Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Archive for March 2023

The toxicity of diverse Corbynist groups on Facebook, in terms of antisemitism and hate speech, is fluid rather than static, depending often on personnel: the moderators and the frequent contributors. A group called Supporting Active Socialism displayed many antisemitic posts by a contributor who wrote as John Bernard or John Spannyard Indaworks. When Keir Starmer became Labour leader, the founder and moderator of the group, a Mr Smith, stated that the forum would now support the new leader rather than Jeremy Corbyn. The ambience changed and Mr Indaworks was no longer seen in that group. I had some exchanges with Mr Smith about what counted as antisemitism, which he seemed reasonably keen to avoid, although he must have had some suspicions of me as a Zionist infiltrator.

Many of the Corbynist groups focus on the iniquities of the Conservative and Labour Parties,with particular animus against Keir Starmer. In the posts and threads about Sir Keir, the accusation of Zionism is usually raised, as well as speculation about the receipt of shekels. The individuals posting these comments do so again and again, revealing a level of obsession which may not be shared by other members of the group. In a group of 20,000, fewer than a hundred are likely ever to contribute to the discussion and perhaps half a dozen do so several times a day.

The private group ‘Just Socialism the Corbyn Way’ currently features daily, sometimes hourly, posts from Yunus Elias whose memes are usually taken from Middle Eastern presses and blogs hostile to Israel. Mr Elias’s name has been attached to overt Holocaust denial but this seems to predate his activism on left wing forums.

Another private group, ‘We Support Jeremy Corbyn,’ had moderators who were unusually alert to antisemitic comments which they often confronted, even banning at least one person when he responded with verbal aggression. Nevertheless, they were not able to contain all the antisemitism of their members. It was a pillar on which support for Mr Corbyn rested.

In some groups, ‘Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn’ for example, rage and sentimental devotion jostle for prominence. On some days, posts about evils of the UK, the USA and Israel predominate while a photo of Mr Corbyn produces a hundred or more declarations of love and loyalty, generally couched in repetitive terms such as ‘The greatest Prime Minister we never had,’ ‘They fear him because he cannot be bought,’ and ‘Ohhh Jeremy Corbyn!’ As I never tire of pointing out, parallels are often made with Corbyn and the life of Jesus, the crucifixion and the resurrection. Mr Corbyn’s initials are regarded as an uncanny indication of godliness although nobody has suggested that Jesus’s middle name was Bernard. Instead of the annunciation,we have Mrs Corbyn Senior’s presence at Cable Street in 1936.

One of the most offensively antisemitic groups, ‘PAIS: Palestinian and Irish Solidarity’ went from public to private after being reported frequently for hate speech. They posted a meme showing rats with an apology that ‘Zionist trolls’ were present. On going private, they clamped down on membership and I was not able to gain access. PAIS, founded by an activist in County Down, was not particularly in thrall to Jeremy Corbyn but their antisemitism was virulent, including some Holocaust denial and many expressions of joy when Israelis, civilian or otherwise, were killed.

‘Truthers Against Antisemitism’ has been run for several years by Marino Robles, Rita Allison and Mahmoud Tashvishi, all of whom are active in various other Corbynist groups on Facebook. Originally, their header photo displayed Mr Corbyn pointing with a baleful finger but there was some Facebook intervention and the group closed, reappearing after a few months with a new header, a mock up of the Israeli flag displaying the words ‘Israel has not history, only a criminal record.’ Marino Robles and Rita Allison are both cited in the ‘Leaked Report’ of April 2020, as being expelled from Labour for antisemitism while Jennie Formby was General Secretary.

The JVL group on Facebook posts almost exclusively about Israel or the raw deal its members receive from Keir Starmer’s Labour. For any given post, the supporters’ comments tend to be markedly and crassly anti Jewish, in excess of the original post. It is a mystery that the JVL moderators allow some of the material. I speculate they may understand that people with such opinions are a supporting wall of their own organization, just as they are for Mr Corbyn.

Participants in Facebook political groups are likely to be older than those who post on Tik Tok and Instagram and this demographic is evident in the Corbyn groups, where participants declare themselves very often to be septuagenarians or octogenarians. One can infer this too from their phraseology, their photos and even their names.

The more static these groups, the more closed they are to differences of opinion but I have seen changes which have turned the ambience around, generally when a Labour supporting group has ceased to campaign for Corbyn and thrown in their lot with Keir Starmer’s Labour. From his first day as Labour leader, Starmer took a stand against antisemitism and many Corbyn loyalists left the party or were expelled from it.

Tony Benn used to say ‘Look at policies not personalities,’ and Corbyn has sometimes quoted this but politicians gain and lose power on the basis of personalities and this is even true in Facebook groups, in microcosm.

The screen shots below are representative of many more in similar vein.

  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thank you Keith.
  • keithmarr: Dearest Gillian < div dir="ltr">Not only do you manage to read all this filth without throwing up but you manage to make me laugh
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Unless they are members of the group in general agreement with the Labour manifesto of 2019 but against the excesses which are often found in these gr