Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

The Hate Game

Posted on: August 17, 2022

My sister once pointed out that in our family, where we were expected to be polite, not argumentative and not to shout (Dad sometimes shouted but we girls didn’t), it was considered acceptable to release political rage, when the adversaries were fascists, racists, far right or even merely warmongers.

Dad got arrested for causing an obstruction while sitting in the road with Bertrand Russell and the anti-nuclear Committee of a Hundred.

When we drove past some Mosleyites of the Union Movement and I shouted ‘Fuck off!’ through the car window, Dad said ‘Gill I know what we think of these people but there’s no need to be vulgar.’ Afterwards, Mum told me that he wished he’d said it.

And Mum wore a smile when she told me that the South African Prime Minister Dr Verwoed had been assassinated.

With hindsight, we sound rather thuggish but I can assure you, we were very mild compared with today’s Antifa.

In the wider family, everyone was a socialist except for those who called themselves communists, not so many of those after 1956.

Ever present alongside the political activism was love of Israel and great pride in the State born only a year before myself.  At weddings and bnei mitzvah, God Save the Queen and Hatikvah were sung. We were anti-monarchist, as reluctant to join in the British National Anthem as was Mr Corbyn during one of his early outings as Labour leader. Nevertheless, as I have mentioned elsewhere, my grandmother gave each of her grandchildren a lovely illustrated book of Princess Margaret’s wedding, which I perused many times with enjoyment.

At age twelve, I was taken to see an exhibition in Hackney Town Hall about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. I was also taken to see the film Judgment at Nuremberg starring Spencer Tracy, and, at about the same time, Exodus (scripted from the Leon Uris book by Dalton Trumbo), which my parents said wasn’t as good as the book. Then I read Exodus, more than once; I would say more than twice.

I had a strong sense of a world divided between good and evil.

Dad liked RA Butler and Bob Boothby which surprised me but he said that not all Conservatives were bad. Mum liked the Duke of Edinburgh, so there you are.

Now that there is no political party I agree with, I can’t find it in me to detest the current leadership of any party. As I write this, Boris Johnson is still the Prime Minister. I think, as many others do, that he became a liability to the Tories with his parties, his wallpaper, his ill-judged promotions and his untruthfulness, but his intelligence and sense of humour appeal to me; his fumbling diction often leading through winding rhetorical alleyways to a punchline or flash of informal panache, as with ‘Hasta la vista, Baby’. Gove too has a degree of charm, eloquent and entomological. While Priti Patel is not at all to my taste, I’m aware that her detractors on social media target her appearance, presumably because they have made it a priority to deny her undoubted good looks.

It is also said of Priti Patel that she is an Israeli spy but of course this is said of Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, David Lammy and indeed, most of the present Parliamentary Labour Party.

Today Michael Gove trends on Twitter because his return flight from a summer holiday has been delayed for thirty hours. Thousands of people are liking tweets which consider the hold up a just retribution for Brexit. Like the Mikado, their object all sublime is to let the punishment fit the crime.

It seems to me a waste of effort to wish minor inconveniences on enemies, and demeaning to wish on them misfortune, other than the misfortune of failing in their malign endeavours.

A case in point is George Galloway who got beaten up in the street in 2014. Photos of a bruised and battered Galloway appeared in the press and seeing the thin, discoloured skin of an aging man, I winced.  When you see the bruising, you see the vulnerability of the lived body. Jeremy Corbyn was attacked with an egg and Nigel Farage with a milk shake. Similarly, the intrusive menace of these attacks was displeasing despite my immeasurable dislike of the victims. When someone threw green paint at Peter Mandelson whom I didn’t dislike, I could see him flinch at the attacker’s reach, as if aware that it could have been something more lethal than paint.

In the unusual case of John Prescott and the egg, Prescott landed a blow on his assailant and they scuffled. Video footage from 2001 shows that the egg, fired at close range, is indeed the embodiment of an insult and a potential hazard.

These are public figures. Much more painful is hating somebody in private life: the violent, the bullies, the malevolent and the abusers of power. I have been fortunate in not knowing many such people. I had a consuming detestation of a partner’s ex whose ambition in life seemed to be to destroy his, but later encounters showed her to be meeker and more mild-mannered than I had thought possible, going by earlier form.

When I was a twelve year old pupil at a girls’ grammar school, a girl of fourteen flanked by two confederates and wearing a beehive hairdo, threw potatoes at me and my friend every day during school dinners.

‘I do hate Beehive,’ said my friend. I didn’t think I hated Beehive but would have liked to see a potato ricochet and land in her backcombed hair.

Social media has been an education in how to hate and be hated. I’ve become accustomed to being called ‘child killer’ or ‘apartheid apologist’ which will be leveled at anyone who tweets sympathetically about the State of Israel. If someone wants to abuse me on Twitter, they often make something of my age, my surname Lazarus and my long face. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told I look like a corpse, a horrible simile which could only come from the keyboard of a confirmed hater.

And finally, I have learned to hate, sometimes fleetingly, individuals whose names I forget as soon as I block them and sometimes consistently, esteemed public figures who wield influence or power, the ones who have made life perceptibly harder for Jews in the diaspora. Not every antisemite makes life harder. Those who are incontestably cranky – David Icke for example – have influence but are generally on the fringes of political activism. Professor Miller was extremely dangerous in the lecture hall at Bristol University but, now representing Iran state-controlled media, seems to have lost some of his puissance.

I don’t wish illness or pain on those I hate but I have an acute consciousness of their activities and pronouncements.

Someone defined being in love as thinking about the person all the time. Hating also is an absorption with the object of hatred.

I despise but don’t hate terrorists.  Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad: I hate what they do, but circumstances and malign influences have driven them to the place where they find themselves. I don’t utterly discount the possibility of peace.

Even more antipathetic than these are the complacent ideologists of the west, the eminences of political thought and cultural creativity, those who, tweaking the vocabulary of other centuries, rise up against us, as it says in the Passover Haggadah, not once but in every generation.

2 Responses to "The Hate Game"

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  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Similar for me. I left the Lbour Party in 2015, not when corbyn became leader but when he was nominated for the leadership. I didn't think it would ha
  • Garry Maddocks: It makes for sad reading Gillian although you inject a good deal wit in relaying this bizarre production. I had a parting of ways with Labour in 2017
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: I'm going to contact you via Twitter DM about this.
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