Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for August 2021

In the ferment of left social media, there are heroes and villains, as clearly delineated as in any James Bond narrative, Indiana Jones, Lord Of the Rings, or Harry Potter. There has to be a powerful enemy. If the premise is that the evil empire is none other then Israel, then Israel’s allies also must be evil: the United Kingdom, the United States and now the Arab countries which are party to the Abraham Accords and made peace with Israel.

Being anti Israel they say is not at all the same as hating Jews, which they prove by citing Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe, Miko Peled, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Greenstein, JVL and Neturei Karta. It is a fact that there have always been some Jews who want not just to separate themselves from the majority but to attack the majority.

Here in the United Kingdom many Jews had, until relatively recently, a slack, lacklustre interest in Israel, which was after all a foreign government far away and with its own problems while we, the British Jews had enough problems with our political parties, our economy, our strikes, our taxes, our NHS waiting list. There was some terrorism from the IRA and some terrorism against Jewish organizations and synagogues around the world. There was always security outside synagogues and Jewish communal buildings. As a parent, I was called on to do security duty myself, when my children were in the bar/bat mitzvah class. Back in the 1990s, a woman, five foot two, walking up and down with a walkie talkie, was considered enough to render the community secure.

After 9/11, there was a much greater sense of urgency. Here in the UK, hostility to the American and British goverments, which had been marginal, even during the Vietnam war, was now a commonplace.

The financial crisis of 2008 eroded trust in banks and businesses. Economic insecurity tends to reinforce the conservative vote. Was Ed Miliband really the Labour leader for five years? Like a flower of the field, he flourished but the wind passed over him and he was gone.

With Corbyn as Labour leader, some Jews became conscious of their Jewishness, as if for the first time. Some became aware that antisemitism could harm them, although they were not shul goers and had never thought about visiting Israel. Others concluded that Israel was the problem and their Jewishness could be put to use by denouncing it.

Those of us who recognize the current resurgence of antisemitism know that Israel cannot be treated as a separate matter. We know that anti-Jewish racism will be defended with respect to the conduct of Israel. To complicate matters, Israel’s conduct will be reported wrongly or out of context, not once or twice, but whenever anti Zionist activist puts fingertips to keyboard. It is not what the Knesset decides that puts us in the diaspora at risk, but what anti Zionists say about the Knesset, the IDF, the settlers: it is their lopsided narrative which puts us at risk.

If you select a particular nation and make it your work to denigrate it, there must always be grist for the mill. There will be injustices, bad judgments, corrupt politicians. The Left has settled not only on Israel for this exposure but also the UK & the USA. No goverments are more despised by the Left than these.

When the Skripals were poisoned in Salisbury, the supporters of Mr Corbyn shared his doubt concerning the involvement of Russia. When Bashar Al Assad was suspected of using barrel bombs and poison gas, the same people suggested that Prime Minister Theresa May had created a propaganda film at Pinewood Studios, to incriminate the Syrian President. ISIS, they agreed was bad, but they said it was an Israeli outfit run by a Jewish actor called Simon Elliott, from Greater London. Evidence was a photo of a dark-haired man with a scruffy beard and a ballpark resemblance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

When an explosion occurred at a Beirut warehouse, a meme appeared on both right and left social media, showing smoke rising from the warehouse in the likeness of a charedi Jew above a text: ‘We know it was you.’

This year, during the conflict in Israel and Gaza, there were anti Jewish attacks on the streets of the UK, as well as online. The first strike had come from Hamas, but their supporters said they had been provoked by an incursion of Israeli police into the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Israeli police said this took place as the mosque was being used to accumulate weapons and rocks, to attack Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below. On the Corbynist forums, inevitably Hamas received full support as it did also in street demonstrations and in some trade unions.

During the current crisis in Afghanistan, it is inevitable that the comrades should stick to their guns regarding the singular evil of Israel. Their response to negative press about the Taliban is to be especially emphatic about Israel being ‘worse than the Taliban’. The only comments about ISIS speak of the allegedly cordial relations between the Islamic State and the western powers. The continued hesitancy in opining about the Taliban is understandable. They are not sure if there is anything like a ‘party line’ and they would not wish to diverge from it, if there is one.

I sometimes think that if the UK was at war, whosoever was the enemy, these people would be on their side, but if the British casualties mounted up, they would say it was the work of Tony Blair and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. This is not even hypothetical. It is their take on all wars.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows what to expect: a tedious, apparently never-ending stream of screen shots from Corbynist groups on Facebook, exhibiting characteristics usually associated with the far right, of anti-Jewish racism, occasional Holocaust denial, 9/11 revisionism and incitement to hatred.

Invariably, those who take issue with me tell me that I need to learn the difference between antisemitism and criticism of Israel.

When I look at the social media footprint of individuals who post the most offensively anti Jewish material, I find that in most cases they are ordinary, well meaning individuals, most certainly with a tenderness for children, animals, NHS workers, as well as all Palestinians, en masse. It may be because their weapon of choice is Facebook, but they are almost always advanced in years. Carelessly in their rants against the State of Israel, they refer to the incriminating Jewishness of British philanthropists, politicians and celebrities.

Yesterday, I was in an extended Twitter spat with someone called Kevin, also active in the Facebook group, The Left Fights the Media. He used the phrase ‘Jewish billionaire masters’ in most of his tweets and insisted that Jews caused Oliver Cromwell to enforce the Irish potato famine.

Despite his fixation with Jewish power, I got the impression that Kevin was not altogether a bad person. He was not rude, did not do personal abuse and apologized once for a misspelling. He was strongly in favour of Proportional Representation, which is a legitimate point of view. However, his statements about Jews became increasingly wild and emphatic. He then started on the freemasons which, while equally irrational, gave us Jews a respite, except for Jewish freemasons, of whom I know several.

My feeling about the left wing Facebook forums, the aspect of social media I know most intimately, is that they radicalise. They promote Jew hate, making it the only accepted position, and the members, usually middle aged, or elderly, gain approval commensurate with the intensity of their expressed hatred.

I do not think the octogenarians who call so often for revolution are going to march up Whitehall singing ‘Ça ira’ – for one thing, some of them have lived in Spain since their retirement; many others have limited mobility.

What has happened to these people, to make them assert that the horrors in Afghanistan are a diversionary tactic to turn attention away from Israel, or that Israel is behind all wars, including those predating the creation of the State of Israel? Everything said in the past about ‘the Elders of Zion’ is revived on Corbynist forums when they speak of The Board of Deputies of British Jews. Trevor Chinn is mentioned almost daily as an agent of Israel; Lord Rothschild weekly, and Keir Starmer (who isn’t Jewish but is considered by the comrades to be working for Israel), hourly.

Taking a leaf out of their book, I have started wondering about the powerful hands of less naive agents pulling their strings. There are politicians, journalists and some celebrities who stir the pot continuously, too sophisticated to use the word Jew when Israel or Zionism may be substituted. The denial of antisemitism invariably accompanies even the most extreme tropes. I cannot remember how many times I’ve read that the Jews, sorry, Zionists, are the real antisemites. This is one of the axioms of the forums. The evidence – in their eyes, proof – is that JVL and Neturei Karta exist so the rest of us are lying for Israel.

They seem impervious to reason. Some of my friends have joined the Corbynist groups to confront the antisemites in their lair but they get ejected before long. You can see them sometimes in my screen shots, accused of being Zionist trolls.

Even finding fault with Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi or Syria’s Bashar Al Assad is enough to get one written off as a Zionist troll.

It isn’t a matter of not wanting Jews marrying their daughters or joining their golf club. June wants us deported and Anthony wants Israel wiped off the face of the earth. I’m not sure where they want us to be.

JVL – the oddly named Jewish Voice for Labour – is problematic in a slightly different way. The items posted by JVL, while intensely anti Israel, are not necessarily antisemitic but they specialize in defending anyone who has been accused of antisemitism, if they have been associated with Labour or with Mr Corbyn. Their non-Jewish followers post material as extreme as that on any other forum. If this is confronted by some interloper, the JVL moderators tend to delete the dissident posts; thus, friends of mine who argue against overtly anti Jewish comments find that their replies disappear, censored by JVL.

I have not uploaded any images from Truthers Against Zionist Lobbies. They were removed from Facebook and returned after a hiatus of four months, without their cover picture of Jeremy Corbyn. Instead, they have a parody of the Israeli flag with the words: ‘Israel has no history, only a criminal record.’

I limit the number of left wing forums I follow, mainly to those featured below. Anyone rash enough to read the contents of my screen shots will soon see the dreary repetitiveness and unoriginality of the comments.

I have much admiration for those who engage and fight back on the forums. I refrain from naming them only because my commendation is not likely to help them get on in life.

From The Left Fights the Media

From Jeremy Corbyn Should Have Been Prime Minister

From Recognising Jeremy corbyn’s Dedication to a Just Society

From We Support Jeremy Corbyn

From Jeremy Corbyn’s Socialist Forum

Two or three years ago, satirical ‘bingo cards’ started to appear on social media, displaying the repetitive and predictable phrases used in political arguments. Entering the key word ‘bingo’ on a Twitter search this morning, an example appears, posted two hours ago, a send up of Priti Patel, harmless and amusing enough.

Friends of mine made some witty bingo cards comprising favourite phrases of anti-Zionists and the anti-Zionists made their own bingo cards displaying what they though of as pro-Israel apologetics. One of the phrases they included was ‘Why do you only talk about Israel?’

This certainly is a question to be asked. The answer is generally that we who ask it are deflecting from the issue of what is happening in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Among anti-Zionists, it is increasingly common to attribute to Israel global influence, to the extent of ruling western governments, and the Corbynist rump, deeply antipathetic to Keir Starmer insist daily that the Likud Party now owns Labour. This is odd because the Likud was not able to hold on to government in Israel after Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid formed a coalition in June 2021.

Most certainly, discussions about Israel, Zionism and Jews dominate the left wing Facebook forums where foreign affairs are concerned. Regarding UK politics, the posts concern mostly the wrongdoings of Boris Johnson and Tory Ministers and the alleged treacheries and failures of Keir Starmer. The Starmer threads almost invariably make reference to the influence of either Israel or the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

It has reached a point when I am glad to see a post about Boris Johnson as it is less likely to include assertions about Jewish interference than a thread about Keir Starmer.

Posts about Mr Corbyn are as reverential as ever, almost inevitably with Christological language in which the former Labour leader appears as one who would have been our saviour but was crucified – essentially by the Board of Deputies- yet continues to evince beneficence and integrity beyond any other human being.

I note that as dire events unfold in Afghanistan, the subject simply does not arise on Corbynist forums.

Anyone referring to the persecution of the Uyghar Muslims in China is likely to be called a Zionist troll, deflecting from the ‘crimes of Israel’.

News about Lukashenko of Belarus is dismissed as western propaganda.

The government of Iran is depicted as peace-loving but maligned by Israeli hasbara.

Below are screen shots from various forums on Facebook. The earliest shown here is, I believe, from the end of July 2021 and the most recent is from yesterday, 10 August 2021. The quantity is too great to include anything beyond the last two weeks.

They appear by group:

The Left Fights the Media

Jeremy Corbyn should Have Been Prime Minister

Recognising Jeremy Corbyn’s Dedication to a Just Society

The following groups:

Jeremy Corbyn’s Socialist Forum

We Support Jeremy Corbyn

Jewish Voice for Labour (an ardently anti-Zionist group, defending left-wingers accused of antisemitism)

are included in some of the ‘mixed’ screen shots. Truthers Against Zionist Lobbies originally used a cover photo of Jeremy Corbyn but they have changed this to a Star of David with the superscription ‘Israel has no history, only a criminal record’. I have not included their work among the screen shots below, except in one of the mixed collages.

The comments shown below are repeated with minor variations day after day. The level of vituperation is constant. I often think it is getting worse but when I look at earlier records, I see there is little change.

I have folders of screen shots going back some years now, too bulky for me to handle systematically.

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

I suppose some lies are mistakes.

I suppose I’ve lied but forgotten about it.

I suppose others have lied, intentionally or forgetfully, stating what they remember as fact. I suppose I have done this too.

Malicious discourse on social media and elsewhere works like this. You select a person you consider worthy of opprobrium: celebrity, politician, journalist or someone whose tweet you don’t like and consider yourself entitled to say or repeat anything negative about them. Even if it isn’t true, it conveys the negative attributes which you think are true, notionally if not in actuality.

Instead of saying ‘I disagree’ or ‘You’re wrong,’ the antagonist says ‘You’re lying’.

I often see a hypothesis that the putative liar is paid to lie by a more powerful agency or that a network of lies serves as the opium of the masses, to keep them subjugated.

Someone rebuked me this week for tweeting that the journalist Owen Jones is twelve when I know full well that he is thirty-seven. I wanted to convey that he remains an enfant terrible of the left, courting controversy yet expressing vulnerability, his years of experience belied by his preternaturally youthful appearance.

There is hyperbole. There is lying. There is polemicizing.

I read this phrase today on social media: ‘the Zionist baby killers of Golders Green.’ One might assume that the person wants to say the following: diaspora Jews are complicit with Israel unless they repudiate it; children have been killed when Israel is at war, handling conflict situations and even misfiring so we – even I to the north of Golders Green – have a hand in the tragic death of these children. Putting it this way, I can almost see the blood on my hands, as if in some cartoon by Carlos Latuff.

Suppose the reports from Hamas or Press TV or Skwawkbox are unreliable, based perhaps on inaccurate sources?  Why should their reports be believable and other, contradictory reports not believable? And, if they have been economical with the truth, am I still a baby killer? How could I know?

On social media, conjectures may be stated as facts, worse, as subordinate clauses. To say ‘Keir Starmer is paid by Israel’ sounds like a lie dressed up as a hypothesis but in the sentence, ‘Due to the money Starmer receives from Israel, Labour is not short of cash,’ the false charge, that he is paid by Israel, is used as if it is consensual and established. The thrust of the proposition follows it: ‘Labour is not short of cash’ which may or may not be true.

For those who adhere to this view, their belief is based on the existence of Jewish donors, among others supporting the Labour party and Labour MPs. If the Jewish donors support Israel, goes the argument, they act as a proxy for Israel. Thus ‘Keir is in the pay of a foreign power’ is by far one of the most popular assertions on Corbynist social media, with the advantage that the foreign power is not named and, if you substitute Keith for Keir, neither is the Leader of the Opposition.

Dawn Butler MP made headlines by calling the Prime Minister a liar and was temporarily ordered out of the House of Commons. Today, #BorisTheLiar is or was a trending hashtag on Twitter. There is always a commotion when a politician is found to be lying but it dissipatess before long. It would be difficult for anyone in public life to speak nothing but the truth. They say so many more words than most other people. There is expediency; there is self-interest; there is utilitarianism, when the public is shielded from a disruptive truth, there is not knowing and there is forgetting.

I have heard estranged couples give almost identical accounts of an incident except that they reverse the roles, to favour the speaker and put the absent ex in a bad light. The stories are mutually exclusive but there is common ground: they agree that something happened, but who did it to whom? If one is lying, why would they both agree so closely to the details of the incident, disagreeing only about agency? Forgetfulness hovers like a mist around the story but the edges are indistinct.

If this happens in personal relationships, how much more so, a fortiori, in wars, in politics and in the high profile disputes between members of the Royal Family.

Truth is a fundamental virtue, mentioned often in liturgy.

True and firm, established and enduring…is thy word unto us for ever and ever.

We who are neither gods nor beasts are untruthful, by error, by intention, for advantage, through forgetfulness, due to shame or kindness or for the greater good, through credulity and through scepticism.

Being lied to makes us angry.

Being lied about makes us angry. We have laws to deal with this, but not everyone has the wherewithal to bring matters to the courts.

Personally, I resist calling another person a liar. If I want to go on the offensive, I am more likely to call them stupid or foolish, or to say someone is twelve when I know he won’t see thirty-five again.

Truth is an aspiration. We use ‘aspire’ in the sense of striving but the Latin aspirare is to breath or blow, related to spiritus. We breathe the truth even if we do not speak it.

  • 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?