Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

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The daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy had the gift of prophecy but was cursed by her ex, Apollo the sun god, so that her prophecies were never believed. In contemporary times, he would probably have resorted to revenge porn. Cassandra foresaw the destruction of Troy and was not taken in for a moment by the suberfuge of a large wooden horse full of Greeks. Who would be, you might ask, but we know the answer. Due to Apollo’s curse, nobody listened to her warnings and, if they listened, they didn’t believe.

It would take some grandiosity to identify myself with Cassandra as I know nothing of the future and what I do say is believed as much as what the next person says.

However, well-meaning persons do sometimes tell me that I’m courting madness by wading through pages of very displeasing social media which I then commit to digital memory and post on Twitter, always hoping that someone in a position to act will find a way of occluding the ever flowing river of … But there!

It seems to me that if I say it, the reader will not believe me.

Why would they believe that the Left, always in the vanguard of the fight against racism, is in the grip of an atavistic kind of antisemitism which we learned with surprise from reading history books, was an inspiration for the Hep Hep riots and the Tsarist pogroms & the Protocols legend and the developments we know about in the twentieth century? The madness of such notions as the Judensau beggars belief and gives rise to the thought that people in the Middle Ages were not just unenlightened but primitive, gullible and daft.

In my nightly visits to Facebook forums (drawn to them much, I suppose, like a libertine to a brothel) which have in common an intense appreciation of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and a vigorous loathing for Keir Starmer, regarded as a puppet of Israel, I am accustomed to see very offensive material propounding the inhumanity/subhumanity/murderous sadism/ cunning mendacity of Zionists/Zionism/Israel/Israelis/the Israel Lobby/the ‘Chosenites’ and the Khazars. Antisemitism is the hatred which dare not speak its name. Only rarely do the members of the forums admit to disliking Jews and, when they, do, they are liable to be corrected (‘Say Zionists, not Jews’), except in the more extreme groups such as ‘Truthers Against Zionist Lobbies’ where anything goes.

‘Palestinians are semites,’ they insist, ‘so of course I’m not antisemitic. Jews aren’t semites. They are a Turkic people, the Khazars.’ Why the hostility to Turkic peoples anyway? Are they immune to the effects of racism? In point of fact, they are saying that Jews are impostors, being anything but Jews, and one is allowed to resent impostors.

Every night there are new memes and old, designed as evidence for all manner of falsehoods: that Martin Luther King, Voltaire, Shakespeare and Socrates sounded off against the Israeli settlements or that Palestine was a Utopian state run by Palestinian Arabs until Jews invaded suddenly in 1948 and took everything. The British Mandate and the Ottoman Empire seldom get a mention.

The charge which comes my way most often from hostile interlocuters is ‘You don’t know the difference between anti Zionism and antisemitism’ often accompanied by the demand that I show them one – ‘just one’ – instance of left-wing antisemitism.

I take that request seriously and often refer them to this blog, where I store some of the pages of rants, diatribes and meme studded rhetoric of which the comrades never seem to tire, no matter how many times they repeat the same assertions, obscenities and anathemas.

What worries the people who worry about me is that I don’t tire either. I make my screen shots, I save, I post, I blog.

Who will listen? There’s a bloody great horse outside the city gates. It was outside and they’ve brought it into the heart of the city but even now, it might not be too late.

There are some stories one should tell only oneself, our stories being tangled with other lives and threaded into narratives of long duration. The strings of solar lights in my tiny garden get tangled amongst the burgeoning jasmine and Virginia creeper and caught on the thorns of two or three rose bushes. I shall need gardening gloves when the time comes to untangle them.

I was going to write about a girl who was at school with me and call her Noelle, which is not her name. We were in the same year, the equivalent of today’s Year Seven or Eight, so about twelve years of age. As I walked to school in my hated brown blazer and beret, there was she, stepping out of her house in her own brown blazer and beret. I would walk with her. She was a quiet, smiling little girl. I was prolix and opinionated and she too polite to let me know.

Fifty years later, we were still in touch. We were not close friends but we had mutuals, friends who were proactive at making contact, sharing news and arranging meetings. So a little group of middle aged to elderly women continued to meet up three or four times a year. I was at her father’s funeral where a woman vicar officiated and ‘Going Home’ from Dvorak’s New World was on the hymn sheet. She was at my father’s funeral where El Malei Rachamim was sung at the graveside and, twenty years before that, she was at my husband’s funeral too.

In the group of half a dozen friends, known to each other since school days, she was the only one who wasn’t Jewish. As the decades had passed, different tragedies had struck all our lives, the way tragedies do, given time. Some but not all had married and had children; some but not all were divorced; some were impoverished, others comfortable.

After fifty years, I separated myself from the group but that story really is wound around the thorns of the rose bush and the wooden trellis where the jasmine and Virginia creeper thrive. It was not about politics, although I believe some may have thought so.

I am aware of Noelle’s Facebook account with its profile photo of Corbyn  and a header picture of a heart with NHS inside it and was not surprised  to come across her name on one of the Corbynist forums. The surprise was that she took up a position in line with Chris Williamson supporters, wanting all those expelled to be readmitted and all those who had accused Corbyn of antisemitism to be expelled. She expressed a wish for apologies from Margaret Hodge, Maureen Lipman and everyone else who had ‘smeared’ the former leader. More alarmingly, she expressed the view that Keir Starmer’s actions were determined by the demands of his ‘moneylenders’.

It has never escaped my notice that vehement elderly white women comprise a significant proportion of activists on the forums and Noelle’s comments have the same timbre as many others. I had assumed that these resident experts on ‘antisemitsm smears’ had little knowledge of Jews or Judaism. But this is not the case with Noelle, who has behind her half a century of attending chuppas and lavoyahs, shivas and bnei mitzvah.

I conclude that she must have meant no harm in that comment about Starmer’s moneylenders or in wanting apologies from those who ‘smeared’ Jeremy.

JVL, despite a plethora of antisemitic hangers on, has at its core a group of people who really are Jewish, but so fiercely critical of Zionism that they make common cause with other critics, given to intemperate tropes and conspiratorial theorizing. Their alarm bells, set off, I imagine, by ‘Next year in Jerusalem,’ work differently to mine which ring out on ‘lobby,’ ‘paymasters,’ ‘chosen people,’ ‘Khazars’ – and even on ‘moneylenders’. If JVL can have such high tolerance for discourse intolerable to me and vice versa, why shouldn’t a non-Jewish person like Noelle feel free to share their perspective, even if she has been steeped in Jewish culture and friendships since 1962?

Was Noelle radicalized against what she would surely call Zionism, separating Zionism, the ‘lobby’, the ‘paymasters’ and the ‘moneylenders’ from the Jewish people with whom she is or was accustomed to hang out?

Are the elderly more easily radicalized than the young?

Is ‘radicalized’ the wrong word entirely?

Are her motives perhaps as tangled as the narrative which separated my own story from hers, irrevocably and immutably, a short time after our sixtieth birthdays?

I made some representations to Facebook this week, reporting items as hate speech. Facebook requires that, when making a report, you categorize hate speech as being against a religion, a nationality or an ethnicity. I was unsure which to go for, so I selected as best I could according to context.

However, Facebook found that even Truthers Against Zionist Lobbies does not go against their community standards. They suggested I might like to unfollow the group so as not to be offended by it or to reason with members of the group, putting my point of view.

My concern about the Facebook groups loosely connected by their continuing idolization of Jeremy Corbyn is not that they attract bigots and antisemites, which they do. After all, bigots and racists have to go somewhere and social media is certainly the place for them. What worries me is the alacrity shown by June, Pat, Sue, Margaret, Janet, Keith, Dennis, Barry and Alan who absorb like blotting paper everything the group teaches them about Jewish control of political parties and institutions and parrot it back in numberless comments accumulating a substantial quantity of ‘likes’. They have even learned to say ‘Zionist’ or ‘Israeli’ (variant spellings included) instead of Jewish; for example, they state erroneously that Keir Starmer’s wife is Israeli and so is Sir Trevor Chinn, because – so they say -they live in fear of being thought antisemitic (more variant spellings than seems plausible). To fault Lady Starmer and Sir Trevor as being Jewish would be antisemitic in their book, so they amend the word to ‘Israeli’ or ‘Zionist’.

There are two or three who argue back. By chance, they happen to be Jewish and they call out the more intemperate examples of antisemitism, conspiratorial fantasy and factual error. It goes without saying that they are dismissed as Zionists but a tendency over the last few months is that they are called antisemites by the Jew haters on the forums. I have written about the inversion of accusations, ‘antisemitic in itself’ being the regular reply when someone defends Israel against the wilder accusations. The title of that blog post is Through A Glass Darkly, written back to front and it can be seen here: https://neviimtovim.com/2020/07/02/ylkrad-ssalg-a-hguorht/

Who are June, Barry, Alan, Margaret et cetera, who do not produce original posts but offer ready support to those who do? Sometimes, they write a little bit about themselves. Some are in their seventies, some over eighty. Many were Labour members for decades (like myself! Who knew they were there?); others joined only for the sake of Mr Corbyn. None of them will support Labour now as they know it is run by Tel Aviv and that Keir Starmer does the bidding of the so-called Israel Lobby.

How could they know such a thing?

The answer is crystal clear. They read it on Facebook. The young may be reading school textbooks crammed with historical errors but the Facebook elderly have social media as their University of the Third Age.

Like Twitter and Instagram, Facebook is too big to be controlled but they profess that they have community standards. Let us remind them from time to time, or hatred will be the death of us.

Foreword

How do I introduce this collection of screen shots, threads and comments from Corbyn supporting forums, during the forty-eight hours of a Twitter walk-out? In the wake of the Wiley scandal, it is quite startling to see the same outpourings as those voiced by the Grime musician, with the difference that the words Zionist and Israel are substituted for Jews. This substitution makes any assertion permissible, however irrational and offensive. If anybody objects to the terminology, the generalizations and the premise of global Zionist power, that person is said to have a harmful Zionist agenda and, according to some comments, to be complicit in murder. They are shown memes and links to articles decrying Israel. If they challenge the information or its provenance, that is regarded as clear evidence of their Zionism. It is a terrible thing to see it unfolding in real time. I was fortunate to miss Wiley’s tirades as they happened and to learn of them afterwards, when they hit the news. Wiley and the forums – they are not dissimilar, but the forum supporters believe themselves above reproach. If one of them carelessly refers to Jews, rather than Zionists or the Zionist Lobby, they are admonished by the more experienced comrades, ‘Be careful because the Zionists may be watching and they will weaponise it.’

*

A religious fast lasting twenty-five hours has a low point which occurs about nineteen or twenty hours into the fast, when hunger has kicked in but the end is not yet in sight. Coming up on Wednesday night is the fast I don’t like but observe, for reasons which are not going to be the subject of this post. This is Tisha b’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem in 587 BCE and of the second Temple in 70 CE. The memorialization of other catastrophes attach themselves to Tisha b’Av and it occurs after three weeks called ‘between the straits’ so it is experienced as a sombre period every year during high summer.

Prior to this year’s fast, there has been another deprivation, the forty-eight hour Twitter walk out with the hashtag #NoSafeSpaceForJewHate. This was instigated when Twitter and Instagram failed to act swiftly against a series of tirades from the Grime rapper Wiley, who targeted Jews in tweets and videos, for a period of two days. The forty-eight hour withdrawal, currently being observed by thousands of Twitter accounts, is not so much a protest against Wiley’s insistence on the reality of evil Jewish power, but against the hospitality of social media to expressions of Jew hate.

Many MPs, celebrities and members of the clergy have shown solidarity by withdrawing from Twitter on Monday at 9am until tomorrow, Wednesday moening, but our usual detractors are unimpressed.

‘What about Katie Hopkins?’ they ask. ‘What about Tommy Robinson?’ ‘What about Israel?’ ‘Where were you when…?’ ‘How do Palestinians feel…?’

In reply to tweets mentioning Chief Rabbi Mirvis’s support for the walk out, someone has posted a picture of a Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Sephardi Chief Rabbi in Israel, known for using offensive racist language.

‘This one?’ asks the tweeter pithily, above the photo of Rabbi Yitzhk Josef, suggesting that he and Chief Rabbi Mirvis are one and the same. Nobody has replied with an even pithier ‘No’ because we are on the forty-eight hour silence. The chances are that the tweeter knows Rabbi Mirvis is not Rabbi Yosef but is hoping someone will be goaded into breaking the silence.

Meanwhile, on all the Corbynist forums on Facebook, Jews and our malign influence are once again virtually the only subject. The trigger this week is that Keir Starmer has overseen an apology and a settlement with the Labour staff featured in John Ware’s now Bafta nominated Panorama programme, ’Is Labour antisemitic?’ Keir Starmer is condemned on the forums as a Zionist puppet paid by Israel, the proof being a donation to his campaign from British Jewish philanthropist Trevor Chinn. The question is asked, who paid the judge? By way of an answer, there are links to the Al-Jazeera film The Lobby, in which an employee of the Israeli embassy boasts of influence over UK politics to the then MP Joan Ryan.

Last night, someone posted an article from two or three weeks earlier, about Richard Millett’s case of defamation against Jeremy Corbyn passing through the first stage in the High Court. This also triggered many expressions of outrage about ‘Zionist scumbags’.

Another topic which appeared on all the Corbynist forums last night was the Go Fund Me project, set up by a lady called Carole Morgan to cover Mr Corbyn’s legal costs, should he choose to fight back against the Panorama whistleblowers, John Ware the journalist and Richard Millett, the irony-free Zionist. This has reached £300,000 although some of the donors have displayed joke names, particularly of prominent Jews such as Bibi Netanyahu, Lord Sugar, Rachel Riley, Margaret Hodge or non-Jewish adversaries, Keir Starmer, Boris Johnson and, in the last five minutes ‘the pig Cameron fcked’. Some of the supporters on the forums declare that they will make regular donations to the fund, out of their modest incomes. It is not certain how the money will be used, but Mr Corbyn is said to be ‘in touch’ with Carole Morgan who said:

‘Although Jeremy did not know beforehand that I was going to start this campaign, Jeremy’s office has been in touch and he is deeply touched by this outpouring of love and support from you all.’

Aol.co.uk/news/2020/07/27

In recent weeks, there has been pushback against antisemitism on the forum called ‘Jeremy Corbyn should have been Prime Minister.’ Four Jewish people have said that antisemitism is alive and well in the group, way beyond legitimate criticism of Israel. These four are all critics of Netanyahu, the settlements and the Likud Party. Nevertheless they are dismissed as ‘paid trolls’. Their comments are treated by the group as hostile, just as they would be on a forum of the BNP, the National Front or any far right anti-Jewish milieu. They receive replies in the form of anti-Israel memes and slogans. They are asked to take responsibility for strictures against Palestinians. Their view that antisemitism is prevalent on Corbynist forums is utterly rejected and attributed to their underhand Zionist agenda.

This is the second day of the forty-eight hour silence and, like the afternoon of a fast day, it begins to feel uncomfortable.

Wiley, ‘the godfather of Grime,’ is not unusual in the views he expresses. On the Corbynist forums, many of the comrades have learned to be prudent. Someone expressed a wish for Rachel Riley to be hanged and was rebuked by a more seasoned member, who pointed out that there are people screen capping the threads and the optics would be bad. If an inexperienced supporter complains about Jews, they are advised kindly to change the word to Zionists. The Jewish Labour Movement and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Chronicle and all Jews who speak out even once against antisemitism are referred to as Zionists. Then a meme or a photo will appear, to underline the supposed inhumanity of Zionists.

There seems to be no way out of the circle. If you say there is a problem with left antisemitism, you are a Zionist, a liar and probably paid by Israel. If a Jew donates to the campaign of a Labour politician such as Keir Starmer, David Lammy or Lisa Nandy, he is a proxy for Israel and proof that they have been bought. If a judge finds for a plaintif against a Corbynist or against Mr Corbyn himself, they ask rhetorically who has paid the judge. If a news outlet runs an exposé of Labour antisemitism, that is proof of Israel’s control of the media. Anything disobliging revealed about Mr Corbyn is proof of his martyrdom and sanctity.

‘They fear him because he cannot be bought.’

Like very many Jewish activists, I would like to know who bought me. And who bought my buyers? As with the buying and selling of real estate, it seems as if there should be a chain free buyer somewhere along the line. A plaisanterie shared by everyone I know engaged in the same battle against antisemitism is that our cheques have been lost in the post.

And lastly, a member of ‘Jeremy Corbyn Should Have Been Prime Minister’ explains to Daniel, who complains of antisemitism in the group, that Israel is a racist endeavour and that Daniel himself is an antisemite, mistaking their righteous ‘abhorrence’ for Jew hate.

The religious needs and experiences of individuals have been matters of abiding interest to me for about half a century. I feel disappointed when I learn that a television series called Primates is about monkeys, not archbishops; when Luther turns out to be a moody detective rather than an equally moody theologian and I note the existence of a film called End of Days, but don’t watch it as I suspect it is an action movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Due to rebarbative aspects of social media, I have in recent years sometimes been called ‘Christ-killer’ and ‘supremacist’, either because I’m Jewish or because this passes muster as legitimate criticism of Israel, for which I am considered a proxy.

‘Supremacist’ lingers in my mind more than ‘Christ-killer’ and I ask myself this question: isn’t it quite usual for people of faith to believe themselves beloved of God or that the practice of their faith is a proper way to live their lives?

‘Seek the peace of the city to which I have brought you,’ God tells the prophet from Anathoth (Jeremiah 29:18) . Thus also with faith: there is a tendency to believe the faith we are born into and pray in that language.

This is an age when faith loses hold of imagination and a view like that of Lucretius holds sway,  that religion crushes, leads to crimes, wars and ‘the foul impieties of men’:

quod contra saepius illa religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta

(De Rerum Natura 1:80)

If you remove religion from society, some will go underground and practice in secret. In our relatively free society, many, perhaps the majority, believe that religion is an affront to reason and they are free to discard it, which is as it should be, freedom being better than compulsion.

There are those who would replace religion with the concept of historical necessity or any ideology of right or left, which promises a teleological fulfillment, a working out of things in a distant future time.

I contemplate the deification of Jeremy Corbyn on certain social media sites. I have written before about the frequency of the word ‘crucifixion’ used by Corbynists to describe the election losses and Mr Corbyn’s resignation as Leader of the Opposition. A crucifixion needs a Pilate, a Caiaphas, possibly a Tiberius and definitely a Judas and it needs a crowd of extras: Jews shouting ‘Crucify him, crucify him.’

Many were crucified but Jesus was a case apart, Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum. Being called ‘King of the Jews’ makes the crowd’s choice of Barabbas somehow implausible but we have had two millennia in which to ponder the inconsistency.

The epic narrative of the New Testament pervades the posts, threads and memes of Corbynist social media. Corbyn himself is seen as above and beyond all ordinary men. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was Corbyn. The comrades speak of his return to bring about a reign of justice and fairness, which no other person – not even John McDonnell or Richard Burgon can achieve. They were only ever mortal disciples.

Thus, I read with some horror the avowals of faith, juxtaposed with an obsession with Israel and Zionism as an unworldly evil, comparable – and, in Corbynist groups, very often compared – with Satan.

I can see clearly the beauty of Christianity and Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Jainism and the Bahai faith. Obviously I see the beauty of my own religion, Judaism. But the adoration of the former Labour leader looks to me like trouble. A Corbyn government was averted by a clear General Election result. Many Corbynists say it was rigged, by a combination of media lies, fraudulent counting and perfidious Zionists and speak of the present government being overthrown. Perhaps they see an End of Days on the horizon. Maybe I should watch the film with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It can’t be as bad as anything the Corbyn worshipers have up their sleeves.

 

This week, I have what we call yahrzeit for my husband David Gould, that is to say, he died at this time of year. He died of cancer on 16 July thirty years ago, at the age of forty-one. Our children are now in their forties and late thirties and we still mourn. At the synagogue via Zoom this morning, many people spoke about their memories of David, an occasional leader of prayer services in the community, beautiful voice and beautiful appearance. Our rabbi said ‘I came to this community many years after David died and saw how people still spoke about him and still referred to you as Gill Gould.’

There is a lack of continuity in my names. Ten years after David died, when I was fifty, I married Mr Lazarus. We divorced, amicably enough, and I still wear his name, partly for logistical reasons – passport and bank account -and partly because I find it euphonic. Nasty people on Twitter sometimes compare me to Lazarus in the gospel of Saint John but not in a good way. Well, that is Twitter.

My name was Pressman. That was my father’s name and my mother’s but my sister and I got married and the name has disappeared from our inmmediate family. My first marriage was to a Mr Neuer, a name mispronounced on both sides of the Atlantic, so I have had four surnames and none of them really belongs to me. In Hebrew, my surname is Bat Yaacov, daughter of Jacob. Gila Bat Yaacov is the name on my ketuvot, the Hebrew marriage certificates, and the name by which I get called up to the reading of Torah in synagogue.

Most of us have numerous names. I am also called Mum, Auntie and Granny. Some of us have pet names and diminutives. Some are called names by bullies and internalize the name.

There are graves of unknown soldiers, commemorated by the epitaph, ‘Known to God.’ God also has many names, seventy-two, I believe is an estimate of the number, and answers to all of them.

‘Everyone has a name,’ said the poet Zelda Mishkovsky. Here is a translation of her poem and below that, the original Hebrew:

Everyone has a name
given to him by God
and given to him by his parents.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his stature
and the way he smiles.
and given to him by his clothing
Everyone has a name
given to him by the mountains
and given to him by the walls.
Everyone has a name
given to him by the stars
and given to him by his neighbors.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his sins
and given to him by his longing.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his enemies
and given to him by his love.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his holidays
and given to him by his work.
Everyone has a name
given to him by the seasons
and given to him by his blindness.
Everyone has a name
given to him by the sea and
given to him
by his death.

One of the most striking features of Corbynist social media is an obsession with denying antisemitism. One might think that the Corbynist rump would therefore eschew firing accusations of antisemitism at anyone, but the opposite is the case. With surprising regularity, they accuse Jews and our allies of antisemitism. Keir Starmer, they assert, conflates Israel and Jews. JK Rowling creates goblins who are bankers. Boris Johnson writes a book which allegedly (I haven’t read it) uses lazy stereotypes.

In the screenshot above, Andrea makes doubtful use of the connective ‘therefore’. Premises and clarifications seem to be missing. If the criticism of Israel takes the form of ‘Drop dead dirty Tory Zionist traitor,’ also as above, it isn’t necessarily vindicated by omitting the word Jew. Then there is the reference to a Jewish donor who contributed to Keir Starmer’s campaign: a paymaster rather than a donor, as Michael sees it. As long as they use the word Zionist rather than Jew, they feel the comments are untainted by antisemitism and if we find anything amiss, we are ‘conflating’ Israel with Jews.

The trope about Jewish wealth goes back to medieval times at least and is one of the most recognizable – one might think. Here in the UK and now in 2020, not a day goes by on social media without someone claiming that a person the speaker dislikes or distrusts is in the pay of Israel. Left-wing social media (the far right wing obviously have their own specialités de la maison), are usually careful to say Zionsts rather than Jews. As I’ve documented many times, they offer tropes as follows:

Power: media influence, infiltration of political parties, domestic and abroad. Payrolling of Western institutions, political and cultural (overlaps with wealth trope).

Cruelty: Israeli-Palestinian conflict; blood libel, organ trafficking

Treachery: Acting against interests of domicile.

Mendacity: Telling lies about Jeremy Corbyn and anyone on the left accused of antisemitism. Subheadings, the Panorama documentary, Jewish journalists (overlaps with control of MSM), propaganda aka hasbara

Fake identity: Khazar theory, not Semites, colonialism, True Torah Jews are anti-Zionist.

Racism: Israel as Jewish nation, white supremacism, apartheid, treatment of people of colour who are Israeli citizens

Arrogance having the word ‘antisemitism’ as a sign of privilege over BAME people. The word ‘chosen’

Corruption Tax evasion, venial business practices, predatory behaviours, eg Epstein, Weinstein.

The particular aspect of antisemitism which has been on my mind for a few days falls under the heading of mendacity, not the lies told about us but the trope that we lie and the lies they say we tell.

On Corbynist forums on Facebook, the word antisemitism is usually found adjacent to the words ‘smear’, ‘lie’ or ‘false’.

What kind of people, the online Corbynists ask, are these ‘Zionists’ who lied about a saintly, even godlike man such as Corbyn?

Evil people, evidently: ‘We know they are liars, because they lied about antisemitism in the Labour Party. Nothing we say is antisemitic as it is actually about the Israel Lobby and it is antisemitic in itself to infer that it is about Jews.’

 I italicised those words because they appear so regularly, returning like a boomerang in reply to any challenge of the above mentioned tropes.

To those who were offended by the Mear One Mural, Corbyn’s defenders said, ‘Of course those old men with big noses don’t look Jewish. It is antisemitic in itself to make the connection.’

Following Keir Starmer’s sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey from the Shadow Cabinet, the view from the Corbynist side of the bridge is that Starmer is weak, giving in to the ‘Israel lobby’; that he is paid by Israel, a puppet of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Labour Movement and the comrades sometimes remark that he has a Jewish wife, adding the exculpatory ‘Just saying’. Recently, someone posted ‘Starmer has an Israeli wife,’ perhaps thinking that substituting Israeli for Jewish would make the sentiment anti Zionist rather than antisemitic. It also made it false, as Lady Starmer is not Israeli.

On 29 June, the editor of the online Corbynist paper Skwawkbox lodged a formal complaint of antisemitism against Keir Starmer, for conflating Jewish people with actions of the Israeli government in breach of the IHRA code. This reminded me that, after Labour accepted the full IHRA conditions, which Corbyn had initially resisted, left wing social media positively teemed with accusations against Margaret Hodge, Tom Watson (who was supportive in the fight against antisemitism) and Stephen Pollard (editor of the Jewish Chronicle) , saying that antisemitically they conflated Jews with Israel. The IHRA conditions had been accepted, but when one door closes, another opens: they could use it – they thought – to punish Jews and our allies.

The conversation can go like this.

A: Zionists run all the political parties in the UK.

B: That’s antisemitic.

A: No it isn’t. It’s criticism of Israel which you’re conflating with Jews, which is antisemitic in itself.

Someone who says that the Rothschilds lost Labour the election or that Israelis did 9/11 is likely to answer, if challenged,  that this is criticism of Israel, and if we can see anything wrong with it, we must be an ‘Israeli shill’. A notorious example of myopia was the case of Thomas Gardiner, Labour’s head of Complaints under Mr Corbyn, who looked at a cartoon of a monster, marked with a star of David, smothering the Statue of Liberty, and deemed it acceptable criticism of Israel.

Corbynists on social media imply over and over again that to recognize the tropes is antisemitic in itself. It must mean we, not they, associate Jews with money bags and big noses. They, who post this sort of Stürmerei, are innocent of antisemitism they say, because it didn’t occur to them that the caricatures have anything to do with Jews and there must be something wrong with us, if we make the connection. They may admit that the image caricatured Zionists but, they say, many Zionists are not Jewish and many Jews are not Zionist. So honi soit qui mal y pense, yah boo, sucks.

Today a gentleman on Twitter called me a Zionist pig, among other things. If you oppose antisemitism on social media, you will be sent images of Netanyahu as, for example, a blood soaked puppeteer. Why do they assume we have a favourable view of Mr Netanyahu? The answer is easy. In their opinion, we would not be opposing antisemitism if it wasn’t for our love of Bibi – or the remuneration which allegedly he makes available to all of us. Wouldn’t we oppose it because it’s racism? No, we lie about it, because it isn’t racism and it doesn’t exist.

Thus, by complaining about the use of a Latuff cartoon, one might qualify to be sued by The Skwawkbox or the Canary for objecting to it and thereby conflating Jews with Israel.

I have been called a racist for making unfair generalizations about Corbynists, specifically, logging and displaying antisemitic comments from Corbynist groups on Facebook. I was generalizing and implying that all Corbynists hold such views, said Mr L, who, by chance, held precisely such views.

I sometimes think there are people who post about Israel all day long in ever more extreme and irrational terms (calling Israelis subhuman for example), in the hope that someone will call them an antisemite and then they can reply ‘Zionist fanatic’. Their crazed posts concerning the Labour MP for Barking are, they insist, about Israeli interference in UK politics. But Margaret Hodge isn’t Israeli. I don’t know whether she’s much of a Zionst. Her maiden name, they point out, was Oppenheimer and that’s a paid Israeli shill sort of name, if ever there was one.

What David Hirsh called the Livingstone Formulation is now an axiom among the Corbynist rump: if you complain about antisemitism, you must be lying and up to no good.

Since Black Lives Matter has been at the forefront of global consciousness, we are more frequently called white supremacists.  Some of us display BLM hashtags in our bios, but nevertheless we are said to be white supremacists because we are apologists for what they call apartheid Israel.  If it we object to a cartoon of a hand, a star of David on the cuff, dropping coins into a money box labelled Westminster, we are apartheid apologists.

Thus there is nothing opponents of antisemitism can say which isn’t turned around and mirrored by those who deny such a thing exists among the disappointed but not yet despairing Corbynistas.

They profess standard values.

They are against cults, specifically, the cult of Keir Starmer. What made them even dream this up, if not that they heard the expression ‘Corbyn cult’ many, many times, absorbed it and produce it now as a projectile attack on those intending to vote Labour (which, since Sir Keir became leader, is inexcusable in the eyes of many Corbynists)?

They are loyal to the leadership but only if it’s Corbyn. Starmer was disloyal to Corbyn, worse, is said to be a Zionist, so is not worthy of loyalty and should be punished for treachery.

They are for free speech and abhor the witchhunt perpetrated against the left by Zionists, Blairites and Tories who accuse them falsely.

Witch hunters are those who call anti-Zionists ‘antisemites’ and are the particular enemies of those expelled or suspended from Labour, who see themselves as victims. If you argue against the prevailing Corbynist geist on social media, you are a witch hunter. Witch hunters should be neither seen nor heard. As they see it, we are always the hunters and they are always the hunted.

I am conscious that the term ‘Corbynist’ is no longer quite right. It’s a misnomer, calling people Corbynists, when Corbynism is not an ideology or a set of beliefs. It is rather more a confederation of loosely associated followers, Trotskyists, Stalinists, the underprivileged, the academic, far right antisemites, far left antisemites, Jewish anti-Zionists, Islamists, Christian human rights workers, the sentimental, the revolutionary. the opportunistic and the gullible. These are just some of the groups who have nailed their mast to the cause of Jeremy Corbyn, four months gone from the Labour leadership but marching on as tirelessly as in the gif which depicts him in his Newsnight hat, striding jauntily towards the camera. The movement which flourished under his aegis is still vigorous and they have added to their list of enemies – the Zionists, Blairites, Tories and neoliberals, LibDems and Centrists – they have added to these the name of Keir Starmer who seems set to rival Blair as their most hated Labour leader.

It would be easier for us opponents of antisemitism here in the UK if we weren’t always being challenged about Israel. The planned annexation of a part of the West Bank is going to hit us in the diaspora, as they charge us British Jews with land theft and, as always, murder. But of course, their purpose isn’t to make it easy for us. Making it hard for us has been finessed by that part of the Labour left which is now politically homeless, just as centrists were homeless when Corbyn was the leader. One can understand their point of view: if they don’t make it about Israel, how are they going to brush us off as hasbara, remunerated out of an infinite supply of shekels from the Bank Leumi?

The screen shots below are all from the last two or three days on Facebook.

For anyone accused of antisemitism, the standard reply is, ‘I will not cease to stand up for the oppressed Palestinian people, even if I am persecuted for it by Zionists making false accusations.’

This fits almost any charge of antisemitism and permits any trope, well-worn or contemporary. I just happen to have seen this, which I consider projection in action.

The charge from the Corbynist left against Keir Starmer, Margaret Hodge, Wes Streeting, Ed Miliband, Stella Creasy and Nia Griffiths is that, by opposing Labour antisemitism, they conflate Israel with the Jewish people. Reason sleeps.

The Equality and Human Right’s Commission’s investigation into institutional antisemitism in the UK Labour Party has not yet been published at the time of writing, 14 June 2020, and is not likely to be in the public arena for at least six weeks, possibly longer as evidence continues to be reported to EHRC.

In the meantime, there is the leaked report which seems to have been produced by the team of the former Labour General Secretary, Jennie Formby. This appeared during the last days of Mr Corbyn’s leadership and is thought to have been intended as a representation to the EHRC, to vindicate Mr Corbyn and Ms Formby in their efforts to contain antisemitism in the Labour Party. The leaked report included numerous private emails which passed between Labour staffers working for Iain McNicol, Labour General Secretary from 2011 until February 2018. The leaked emails showed that staff exchanged conspicuously unkind remarks about the party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the executive director of his office Karie Murphy and others close to Mr Corbyn. Also targeted in the private emails was the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott.

Participants on Corbyn-supporting sites on Facebook have interpreted this aspect of the leaked dossier widely as follows:

They believe that Zionists and Blairites employed by the Labour Party were hostile to the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn and his team; that they opposed them in ways detrimental to the election campaigns of 2017 and 2019 and that Zionists and Blairites stopped Labour winning the two General Elections during Mr Corbyn’s incumbency.

As there is no place for subtlety in the blogosphere, I will state that I believe the Corbynist fixation on Jewish power is a manifestation of antisemitism, reassembled by the left out of the ashes of far right twentieth century Judenhass, into the populist form of Israel-critical Jew hate which comes at us from right, left and, it must be said, with great sadness, often from the centre.

Author[s] of the leaked document maintain that staff hostile to Mr Corbyn hid the realities of Labour antisemitism from him, to entrap him into inaction over the problem, until Jennie Formby became General Secretary in February 2018. Thus a plethora of news items, newspaper headlines, editorials, letters to the press and television news coverage in the UK and abroad were concealed from Corbyn by Lord McNicol’s staff, before Jennie Formby succeeded him as General Secretary. It is possible to fault this reading of events.

The leaked report goes on to itemise Jennie Formby’s actions when grappling with the problem of antisemitism among the membership. This included expediting the expulsion of controversial figures such as the then MP for Derby North, Chris Williamson and Jackie Walker who had been a member of the Momentum Steering Committee.

Far from resenting Ms Formby’s role in their expulsion, Mr Williamson and Ms Walker consider that it is due to Zionist forces assuming control of Labour Party processes.

When, two months ago, I read through the voluminous pages of the leaked report, I saw mention of a topic close to my own heart. Ms Formby had appealed to Facebook to take down some of the grossly antisemitic groups which used Jeremy Corbyn’s name and picture as a selling point, to attract members. One of the most extreme groups, Truthers Against Zionists [sic] Lobbies was closed down in December 2019 and its administrator, Rita Allison, was suspended or expelled from the Labour Party. According to her recent tweets, Ms Allison considers that Zionists caused the closure of hard line Corbynist groups on Facebook. Rachel Riley is mentioned by Jennie Formby as having reported the Truthers group to Facebook. I had done so myself, many times. Numerous people reported Truthers Against Zionists Lobbies to Facebook for its frequent holocaust denial, antisemitic cartoons and Hitler apologetics. Nevertheless, it seems that Ms Formby struck the coup de grace and that is to her credit.

Still, the remaining Corbynist forums insist that the leaked report proves that there was never any antisemitism in Corbyn’s Labour Party. They say that Keir Starmer has suppressed the report because it exonerates the previous leader and his office. Referring to the unkind references to Diane Abbott in emails between staffers, they want Labour investigated for institutional racism against everyone except Jews.

There is one aspect of this which disturbs me most. It seems that Joe Public does not know the difference between the forthcoming EHRC report and Jennie Formby’s leaked dossier. I do not suppose that the person on the Clapham omnibus thinks about it at all, but those who support Corbyn and reject Keir Starmer seem to think the EHRC report has been and gone, that it exonerates Corbyn and shows that there was never any antisemitism in Labour but that this was a lie put about by renegade Jews, Blairites, Zionists, UK Jewish communal organizations, the Israeli Embassy, Mr Netanyahu on his day off, Gnasher Jew, Mr Collier and Labour Against Antisemitism, in order to prevent a Labour government which would make the Palestinian cause its priority. The person they put most definitely in the frame for the Conservative electoral victory in December 2019 is Sir Keir Starmer himself. After all he has admitted to participating in a Friday night Kiddush. What more need be said?

Surprisingly – or not – Jennie Formby tweeted a link to Jeremy Corbyn’s recent interview with Middle East Eye, in which he claims to have been sabotaged by people pretending that antisemitism was a problem during his leadership of the Labour Party. If this is what Jennie Formby believes, how does she feel about her 860 pages, ending with the exhortation ‘Never again!’ Surely she cannot have forgotten so much so soon.

Below are some of the pages from the leaked dossier, some recent pages from Corbynist forums on Facebook and a short extract from Mr Corbyn’s interview with Peter Oborne and David Hearst for Middle East Monitor.

It has been claimed that during his spell as a sub-editor on The Times, Claud Cockburn and colleagues competed (with a small prize for the winner) to write the dullest printed headline. Cockburn only once claimed the honours, with “Small Earthquake in Chile, Not many dead”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claud_Cockburn

Locked down I may be, but I’ve had an eventful week on social media.

An energetic tweeter and blogger widely perceived as antisemitic entered into a conversation with me, explaining that he felt as insulted by the epithet antisemite as I do by antisemitism. When somebody describes their feelings, they are generally being more honest than when they tweet sarcastic gibes or laughing-crying emojis and I was mollified, even after one of his recent controversial tweets about the Chief Rabbi.

If there’s one thing I have in common with Jeremy Corbyn, it’s my belief that talking to the enemy could be the shortest path to peace. Bearing in mind that Mr Corbyn refused to enter a room when Chuka Umunna was sitting in it, I realize he has his limits and I do too. I tested my own limits by replying politely to an email I received a few years ago from Alison Chabloz, although I turned down her sarcastic invitation to meet for a chat and a coffee.

The day after my civil Twitter exchange with the provocative but emotionally intelligent tweeter/blogger, I found some offensive tweets in my notifications, from his followers or associates. Deploying the “talk to anyone” principle, I engaged with one of them, who seemed to have a nice side to his personality but the hour grew late, we were not reaching an understanding and I blocked. This angered him and he continued, blockside, to tell his friends that he felt dirty having engaged with the scum of the earth and with ultra right-wing ‘innocent killing, Jesus murdering filth’.

You win some, you lose some.

The next day, I saw the administrator of a relatively moderate Corbynist group on Facebook calling out fake news and doing it very well. I have said before that an honest, well-meaning administrator can make an enormous difference to the ethos of a Facebook group. While most of the posts on his forum concerned the tragic killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, one post showed a soldier or policeman kneeling on an injured child and the text below the photo stated that the officer was an Israeli killing a Palestinian. The Spanish words on the officer’s uniform did make me wonder about the location of the event but Michael the administrator went further and identified the uniform as Chilean. Someone else researched the picture and found that the child, thankfully, survived. Members of the group were not one whit interested in the photo being from Chile. On the contrary, they continued to talk of the Israeli’s brutality and the murder of the child. To his credit, Michael and others as shown, explained over and over that the photo was not from Israel. My screen shots below show the trajectory of the ensuing conversation.

Regarding the gentleman who called me a Christ-killer, I have a screen shot for that too. Pilate may not have been a Chilean but I assure you, I never even met the man.

Some weeks later, on 7 July, the same photo appeared on another forum, ‘Jeremy Corbyn Should Have Been Prime Minister.’ This time, nobody saw the Spanish writing on the wall and the comrades got stuck in against Israel, at will.

Update: at last, news reaches Recognising Jeremy Corbyn’s Dedication to a Just Society that they’ve got a Chilean police officer in the photo. But as Jenny is quick to assert, ‘Israeli soldiers do use this horrendous method of restraint.’ How does she know? If the comrades don’t know that Spanish isn’t Israel’s first language, I’m not sure how much they do know.

News breaks first on social media and I heard of the murder of George Floyd on one of the Corbynist forums. There was a picture: a diptych showing two scenes of men constrained by a uniformed figure. One of them was George Floyd in Minneapolis and the other was a Palestinian, unnamed, being held down by an Israeli soldier, also unnamed.

Soon after, I learned that George Floyd was unarmed and that he pleaded with the aggressor for his life as his breathing was disrupted and stopped.

As we know, protests ensued in the United States and here too in the UK. President Trump has gone on the offensive and is threatening to call on the army. The police officer has been charged with homicide and there may be charges against three other officers present at George Floyd’s death.

I felt inclined to post a message of solidarity on social media, but held back. I was troubled to find that the picture of an Israeli soldier holding down a Palestinian was being posted on Twitter and Facebook as an accompaniment to the photo from Minneapolis. Whether the Palestinian man was armed, whether he suffered any injury during the arrest, is not known. To juxtapose the picture with that of George Floyd is to suggest that the Palestinian was unarmed, wrongfully arrested and possibly killed. It will be assumed that this is the case. I then imagined some of the responses which might come my way if I tweeted about George Floyd: ‘What would you say if it was Israel?’ I wondered if this would be a reasonable question or not.

And what would I say? In the case of Gaza’s ‘March of Return,’ it was asserted in some of the press and some social media that Israel fired on unarmed demonstrators. I didn’t altogether trust the reportage. Afterwards, Hamas claimed the victims as their own activists. It was evident from all the news footage that some of the demonstrators were using burning tires, incendiary kites and Molotov cocktails and that some of them aimed to storm across Israel’s border. A Palestinian activist was filmed saying that he looked forward to murdering Israelis once he had broken through.

Regarding what I would say about a hypothetical homicide perpetrated by an Israeli officer on a Palestinian: the answer is that I would say nothing if I read it in Middle East Monitor, MintPress, Skwawkbox, The Canary or Electronic intifada. Such stories appear daily in the Corbynist groups I follow on Facebook and the source is usually one of the above. Sometimes it is Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper which is increasingly referenced on anti-Israel sites, due to its opposition to the settlements and to Mr Netanyahu’s government. Perceived affinities between these bêtes noires can cause an overlap in subject matter. Thus, expressions of solidarity with black Americans may segue into threads about Trump’s alliance with Netanyahu or his regard for Boris Johnson.

Like many of my friends active against antisemitism, I have become accustomed to being called an apologist for apartheid, complicit in murder and other terms of abuse which mercifully I can’t recall. Now that I want to voice a protest about the death of George Floyd, I am put off somewhat by the prospect of myself being accused; that my solidarity would be rejected by spokespeople of the left, who participate in the fight against most racisms but not necessarily racism towards Jews or, for that matter, Hindus. But that is not really a good reason for saying nothing (Three hours later, I did post a tweet in solidarity and, so far, nobody has objected).

All these months, while coronavirus has raged, health services across the world have provided assisted breathing for patients in intensive care. Then we hear that a police officer causes the death of a man who has time to plead ‘I can’t breathe’ while the policeman fails to relent or relinquish his hold. And this kind of event is doubtless a menace familiar to black people, especially men, all over the USA and very likely to some extent in the UK.

The words ‘I can’t breathe’ now reverberate around the world with a resonance beyond any statistic because the one thing we all have a right to, it seems, is breath.

Words for soul in Hebrew, Latin and Greek (nefesh/neshama, spiritus/animus and pneuma/psyche) all have to do with breathing. In the book of Genesis, in the second account of the creation, this is how God makes the human being, Adam.

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

In the valley of bones, God tells Ezekiel:

Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.  Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.

We feel the tragedy, the rage and the fear gripping America and know that African Americans are more endangered, more enraged and perhaps mourning more deeply than anyone else. It touches us here in the UK. The more removed you are from a situation, the less you can do, but you can always mourn, whoever and wherever you are and, as the Archbishop of York John Sentamu suggested in his Thought for the Day broadcast this morning, I placed a candle in the window.



  • Tell Facebook | Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus: […] There are two or three who argue back. By chance, they happen to be Jewish and they call out the more intemperate examples of antisemitism,
  • L.Sordo: They always strike me as being immature, semi-literate and gullible.I assume they're late teens or under 30 left school at 16 as did I. I read every
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thanks, L Sordo. One word I question here - 'kids'. Many of these participants are mature, one might say senior individuals. Observing over a period o