Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Author Archive

I’m aware that publications hostile to Israel have, for at least ten years, been publishing stories with the headline ‘Settler runs over Palestinian child.’ There are some variations. They may say ‘Jewish settler’ and occasionally the victim will be a woman but, several times a year, the headline will specify a child, boy or girl, age 5 or 8 or sometimes a teenager. Usually, the running over is described as deliberate and the consequence as fatal.

These stories then acquire a momentum of their own, appearing on anti-Israel and anti-Jewish social media. Reports of a road death in April will run for a couple of months before being replaced by a new story with the same headline but citing a different location in the disputed territories. The child may be a different gender from the previous victim and a year or two older or younger.

I became aware of the regularity of these reports by perusing online Corbyn-supporting forums. Once the report has been posted, members of the forum vie with each other in expressing the greatest possible outrage, which always involves imputing inhumanity to the Israeli settlers, Zionists and very often, Jews in general.

I googled on ‘Settler runs over Palestinian child,’ and copious items appeared, all originating from Middle Eastern sources and getting plentiful exposure on English-language forums. I selected one report for each year and made a collage of screen shots, shown below, which is how I usually display antisemitism on Corbynist forums. I then tweeted the image.

It wasn’t until today that I realized a tweet didn’t permit enough words for me to explain the significance of the collage. I deleted my tweet. I thought perhaps someone would take the reports at face value, and believe that settlers deliberately run over Palestinian children on at least a quarterly basis.

If we are not there, how can we know what’s happening? How can we know what isn’t happening? Nevertheless, for the members of, for example, ‘Truthers Against Zionists [sic] Lobbies,’ such reports confirm everything they already believe.

The report I saw yesterday was in fact on the Truthers Against Zionists Lobbies forum, alongside some gross examples of holocaust denial, so these are not people with any kind of credibility and the reports of regular infanticide by murderous drivers are extremely suspect.

It takes more than a tweet, I realize, to make this clear

settler car

tazl 19 july

A month later, there are new ‘Settler runs over child’ stories doing the rounds. Someone on  Twitter yesterday posted a photo of a child with fatal injuries, said to have been inflicted by a settler in a car. I also found an article debunking one of these accounts. Yet still they come.

settler story

As a young married woman, I liked getting newspapers delivered, especially as I was at home with the baby for most of the day. I got the Guardian, the Radio Times, the Jewish Chronicle and the Observer. My parents used to get the Daily Herald, the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Jewish Chronicle.

Later on, the Guardian’s animus towards Israel donned its high-visibility jacket and I switched first to the Independent, then The Times.

For a while in the 1990s, I stopped getting the Jewish Chronicle because it reported with depressing regularity on antisemitic incidents and the fervent anti-Zionism making an appearance in universities and trade unions.

I got a computer in about 1994, because I needed a word processor and Hebrew software (Dagesh. Anyone remember it?)  for my master’s thesis.

Newspapers were expensive and I gave up hard copies but I worked for WH Smith and saw all the newspapers at work. In the canteen on my lunchbreak, I’d spread them out, tabloids and broadsheets, and compare front pages. The tabloids had headlines about celebrities and royal personages and sometimes they had news about people whose names I didn’t recognize:  chauffeurs and butlers of the royals, footballers’ wives, celebrities’ other halves.

At some point there was the transition to getting news from online sources. I also began to use online dictionaries, English and other, rather than balancing a large tome on my knees. There was something called My Space which seemed to be hard work and Friends Reunited where people aired grievances about unkind teachers of years gone by.

Then there was Facebook, as we all know, and Twitter, recommended by Stephen Fry as being good fun, so I joined it in 2009.

I didn’t encounter the term MSM, meaning Mainstream Media until the resistible rise of Jeremy Corbyn, although the online alternative media appeared mostly before 2015. Some of these alternative sources of news saw the light of day in the period of the Conservative/LibDem Coalition and came into their own in the age of Corbynism.

Another Angry Voice was established in 2010 as an alternative to the mainstream press. Steve Walker’s The Skwawkbox first appeared in 2012  and Kerry-Anne Mendoza’s The Canary in 2015, with Evolve Politics created the same year. Aaron Bastani’s Novara Media goes back as far as 2011.

Meanwhile, some Corbynist ‘brocialists’ – the angry not-so-young men of the left – contribute regularly to the Guardian, Owen Jones foremost  among them, even though the consensus on Facebook Labour forums is that The Guardian is a Zionist rag.

The BBC is denounced daily by both right and left. At the present time, the Corbynist left are infuriated by BBC1’s Panorama, which showed John Ware’s film about interference in defence of alleged antisemites from the Labour leader’s office. Infuriated is an understatement. They are organizing against the BBC, John Ware and the whistleblowers who appeared in the programme. There are petitions on the go and a forum called The Prole Star has posted a request for Corbynist Jews to testify in an alternative film, defending Corbyn. It should not be difficult to find volunteers. Jewish Voice for Labour, Free Speech on Israel and Just Jews exist only to defend Corbyn from charges of antisemitism and to attack those who accuse him. There is a discernible overlap of members so it is possible that the total membership of all three groups does not exceed the membership of any one of them.

It seems that all sides have a beef with the BBC. My own is as follows. When Southern Israel comes under attack from Hamas rockets, I hear about it from Israelis, tweeting from their shelters. The BBC does not report it until Israel fires back, generally after a day or two of rocket fire from Gaza; then the BBC runs a headline along the lines of ‘Israel has attacked Gaza.’

There is such a stigma attached to tabloid newspapers that one is reluctant to cite them as a source for a story, yet it was the Daily Mail which did much of the legwork on the ‘Wreathgate’ story. The culpable history of the Mail is mentioned very often by Corbynists: the Mail’s support for fascism in the 1930s and, more recently, their absurd attack on Ralph Miliband as part of their offensive against Ed Miliband but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. I’ve become accustomed to being asked ‘Did you read that in the Fail?’ (a derogatory nickname for The Mail) when I refer to Labour antisemitism, although only very rarely did I read it in The Mail.

I used to watch Channel 4 News regularly as I liked Cathy Newman and Krishnan Guru-Murthy, but was put off by seeing Jon Snow shouting ‘Fuck the Tories’ at the Glastonbury Festival of 2017, the year of Oh Jeremy Corbyn.

Speaking to HuffPost UK about the report, Jon Snow said in a statement: “After a day at Glastonbury, I can honestly say I have no recollection of what was chanted, sung or who I took over 1000 selfies with”. (from NME, 28 June 2017)

I admire hugely the well-informed, intelligent television journalists who are despised by Corbynists: Laura Kuenssberg, Andrew Neil, Jo Coburn, Emily Maitlis, Robert Peston, Andrew Marr, Emma Barnett.

I search out newspaper articles by Corbynsceptic journalists such as Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch, Raphael Behr, Jonathan Freedland, Jessica Elgot, Janice Turner, Nicole Lampert and many others.

I listen to radio or television news most of my waking hours now and, while I listen, I read news online. Twitter is very often the first source of breaking news.

I exercise self-discipline to turn away from news. There are books to be read, good television to watch, pictures to paint and, even more importantly, I have a family.

I tend to switch off news items about the suffering of children: items about illness, statelessness, child abuse, murder. One does not have to know about everything.

The most offensive thing said to me by hostile Twitterati is ‘child murderer.’ Anyone Jewish will be called this name, unless they denounce Israel. It can happen if one posts about antisemitism, even when the Israel-Palestinian conflict has not been mentioned. I get sent pictures of mortally injured children, accompanied by tweets, telling me that Israel has done it and often they add considerately that they hope I can sleep at night.

Antisemitism is not about what Jews want it to be about. It is the antisemites as always who choose the parameters and they have made it about Israel.

There is no getting away from the fact that the news makes me sad. My children and friends often say they wish I would look less and be less sad, but I don’t think it can be done.

It is Friday and the sun is in the west.

Shabbat shalom.

 

 

If someone calls me stupid or old or quips about the name Lazarus (a valued gift from my ex-husband), I can shrug it off.

If they use pejorative language from the modern lexicon for abusing Jews, I get angry.

The modern lexicon, as opposed to the traditional dictionary, includes ‘supporter of apartheid’ and ‘apologist for child murder’ which references their perception of Israel and attributes to me or like-minded people the features they believe they discern in the State of Israel.

There are at least two possible answers here. One is that I don’t control events in Israel. Another is that they have a false perception of it as uniquely racist and murderous. If I go with the first, I allow them to get away with the usual calumnies. If I go with the second, I allow them to set the parameters of the conversation as being about Israel.

When the suspension of Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North, was discussed on BBC Question time, a gentleman in the audience said:

The Jewish community is very vociferous and obviously they feel they’re being hurt but what’s happening with the Palestinians – the siege, the torture, the kidnappings? I’ve never heard a Jewish community complain about that.

Members of the panel responded to the attempted tainting of ‘the Jewish community,’ but not to the damaging hyperbole about Israel. I don’t blame them. It isn’t easy to extemporize a brief response to both points.

Tweets about the iniquity of Jews depress me. Before Corbyn, they tended to come from the far right; now from both right and left.

Tweets about the iniquity of Israel depress me and are harder to answer, as I am in what Judah Halevi called the edge of the west. (He meant Spain and I’m in London but the expression serves.) If they show an image of an injured child and claim that it illustrates Israeli cruelty, I can query the provenance of the photo, the context and even the authenticity but I can’t swear that it isn’t from Israel unless, as has occurred before, the soldiers are in Guatemalan uniform.

If someone tweets to me that I’ve judged them unfairly, that they didn’t mean what I thought, or understand the implications of their words, I try to listen and give them credit for their serious answer. Any transition from bitterness to civility is both valuable and rare.

I aroused ire by tweeting sympathetically about Kevin Spacey and was persuaded by the responses that I’d been wrong, but didn’t delete my tweet. I’ve tweeted my pro-Remain opinions and been rebuked by Brexiteers whose opinions I value. It doesn’t bother me.

I’ve been called an antisemite by antisemites. That does bother me, because I know it’s a ploy, which can confuse the innocent bystander reading the conversation. It is like a Monty Python sketch set in a psychiatrist’s room where two men wrangle over which one is the psychiatrist and which one the patient. Of course, both claim to be the psychiatrist.

I dislike formulations such as ‘weaponising antisemitism,’ ‘hasn’t an antisemitic bone in his body,’ ‘just because he supports the Palestinians.’ I dislike the term Khazar which is used by both far right and far left. Presumably someone in the world really is a Khazar, and good luck to them.

I don’t tolerate islamophobia from any side. The tweeter will pick out some disreputable deed and attribute it to all Muslims: racism’s modus operandi since time immemorial. They will quote the Qur’an to imply bigotry in Islam. The bible can likewise be quoted, to the apparent detriment of Judaism and Christianity. Orwell can be quoted to his disadvantage and TS Eliot more so; Dostoevsky and Dickens and – not that one cares – Hilaire Belloc.

Nobody likes being on the end of sarcasm but I do produce sarcastic tweets, probably daily. It’s something to bring up when the Selichot season gets underway.

Twitter can be our friend. We can discuss films, books, music, TV, sport, philosophy, languages, recipes, if we find an amenable account. I have made friends. Soup has changed hands and drinks have been consumed.

’The whole world is a very narrow bridge,’ as Nachman of Bratslav pointed out.

כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד.  והעיקר לא לפחד כלל.

The whole world is a very narrow bridge and the main thing is to have no fear at all.

If Rabbi Nachman had tweeted this, he would have garnered so many likes, but there still would have been somebody calling him a Khazar.

This is too long to tweet but perhaps too short to blog.

Scene: Sainsbury’s, Winchmore Hill

Gillian, standing by the newspaper rack, reaches up for the Jewish Chronicle on the top shelf. She usually reads it online but wants a hard copy of an article of particular interest. Noticing a headline about kashrut, she realizes that this is last Friday’s edition.

‘Not very good for animal rights, is it?’

Gillian turns to see a small, fifty-something woman, smiling with her teeth but not her eyes.

Gillian (face has frozen into G-d knows what expression): Why do you say that?

Woman: You know they cut their throats and hang them upside down?

Pinteresque pause

Woman: Like with halal.

Gillian: Would you want to prevent halal slaughter?

Woman: (no longer smiling) No…you can’t stop people doing what they want, can you?’

Gillian: No

Resume first person. I swept past her, without taking the Jewish Chronicle, walking quickly. I did not linger by the grapefruit to see if they had pink or only red and yellow; I felt for some reason a need to put distance between myself and that woman. In fact, I felt a wish to complete the shopping and leave the store, to go home.

Even in  the car, my foot went down harder than usual, bearing in mind that I’m a senior citizen who has only once been done for speeding.

On the way to Sainsbury’s, I’d been thinking about my cousin who, at the age of seventy-five, has decided to make  aliyah, ‘to live my remaining years in Israel,’ were his words.

When I reached for the Jewish Chronicle, the thought was in my subconscious that a stranger would comment, yet when I heard the woman speaking to me, I half expected her to say ‘Price of a kosher fowl is something shocking these days.’

But no. It was ‘They cut their throats and hang them upside down.’

Look. I eat meat once, maybe twice a year so I’m de facto vegetarian most of the time. When I do eat meat, it does indeed have the hechsher of the London Board for Shechita.

Maybe the woman was being friendly. If I’d reached for today’s Financial Times, would she have said ‘Private equity is going great guns today’? If it were the Radio Times, would she have commented ‘So Judi Dench is 84? Looks marvelous doesn’t she?’

I don’t know. I just know that if it had been the FT or Radio Times, it would have been a whole different scenario. I didn’t buy the JC today because I remembered that this week’s edition would be out tomorrow. Maybe I’ll buy it in Sainsbury’s in Winchmore Hill.  It seems to be a bit of an ice-breaker. Lol.

At the time of writing I am displeased but intrigued by the fact that someone on Twitter has created an unfriendly parody of me. The avatar is a cartoon of a thin faced blonde woman with enormous breasts radiating lasers. The tweets are sexualised with mildly pornographic imagery but, worse than this, they target other accounts which are friendly to me and which are active against online antisemitism.

This morning in my synagogue, my thoughts turned to the person – likely a woman – who runs the parody. I imagined myself reaching out to her via a tweet, along the lines of ‘I expect you’re motivated by loyalty to a friend who you think has been badly treated.’ The ‘friend’ in question is an equally aggressive account.

I then reflected further on the projected reaching out. It would be disloyal to my own friends who are also targeted by this account, which goes under the name of – I have to check – GillianRazorLaserBoobs. Furthermore it would be passive-aggressive virtue-signalling, which is not a good option.

For so long, the topics of this blog were biblical prophets, reflections on Kings Hezekiah and Josiah and three separate posts about the books of Enoch, categorized as Old Testament pseudepigrapha. It comes as a surprise to me, to find myself writing about a pop-up Twitter account called ‘Laser boobs’.  By contrast with my scribblings on Enoch, where there was not much likelihood that Enoch himself would be paying attention, these words may well be read by the author of ‘Laser Boobs’ who may even parody this very blog post in her ribald Twitter account; again so unlike Enoch.

Home from synagogue, I read her tweets of today and was struck again by the malice towards people I esteem, so any thoughts I had of reaching out dissolved in her steamy ill will.

Do I feel personally threatened? Not at all. Do I feel that the Laser Boobs account is threatening? Yes. I think her intention is to threaten and to intimidate.

There are problems arising from anonymity. I use my own name as, when I opened my Twitter account ten (is it really ten?) years ago, I expected to engage in conversations about Shakespeare, John Le Carré and the Pre-Raphaelites. If I were opening an account now, I would choose anonymity as a matter of security. However, anonymity causes speculation about true identity. There is guesswork and hubristic false identification. Gender is not revealed. The power of penetrating anonymity becomes an end in itself, in these Twitter wars of attrition.

Due to prolific reporting, the hostile account is likely, I hope, to be suspended by Twitter before long, but another will pop up, an ad hoc parody from the same stable of someone I know or of someone I don’t know.

Rarely, but sometimes, an intense argument on Twitter can be closed with civility. At such times, it seems to me, both parties want to be free, to walk away and resume their own affairs, put the kettle on, watch Line of Duty, compose an email about a council tax miscalculation, take the dog for a walk or maybe even – though less likely – phone a friend. Then one types the words ‘We aren’t going to agree on this.’ Occasionally one or other participant will say ‘Thanks for being civil.’ Once these words are exchanged, one feels a degree of goodwill towards the antagonist: gratitude that the altercation didn’t become worse and that they departed in peace. I have even had this resolution from time to time with people I considered antisemitic.

Yet still I don’t know, do we want our adversaries to go in peace, leaving us to pursue our work and our leisure, to give some attention to our families and our friends? One can be pacific or one can appease and there can be no doubt that Chamberlain gave appeasement a bad name.

One can hold out a conciliatory hand, but we only have two hands and I do not want to let go of the hands already holding mine.

 

June 2019

 

The name of a poor child killed this week is known to us here in the UK. She was Seba Abu Arar, a baby not yet two years. Some output from Palestine Islamic Jihad and Gaza News seem to indicate that the death resulted from friendly fire, that a Hamas rocket, whose intended target was as many Israeli civilians as possible, exploded at the wrong time or in the wrong place. Here in the UK, suppporters of Mr Corbyn are dismissing this as Israeli propaganda. In the fog of war it may not be certain either way.

Supporters of Hamas in the UK will not doubt that it was an Israeli rocket and none more sure than Tommy Corbyn, son of the Labour leader. Such is his certainty that he has posted a picture of the dead child on Twitter and said that this is Israel’s doing. His timeline has been swamped with replies, some quoting sources from the PIJ and Gaza News to show that this was not, after all, Israel’s doing, but the argument can never end there. ‘These news sources are secret Israeli operations,  the hasbara machine’ explain those who want to stand up for Tommy.

So there is not much certainty. Meanwhile Tommy continues to fly his controversial tweet, although it has been reported in the news and criticized by many as a blood libel.

The nature of blood libels was always about usage, not criminal investigation. The purpose always was to disseminate an idea of Jews being other than human, diabolical, existing to do evil.

I’m sure Tommy would think his tweet is a long way away from blood libel. He would cite Jewish friends – because there must be a few young people in JVL or Jewdas who would be acceptable companions – who are as sure as he is that the reports of friendly fire can be discounted.

It is hard work insisting on a state of affairs of which one has no direct knowledge. Nevertheless Tommy had not taken down his tweet last time I looked, just before writing this post. I am not aware that he posts images of children killed in any other conflicts where, tragically, the numbers are so great that the names of victims never reach us. Without certainty, he accuses Israel and only Israel, a procedure which, it goes without saying, he will have learned from his father, the Leader of the Opposition.

In a still more recent tweet, the boy asks for contributions to a Palestinian  medical charity, using his forthcoming birthday as a fundraising opportunity. If the money he raises goes towards a new rocket launcher for Hamas, let us hope and pray that the rockets land in an empty field.

 

 

 

I

england flag

There are some who think Leon Uris punched above his literary weight with Exodus, his 1958 novel, recounting the journey to Mandate Palestine undertaken by holocaust survivors.

The refugees sail to Haifa aboard a ship renamed Exodus and enter Israel illegally according to the terms of the British Mandate. Within a year, the United Nations vote for partition and the State of Israel is created. The book tells of the lives of the characters, in the ghettos and camps during the war, on the difficult voyage and after settlement in Israel. There is also a back story about two brothers who make their way from Tsarist Russia to Ottoman Palestine before World War One.

Otto Preminger made a film of Exodus in 1960. The book and film were enormously influential, depicting horrors of the holocaust through the experiences of sympathetic characters, the significance of Israel as a place of refuge and the hostility of Israel’s neighbours to the Jewish State.

I just watched the film again, in connection with this blog post which has the working title ‘Flags’. I wanted to see if a certain scene, memorable since 1960, was still affecting, given that the film is imbued with some of the sentiment and stereotype of its time.

The setting is 1947, before the United Nations voted for the partition of the territory.  The Haganah – Israel Defence – has organized the escape of 611 Jewish survivors of the Shoah, being held in a detention camp in British Cyprus. They have acquired a down at heel ship called the Olympia and brought the refugees aboard with a view to sailing to Palestine – and the name Palestine is used by all in the film to designate the homeland to which Jews and Arabs both lay claim. When the British blockade the harbour to prevent the ship from sailing, the Haganah and the refugees  aboard theOlympia/ Exodus commence a hunger strike.

The flag of the Star of David is raised and flutters from the flagpole, while a non-diegetic orchestra plays Hatikvah. Within the narrative of  survivors of genocide struggling to reach a place of greater safety which they can call home, it is as affecting now as it was then in 1960. The film goes on to depict both amity and violent hostility between Jews and Arabs in post war Mandate Palestine. It does not gloss over the violence of the Irgun against British army personnel, killed when the Irgun blew up the King David Hotel. Characters are depicted with broad brush strokes: the saintly, the heroic, the well-meaning, the stupid, the broken and the adamantine.

flag exodus

The script of Exodus was written by Dalton Trumbo, towards the end of his years on the  Hollywood blacklist. The film appeared the same year as Trumbo’s other great epic, Spartacus. Otto Preminger, Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas all played a part in restoring Dalton Trumbo’s reputation under his own name in the American film industry

I set out in this blog post to write about the emotive potency of flag flying. I was going to mention the famous photo at Iwo Jima and the triumphant fluttering of the Seven Samurai’s banner in Kurosawa’s film.

samurai

The Star Spangled Banner depicts love of the flag as love of country.

Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

Any questions you might want to raise about the displacement of the indigenous population, the global role of the United States or the incumbent President are legitimate but the human response to a flag is under the jurisdiction of the heart. iwo jima

The office of the Communist Refoundation Party in the Castello district of Venice displays the words 7 Martiri, referring to seven hostages killed by the German occupiers in 1944, as a reprisal for the death of a German soldier. The hammer and sickle is displayed to this day on the door of the building as well as on the red flag – the Soviet flag – which flies from a flag pole to the left of the entrance. Just a metre further left is an altar, depicting the Sacred Heart.

The juxtaposition of Communist flag and Catholic altar interested me and I painted it.7 martiri

Flag waving is not restricted to nationality, politics and ideology. A flag is often above eye level, causing the raising of the eyes. In the Passover song Adir Hu, God is likened to a flag or banner, ‘Dagul hu,’ meaning to say ‘He is exalted’. In the book of Numbers, each of the tribes has their own banner, their degel.

We know – at the very least, from films we have watched – that enemy flags strike fear and detestation. Thus it is with the swastika.

It was reported in The Times today that a Labour party candidate posted on social media that she wanted to vomit on seeing the Israeli flag.

Indeed, Labour is so partisan at the present time on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that a mass of Palestinian flags was unfurled at the Labour Party Conference in 2018. Did those present feel the exaltation of looking upwards at a symbol of their ardent beliefs and identification? Or were they just experiencing jouissance in showing us Jews that our time in Labour was done, unless we renounce the Star of David, our chosen symbol since – and this is the terminus ante quem – an eleventh century manuscript of the Hebrew bible, known as the Leningrad Codex. labour pal flags

When I was born, here in London, my aunt in Australia sent over a tiny gold Star of David for me to wear in due course, as a necklace. I wore it often, including under the wedding canopy, but later it was lost; I do not know how.

I have not so far said a word about the Union Jack, which I like to see on display at the Last Night of the Proms, or the England flag which I find inspirational at the time of international football fixtures, or the European flag, which is visible every day outside Parliament as long as this Brexit crisis persists.

proms

One may be roused by many flags, including those of other countries, especially when we want to show solidarity with them. The impact is always visual but there is often an aural accompaniment such as a national or political anthem, a band or an orchestra.

I have sometimes posted images of flags of other countries when they come under terrorist attack: France, Belgium and possibly more.

There must be a roaring trade in enemy flags in those countries where public flag burnings are customary. It does seem a pity to obtain flags with a view to igniting and trampling.

burning flags

As a general but not invariable rule, it is better for multiple flags to fly alongside each other. That way we can look up at our civic buildings and see the precious symbols of our own and other communities, flying side by side.

all flags



  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: I've approved your comment Jones, rather than trashing it. It seems to me a snapshot of contemporary online exegesis. Can you say something about you
  • Jones: You're just a typical white racist tory who has no problems with Windrush deportations or tory Islamaphobia. You get no support from the BAME communit
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: Thank you Joanne!