians. I count that sort of tweet as abusive but, more than that, it is depressing to find that opposition to Jew hate is read so widely as a sign of anti-Palestinianism.

I see anti black racism, feral and febrile, when I look at the timelines of the right wing trolls, those with frog or skeleton avatars, and names which often include such words as wolf, Vulcan, eagle, Thor, knight, lair or, obviously, white. It is a mystery to me why football supporters are prone to abusing black players on social media or to taunt the other team by means of racist language.

What one sees depends on where one goes as well as powers of observation. How often do I see a comrade commenting ‘I’ve been a Labour member for fifty years and never once witnessed any antisemitism’ as a sympathetic reply to someone’s assertion that ‘the Jewish lobby’ lies about antisemitism in its quest to dominate UK politics. I would like to tell the myopic comrade, ’Hey, you just missed a bit’ but it is not worth being kicked off a forum I’m observing, for a moment’s satisfaction.

We all tend to be sensitive to the disrespect and abuse of which we are the target. I’m more grateful than I can express to non-Jewish organizations and individuals who see and oppose antisemitism in its current forms, which include a great emphasis on Israel from both left and right. The Muslims Against Antisemitism group has been stalwart in their highly valuable support.

Global discussions following the killing of George Floyd have led to more talk about the predicament of Jews of colour vis-à-vis the white majority in the community, or of disadvantages to Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews when they live in a largely Ashkenazi milieu. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has just published the results of their Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community, chaired by the distinguished journalist Stephen Bush. The Board refers to the MacPherson Principle, ‘all complaints about incidents of racism should be recorded and investigated as such, when they are perceived by the complainant or someone else as acts of racism.’

There may be a Jewish person or a person of colour who declares that they have never experienced racism from the supporters of those notable has-beens, Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump. They speak as tokens of their own minority group and say that those who complain of racism are either lying for some ulterior motive or else ignorant of the facts. These minorities within the minorities may not have the authority or the credibility which they suppose. There were women who were opposed to feminism and equal opportunities, as dramatized in the historical series Mrs America. The anti-feminist voices were heard but they did not prevail.

A common recent trope on Corbynist forums is that Jewish voices in UK politics are ‘foreign intervention’. It seems a time-expired, unsophisticated form of antisemitism to insist on our foreignness, although it may be merely a way of circumventing Facebook’s censor, such as it is. There can be no doubt that the same is alleged of people who are BAME and British., on the forums of the far right at least.

It seems too obvious to be worth saying that a member of a minority can be prejudiced or hateful against another minority (or their own). All that is required is induction from the particular to the general: citing some wrongdoer as evidence of the wrongdoing of their group or ethnos. This features heavily in online abuse: a troll will send a picture or an article against such a person to someone else of the same ethnicity. Nothing precludes the troll from being a member of a minority.

Now we have reached the fourth and last day of the Twitter walk out. New stories are breaking and the identity of H has been disclosed on Line of Duty; antisemites on Corbynist forums go about their daily business and no doubt black footballers are being abused on social media.

I do not get stopped and searched or face the daily hazards and disadvantages which come to people of colour. I hardly know even the beginning or the extent of these experiences. The Twitter walk-out and the hashtag stop online abuse is at least something I can do

My own minority are so few in number but, notionally so highly visible, that we get discounted, as David Baddiel has written, as a minority. Our enemies on the right say our power is such that we grasp the whole world in our tentacles. Our enemies on the left say the same but avoid using words like tentacles, unless they have come to the left with a smattering of far right ideology.

We cannot force solidarity among the marginalized or victimized, who are sometimes not even a minority but, when it happens, it beats self-defence for efficacy. Social media may be awash with bigots, furies and vulgarians but there are many, very many, who stand up against them.

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  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thank you Keith x
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thank you Keith, glad you read and liked it. Proximally and for the most part, Twitter continues to be a hellhole.
  • Keith Marr: Proximally and for the most part your blog is thought-provoking and informative as always. Thank you for sharing. Knowing you is one of the few pos
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