Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for October 2022

After the 2019 General Election, a Corbynist line of attack against their opponents in and out of Labour, in the Jewish community and in the media, was that we lied about antisemitism. The typical inquisitor on Twitter asks for evidence of Mr Corbyn’s antisemitism. Only the least cautious ask for evidence of antisemitism from supporters of Corbyn as this is easier to provide. Mr Corbyn was careful for the duration of his leadership, often declaring himself against antisemitism in all its forms. The mural, the irony speech, the friendship for Hamas and Hezbollah, the ‘hand of Israel’ interview, the wreath, the alliances with Stephen Sizer, Raed Saleh and Paul Eisen, the celebrations of the Iranian Revolution, all these things occurred before he became leader of the Labour Party. His inadequacies in dealing with antisemitism have been written about in the EHRC report and, to some extent, in the Forde Report but I think it is fair to say that he exercised some care, while leader, to maintain plausible deniability in the face of very many accusations of antisemitism. No longer leader, Mr Corbyn is freer to speak his mind and suggested in a recent interview with the Al Mayadeen channel of Beirut that Benjamin Netanyahu played a part in his downfall.

The position of Corbynist orthodoxy is that Zionists stopped Corbyn being elected, because he was a supporter of the Palestinian cause. How did we manage this? A frequent suggestion is that we subborned the media but there are more inventive theories involving Rothschild bankers, vote rigging, that we held Corbyn responsible for his supporters’ hostility towards Jews (a reaonable hypothesis) and, above all, that we conflated anti Zionism with antisemitism. There is a continual search for ‘proofs’ of a Zionist conspiracy. A video was circulated of a Jewish activist saying after the last General Election ‘We did it!’ – interpreted on Corbynist social media to mean that we did it through undemocratic subterfuge, rather than through the same electioneering practised by any other activist during an election campaign.

A delegate addressing a Board of Deputies meeting said that Labour would have to sacrifice Corbyn if they hoped to win a General Election. The speaker meant clearly that a different leader would be more likely to win an election. Every Corbynist forum I saw insisted that this speaker had advocated the murder of Corbyn as a human sacrifice, just as farmyard animals were sacrificed in Temple times.

Just recently, Al Jazeera has presented The Labour Files, in which the Labour Party under Starmer’s leadership is called ‘a criminal conspiracy’ and various activists against antisemitism are named as conspirators.

Daily, a Twitter eccentric called Simon Maginn posts a hashtag he invented, ‘It was a scam,’ meaning to say that talk of antisemitism was a cynical ploy of Zionists to stop a supporter of Palestine being Prime Minister. ”Everyone knows it was a scam,’ he insists. ‘It’s been proven. You’re busted. Will you continue with this scam or will you stop scamming and apologize? Yes or no?’ On one occasion, he assured us – the alleged scammers – ‘We’re coming for you.’ Sussex police were called in. Mr Maginn said that they were scammers too.

The scope of the present blog post is narrow, based on my observance of left wing Facebook groups to which I have access. Some are public groups; others are private and I joined them using a nom de guerre. I have been blocked by some groups for contradicting their statements about Jews, Israel and antisemitism and this includes several unofficial Labour Party forums, created during Corbyn’s leadership.

Not all the groups are avowedly Corbynist, an exception being PAIS, Palestinian and Irish Solidarity, which, as its name suggests, focuses on Ireland and the Middle East, rather than Westminster or Islington.

Truthers Against Zionist Lobbies were emphatically pro-Corbyn until they were removed by Facebook for antisemitism, possibly because they had come to the notice of Jennie Formby, then General Secretary of the Labour Party. The administrators of the Truthers group are mentioned for their antisemitism in the so-called Leaked Report of April 2020. They re-established themselves four months later without the header photo of Corbyn, replacing it with a meme of an Israeli flag overlaid with the words ‘Israel has no history, only a criminal record’.

We Support Jeremy Corbyn was different from other similar groups by having at least two moderators who recognized the antisemitism of some comments and intervened against them. However, there are still many antisemitic outpourings in their group and I imagine that it is a losing battle to keep them in check. I appreciate the moderators’ attempts to contain this aspect of their forum. It shows that the connection between Corbynism and antisemitism is empirical not a priori; in other words, they are not inevitably found together but, in practice, there is often a convergence.

As I have written before, the original posts on the JVL forum, while inimical to Zionism, are seldom overtly antisemitic but the supportive comments are almost inevitably so and they are never contradicted by the JVL moderators.

Holocaust revisionism works differently from denial, accepting that the Shoah occurred but arguing that Jews or Zionists were complicit with Nazism; that Churchill was worse than the Nazis or that Israel is worse. The numbers of dead in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (several thousands, over the years) are occasionally multiplied to make the number of Palestinians killed match the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The screen shots below are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. They display threads and comments which I have seen, in some Facebook groups but I am not on TikTok or Instagram. I take it as read that far right groups will be replete with Shoah denial and Hitler fandom. These screen shots are just a part of what I see on Corbynist, Fenian or far left social media. Very rarely does any participating comrade object to overt Holocaust denial. It is more usual for the denials to stimulate further comments, along the same lines.

Next time an antagonist on Twitter asks you to provide ‘just one piece of evidence’ of left antisemitism, I hope you will consider linking them to this post.

Appendix

My finding is that Facebook permits Holocaust denial and hate speech.

As the sun begins to set on Yom Kippur, we sing the hymn,  Anu ameycha, ‘We are your people,’ to a melody which brings tears to the eyes of many in the congregation, weary now, anticipating the end of the fast, welcoming every opportunity to sit down rather than stand.

While the debate seems to go on for ever as to whether Jews are a race, a religion, an ethnicity or a nation, the word people is well supported by biblical and liturgical terminology.

In Tanakh, the name Jews is found in the book of Esther, written no earlier than the period of Achaemenid Persian rule and no later than the time of the Hasmoneans. The name Yehudah elsewhere in the bible refers to Judah the son of Jacob, or the tribe of Judah or the Yehudim, who dwelt in the territory of Judah, and are called Judahites rather than Jews.

עם, am, is the Hebrew word for people, cognate with the Arabic ummah. It occurs about five times as often in the Hebrew bible as גוי, goy, which means nation, a term also applied to the Israelites as well as other nations.

I happened to be at a shiva last night, a prayer service for a friend whose funeral had just taken place. I noticed the recurrence of the words am, amcha and ameycha – people and your people, inflected. I have never seen the expression ‘goyeycha,’ ‘your nation’. Goy is translated in the Latin vulgate as gens.

…et vos eritis mihi regnum sacerdotale et gens sancta

And you shall be to me a priestly kingdom, and a holy nation.

Exodus 19:6

Moses  speaks to God on Sinai:

וּרְאֵ֕ה כִּ֥י עַמְּךָ֖ הַגּ֥וֹי הַזֶּֽה׃

Consider, too, that this nation is Your people.

Exodus 33:13

respice populum tuum gentem hanc.

The Greek Septuagint translates am/people as laos and goy/nation as ethnos. Laos can mean a military force as well as a people.

καὶ ἵνα γνῶ ὅτι λαός σου τὸ ἔθνος τὸ μέγα τοῦτο.

Consider too that this great nation is your people.

In fairly recent times, and in the milieu of social media, it is a daily occurrence to encounter a hostile questioning of Jewish identity. Most common is the hypothesis that Jews from Europe – the Ashkenazim – are not semitic but of a European or Turkic identity: the Khazars. This was suggested in the twentieth century by Arthur Koestler and developed frequently since by those who wish to deny a Jewish connection with Israel. The theory takes as its source the Kuzari of Judah Halevi, who wrote in the twelfth century of the conversion to Judaism of the Khazarian king and his court. When the Khazar hypothesis is put to antisemitic use, it is asserted that Jews are not Jews and therefore have no claim to Israelite history; indeed, it is said that the true Jews are the Palestinians or, as argued by Mr Farrakhan:

You are not real Jews, those of you that are not real Jews. You are the synagogue of Satan, and you have wrapped your tentacles around the U.S. government, and you are deceiving and sending this nation to hell.

A Facebook group called PAIS, Palestinian and Irish Solidarity, defines its ethos thus:

PAIS is the Gaelic for the Passion, the suffering and persecution of the Palestinian carpenter Jesus. The religious element is not important here, but the location of the pain and suffering is. The suffering of the woodcarver from Nazareth has a strong association with the suffering of all Palestinian people.

The violent anti Israel posts of the PAIS group were almost invariably hostile to Jews and the group was much reported for hate speech. Eventually it became a private group on Facebook, visible only to established members. I have written about it here.

Ashkenaz in the bible is one of the territories inhabited by the descendants of Japheth and was the western extremity of the known world. In the Second World War, Jews living and dying under the Third Reich,  sometimes used the name Ashkenaz as a coded term for Germany, much as, in Rabbinic times, Rome was alluded to as Edom.

I often wonder if those who insist that Ashkenazi Jews are not Jewish recognize the Jewishness of Sephardim, Mizachim and Beta Israel. Do they recognize the Jewishness of those murdered for being Jews by the Nazis? I have seen the Shoah described as white on white hostility, a fearfully counter-intuitive description.

From the bible and the liturgy, we are accustomed to the name the children of Israel, Bnei Israel, literally the descendants of Jacob, who was renamed Israel by his divine wrestling partner. In the Mishnah and the Talmud, the name Israel designates the people, whether in the Land of Israel or the diaspora.

כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעלם הבא
All Israel have a share in the World to Come

Pirkei Avot

This saying is the header for all six chapters of Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, the most philosophical and moralistic tractate of the Mishnah.

In France, Israelite is the word commonly used for a Jewish person while in Italy, the usual term is Ebreo, Hebrew. We know that in German the word is Jude and in North and East Europe, there are similar words, all cognate with Yehudim: Polish Zyd and Dutch Jood.

What are we to say to those who strive officiously to tell us who and what we are?

I am not one of the people who deny the Palestinian identity of Arabs from Israel and the territories. The name Palestinian during the British Mandate tended to refer to Jews born in the Holy Land and now obviously has acquired a different meaning, indicating a different identity and culture, the people who speak Arabic but associate themselves with the land, just as we do, the same land, a different claim, often a rival claim.

To say that a non-practising Jew is not Jewish is a misunderstanding, a common misunderstanding by those who have no acquaintance with Jewish environments. My own early environment was Anglo-Jewish, where the elders spoke Yiddish because they had come from Russia and Poland. They gave us British sounding names: Gillian, Howard, Angela, Melvyn. My Hebrew name, Gila, is a name I took for myself and, with the patronymic, it appears on Hebrew documents as Gila Bat Yaacov. During my childhood and long after, my parents were secular; less so in their old age, but the etz chayyim, the tree of life, had been planted among us in antiquity.

Our names are the names we call ourselves.

The Israeli poet Zelda Mishkovsky (1914 – 1984) wrote this poem, Each of us has a name, called in the original Hebrew Lecol ish yesh shem.

Each of us has a name
given by the stars
and given by our neighbors

Each of us has a name
given by our sins
and given by our longing

Each of us has a name
given by our enemies
and given by our love

Each of us has a name
given by our celebrations
and given by our work

Each of us has a name
given by the seasons
and given by our blindness

Each of us has a name
given by the sea
and given by
our death.

לכל איש יש שם

כָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָּתַן לוֹ אֱלֹהִים וְנָתְנוּ לוֹ אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָּתְנוּ לוֹ קוֹמָתוֹ וְאֹפֶן חִיּוּכוֹ וְנָתַן לוֹ הָאָרִיג,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָתְנוּ לוֹ הֶהָרִים וְנָתְנוּ לוֹ כְּתָלָיו,
לכל איש יש שם שנתנו לו המזלות ונתנו לו שכניו,


לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָתְנוּ לוֹ חֲטָאָיו וְנָתְנָה לוֹ כְּמִיהָתוֹ,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָתְנוּ לו שׂונְאָיו וְנָתְנָה לוֹ אַהֲבָתוֹ,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָתְנוּ לוֹ חַגָּיו וְנָתְנָה לוֹ מְלַאכְתוֹ,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָתְנוּ לוֹ תְּקוּפוֹת הַשָּׁנָה וְנָתַן לוֹ עִוְרוֹנוֹ,
לְכָל אִישׁ יֵשׁ שֵׁם שֶׁנָּתַן לוֹ הַיָּם וְנָתַן לוֹ מוֹתוֹ.



  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thank you for reading it Keith. As always, I value your opinion.
  • keithmarr: Gillian Thorough research as always. I always keep these posts and hit any challenge between the eyes. They represent a real armoury of evidence. Bl
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: I can never make up my mind whether it should be illegal and tend to think it shouldn't be. On the other hand, social media could do more to stop it p