Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

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I used to open the book of Psalms at random, looking for inspiration, and was often disappointed to find the author, usually King David, calling on the Almighty to vanquish his, David’s, numerous enemies.

They swarmed about me like bees, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.(Psalm 118:12)

This wasn’t the verse I was looking for. Generally, I was seeking something to help with a little mild depression. If Saul had written psalms, they probably would have suited my purpose.

Even now, this minute, I open Psalms just to see what will come up, and find:

Thou hast been a refuge for me, a tower of strength in the face of the enemy. (Psalm 61:4)

I follow a Twitter account which quotes ‘They swarmed about me like bees’ in his or her Twitter bio. I can’t remember the name of the account but, like mine, it’s one of those active against online antisemitism. If you mention antisemitism on Twitter, they will swarm about you like bees, make no mistake. If you link antisemitism with Corbyn’s Labour, they will sting if they can.

A journalist from the Jewish Chronicle was kind enough to mention me in an article about fighting antisemitism. The next time I saw my rabbi, the first thing he said was ‘Have there been any repercussions from that article?’ There had not, but a little time has elapsed and I find it is sometimes mentioned in unfriendly accounts.

Twitter is a rough playground. Prior to my activity on Twitter, I wasn’t accused of anything worse than being unworthy of my driving licence. Nowadays, angry tweeters sometimes call me a murderer or a mass murderer, an apologist for infanticide and, more frequently, the paid agent of a foreign power (one whose national anthem starts with the words ‘Kol od balevav’).

My own experiences of hostile reaction on Twitter are a microcosm – a nanocosm – of those who are prominent in the fields of entertainment, journalism, and politics; celebrities in other words. This month, a young Jewish woman, famous for her television appearances, is the victim of the usual accusations, insults and gibes, because she has spoken about the problem of antisemitism on the left. It makes me inexpressibly sad to see the torrents of ill will which have come her way.

A Jewish lawyer who happens to have a debilitating physical illness received tweets wishing for his death. He replied in kind and was penalized by the Law Society. On Twitter, an enemy will ‘dox’ (or is it ‘doxx’?) you if they can, contacting your employers, especially if you are a professional or hold a position of responsibility.

This is not something I personally have to worry about, as a retired Waterstones grunt, but I worry a great deal about the possible injury to others who fight the good fight.

Rabbi Lord Sacks, esteemed for his scholarly books promoting interfaith harmony,  last year accused Jeremy Corbyn of antisemitism, following the ‘English irony’ video.  The obloquy from some of  Mr Corbyn’s supporters was eye-wateringly vindictive. Rabbi Sacks had made a provocative and courageous statement and it gave comfort to some who were afraid to say as much openly. I thought, ‘Now that Rabbi Sacks has spoken about it, they’ll understand.’ That was very far from the truth.

I have seen my own name and profile photo, like a Wanted poster, on the Twitter timelines of people who block me. They warn others about my account and say I am in league with their most feared adversaries.

There is a comfort in online solidarity – being ‘in league’ – for all of us, on all sides. This is true for me and true for those who post about me from behind a block. Yes, one feels friendship for a supportive group – for any support at all, because the fact is, they do now swarm about us like bees. I understand that these ‘enemies’ see us likewise as swarming around them and around Jeremy Corbyn. I can imagine what that feels like and the anxiety they suffer is not to anyone’s advantage. These people who call us ‘Chosenites,’ ‘Khazars’ and ‘Zionazis’ nevertheless are the enemies I have now acquired.

Post Script

We are now in the year 2019; Mrs May’s deal for Brexit has been defeated and her government has survived a vote of no confidence. Social and political divisions are increasingly acrid and I am immersed in Twitter wars of attrition where, as I tweeted a day or so ago, the enemy faints not nor faileth. I received a little more attention than usual, positive and negative and some prominent British Jews are being bombarded with negative attention, because they have taken up a position against Labour antisemitism. Mr Corbyn continues to enjoy the support of some Jewish individuals who devote themselves to discrediting those who oppose him. This is not a division of orthodox and Reform, nor even of Zionist and ‘meh about Israel,’ nor of Brexit and Remain nor of Labour and Conservative. The divisive notion is Jeremy Corbyn, generally perceived as very good or very bad and not much in between. Myself, I have no doubt that he is very bad.

Those who’worship the trousers that cling to him’ use invective such as ‘fascists’ ‘supremacists’ ‘smear merchants’ ‘shills’ and, recently, ‘child-groomers’ and some of  Corbyn’s Jewish supporters participate vigorously in derogating the anti-Corbyn Jews, brushing shoulders with hardcore antisemites in their earnest defence of the Labour Leader. The forum ‘Truthers Against Zionists Lobbies’ which I archive on this blog includes one or two contributions from Jewish bloggers.

Each side claims to be representative, either of the ruakh, the spirit of Judaism or of the Jewish community. People in the circles in which I move are anxious and speak of Corbyn as a threat, so to my mind, his Jewish supporters are a small minority.

Each side knows the arguments of the other side so well that bingo cards are devised, citing the expected arguments of the opposing Z group or the J group, where J is for Jeremy and Z, I don’t need to say.

When I began this blog post, a couple of weeks ago, I was remembering the Jewish tradition, in desperate times, zog tehilim – say psalms when all else fails.

I open my book of Psalms and am awed to find that that the Psalmist seems to have knowledge of Twitter.

64 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; 

preserve my life from dread of the enemy.
Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
    from the throng of evildoers,
who whet their tongues like swords,
    who aim bitter words like arrows,
shooting from ambush at the blameless,
    shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
They hold fast to their evil purpose;
    they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, “Who can see them?”
    They search out injustice,
saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.”
    For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.

Yes, I know there are some who think of me as the secret plotter, whetting my tongue like a sword. All of us are all this to our enemies. Can there be a time when our own Jewish community in the UK are not at loggerheads, whether over the ordination of women, over Israel and the Palestinians, or over Jeremy Corbyn? Bechayeichon uveyomeichon: in our lifetime and in our days, speedily may it come.

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In the General Election of 1966, Oswald Mosley represented his fascist party, the Union Movement, in the constituency of Shoreditch and Finsbury.

I was aged sixteen and a member of International Socialism, which became the Socialist Workers Party. A group of us went to heckle Mosley. The comrades were older than me, some of them teachers at my school and I hearkened to their words. They said that Mosley liked to pass himself of as a man of reason, a patriot, and that he would try to appeal to the casual racism of his audience.

There would be no point in attempt Read the rest of this entry »

The Facebook Forum called ‘Truthers Against Zionist Lobbies’ has as its header a picture of Jeremy Corbyn, arm extended and finger pointing, as if with righteous indignation. The tagline of the group is ‘We support Jeremy Corbyn not Labour Friends of Israel.’

Regulars on the forum may not be members of the Labour Party and it seems likely that many are posting from abroad: North and South America and from the Middle East. Nevertheless, the administrators describe themselves, just under the header picture, as defending the integrity and objectives of the Labour Party. I include this group statement in many of my screen shots.

I am posting here the collages which I made to get as much as possible on each image. I still have the raw screen shots, but these are so numerous as to be unwieldy.

The posts shown here appeared on the Truthers forum from October to December 2018 and are ongoing.

Now I’m going to start uploading the images. Here we go, here go, here we…

I’m putting the most recent image first. The context is that Israel’s unmanned spacecraft Beresheet made a crash landing on the moon the previous night, 11 April 2019.

12 apr tazl15 apr tazl

18 march tazl

 

 

 tazl 4 feb use

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When antisemitism gets into gear, whether on the right or the left, there is usually someone who will refer to The Chosen People and their perceived iniquities. When you see this phrase on one of the online forums, you know it isn’t going to be complimentary. I suppose it’s understood to imply  that Jews have a sense of superiority and entitlement and consider themselves above the law.

One might tell them the midrash about God offering the Torah laws to all the nations. No one wanted to be encumbered by so many commandments except the Jews who, seeing Moses coming down from Sinai with stone tablets said ‘We’ll take two.’ The seven Noahide laws are for all mankind, but the 613 commandments relating to multifarious topics including kashrut, ritual purity, sabbath observance and textiles are not required of non Jews.

The apostles wrote of this to the people of Antioch who were being converted to Christianity and their letter was conveyed by Paul and Barnabas:

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.[1]

The early Christian converts were allowed to dispense with some of the laws and statutes of the Torah. However, this was no easy ride, as Christianity brings strictures of its own and, besides this, many were chosen for martyrdom, from Stephen in Jerusalem in 34 CE to Maximilien Kolbe in Auschwitz in 1941 and Wang Zhiming in Wuding, China in 1973.

Isn’t it usually the case that those who engage in faith action feel themselves in a unique relationship with the deity? How would prayer in any denomination count, if the individual was insignificant?

The word chosen is dominant in Jewish liturgy, especially in the past tense, where it is God who has chosen. The blessing before the Torah reading in a synagogue includes the words:

Blessed are You, our Living God…who chose us from all peoples to give us Your Torah.

In the blessing before the prophetic reading, we say:

Blessed are You God, who chose the Torah, Moses Your servant, Israel Your people and the true and righteous prophets.

Pointing out that the people of Israel are chosen for Torah observance and not for perks denied other peoples will not satisfy those who believe the essence of Judaism is elitism,  a commonplace antisemitic trope, hospitable to the concept of Jews having ubiquitous influence and power and far removed from the reality of Jewish teaching.

Recurring themes in Jewish prayer are gratitude to God for the giving of the Torah and for the Exodus from Egypt; love for God and love for our fellow human beings.

Only in recent years, when I see a sneering reference to ‘The Chosen People’ – and I see it now more frequently than ever – do I wonder how I would communicate to the person who takes that negative view of Jews and Judaism the significance of ‘choose’ and ‘chosen’.

There are many instances of the word bachar, ‘he chose,’  in the Hebrew bible, but the chosenness of the people is repeated particularly in Deuteronomy, perhaps the earliest written book of the Pentateuch.

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples.[3]

There is some consensus in bible study that the book of the law found by Hilkiah the priest in the time of King Josiah is none other than Deuteronomy as the language and the theology correspond to Deuteronomy.

The story is that King Josiah ordered renovations of the Temple and, while the builders were in, a scroll came to light and was brought to the king.[4]

The Deuteronomist(s), whose date(s) cannot precisely be known, is presumed to have lived well before the Greek and Roman Empires. The Jewish religion is based on books and words which record the covenant between God and Israel, and Josiah was distinctive among biblical kings in basing his rule on scripture.

Modern Judaism seeks to explicate this notion of chosenness, present in our liturgy to this day, as not denying the chosenness of other peoples.

Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations from 1967 to 1991 put it this way:

I believe that every people—and indeed, in a more limited way, every individual—is “chosen” or destined for some distinct purpose in advancing the designs of Providence.[5]

Jews are chosen to adhere to a covenant set forth in the Hebrew Bible and developed over the centuries, from Rabbinic Judaism to the codifiers of the Middle Ages, to the philosophers of the Enlightenment, to post Holocaust modernity and the age of the nation state of Israel.

All who live are chosen for life, and people of faith are chosen in the service of their faith. Their devotion is not always rewarded in any obvious way.

Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof apostrophizes God:

We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?[6]

Nevertheless, people tend to love the belief systems of their own faith more than that of any other, much as we tend to love our own children and our own parents more than we love other children and parents. It seems fair to respect all paths to the supernal. Religions are not accountable for transgressions between one human being and another, or between human beings and the world.

I’ve often thought that one of the great theologians of my lifetime was the comedian Dave Allen, because he used to end his show with the words:

Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you.

 

 

[1] Acts 15:28-29

[2] Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2

[3] 2 Kings, 22:8-11

[4] Religion Gone Astray: What We Found at the Heart of Interfaith

By Don Mackenzie, Ted Falcon, Jamal Rahman 2012

[5] Fiddler on the Roof  Jerry Bock,  Sheldon Harnick, Joseph Stein,  first production 1964 Read the rest of this entry »

Kapo. It is as offensive as Uncle Tom or Coconut, with similar imputations of treachery and servility.

Kapos were prisoners in Nazi concentration camps and they performed the work of the SS guards, under duress.  From the point of view of the SS administrators, Kapos served the purpose of relieving their workload while dividing Jewish prisoners against each other. Some were sadistically brutal to the prisoners they supervised.  All were collaborators by force of circumstance and all were victims of the system. The taint of treachery, disloyalty and collaboration with the enemy is attached to this word, kapo, which originally designated those Jewish prisoners in the camps who were promoted to a functionary role which probably helped to keep them alive.

Treason is one of the most hated crimes, odious to the group or nation betrayed by the traitor and  punished with the severest judicial penalties. Wartime collaborators often suffered extrajudicial punishments , including executions.

The anger felt towards a collaborator can be commensurate with the damage they achieve. The damage rather than the intention quantifies the response. Ethel Rosenberg was executed for typing up the notes her husband passed to Soviet contacts but it was believed that the notes assisted the Soviet nuclear programme.

Alternatively, the self-preservation instinct after the fall of an enemy may exacerbate the cruelty visited on collaborators. Consider the persecution in France in the years after WW2, meted out by those who may not have been personally blameless, of women considered guilty of collaboration horizontale.  Pointing out another’s collaboration could deflect from their own, so the women who had been intimate with the German occupiers were made to carry the blame.

In recent times in the UK, Jewish political activists whose efforts are construed as injurious to the Jewish community are sometimes reviled with the word kapo. Those who use the word are often rebuked, as it is pointed out that far from acting freely, kapos were also victims of the Nazis. Furthermore, those who have discovered their Jewish identity in an anti-Zionist cause probably believe that they are motivated by the pursuit of justice, rather than with the aim of whipping up anti-Jewish feeling. Nevertheless, with antisemitism now a force to be reckoned with in the UK Labour party, the strident denials of Jewish Voice for Labour and Free Speech on Israel, in defence of Jeremy Corbyn, BDS and PSC arouse resentment in Jewish communities, especially as their raison d’être seems to be to expel from the Labour  mainstream Jewish organizations of long standing in the Party which was their political home.

Today, the Jewish Chronicle carries the story that a member of the anti-Israel but Jewishly observant Jewdas group has been giving training in antisemitism to members of Dulwich CLP.

‘A left-wing activist from the controversial Jewdas group compared Zionism to Nazi ideology when she gave “antisemitism awareness” to a Labour Party branch meeting.

During her 55-minute speech to the Dulwich and West Norwood Labour branch on Thursday, self-declared “non-Zionist” … also claimed there was “room for discussion” about collaboration between the “Nazi Party and members of the Zionist movement.”

[She] said “Zionism is a racist ideology”, adding it was “not possible to have a democratic Jewish state”.’

By using her Jewish identity to suggest special knowledge, the Jewdas member promulgates the view that Jews who support Israel are racists and that Israel is a racist enterprise. She instructed Dulwich Labour members that:

‘antisemitism within Labour is being employed to attack Corbyn’s leadership and has been since day one…because of his views on Israel.’

This should be a popular view among supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and will resonate with JVL and Neturei Karta as well as with the aptly named Jewdas.

The Jew in the pew at the synagogue, or the Jew in the queue at Carmelli’s Bakery, or the Jew who is one of the few  – about 250,000 – rather than one of Corbyn’s many, is worried about the possible injury to our safety and standing in the United Kingdom. Mr Corbyn may yet become Prime Minister and, outside of Jewdas and JVL, there is a widespead fear that this would prove detrimental to Jewish life.

Meanwhile, there are Jewish people who insist that Corbynism is not harmful to Jews or that we need to come to an accommodation with the various Holocaust revisionists and conspiracy theorists now holding office in the Labour Party. They regard those of us who are aghast at developments since Corbyn became Leader of the Opposition as spinning a false narrative in defence of the State of Israel. Their arguments are approved and applauded in many of the constituency Labour parties. They may be held in opprobrium by  large numbers of Jews, but their Jewish identity has proved potent in defending Corbyn from charges of antisemitism. They are the best weapon he has.

The K word,  is indeed inappropriate and has the indecency that belongs to intense invective but it is provoked by the inimical energy of the Corbyn movement, which seems to be in the ascendant. It has the force of any profanity. For a period of time, kapos wielded power over other Jews, and power, while it lasts, may be less forgivable than treachery.

A thought: perhaps we should lose the word kapo and bring back the word herem? Why use insults when we can resort to anathema?

 

 

 

 

One of the Labour forums shows a video today which purports to be Israeli soldiers cheering while a sniper shoots a Palestinian. Text accompanying the video refers to the Palestinian victim as a child. The source of the video appears to be the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

This is a report from Haaretz, 10 April 2018,

The findings of a preliminary inquiry, launched on Monday after the video surfaced, were that the sniper acted appropriately and only fired after all other actions taken by the soldiers were did not succeed in preventing the man from approaching the fence. However, the inquiry also found that the exuberant soldiers heard in the video acted improperly and will face disciplinary proceedings.

The army said that the video was made on December 22, 2017, during Friday riots along the border with the Gaza Strip.

“Many steps were taken during the riots to disperse them, including loudspeaker [announcements] and calls to stop, the use of means for dispersing demonstrations and firing in the air,” stated the inquiry’s findings. “When all these did not help, a single bullet was fired at one of the suspects in organizing and leading the incident when he was only a few meters from the fence. As a result of the fire he was hit in his leg and injured.”

The video was not shot from the sniper position and the person who filmed it was not part of the sniper team that fired the bullet, the army said.

After the full operational inquiry is completed by the entire command staff, the findings will be provided – as is customary – to the Military Advocate General for examination.

“As for the unapproved filming of an operational incident, distribution of he filmed material and the expressions heard in it, it should be noted that this is not the spirit and the level of restraint expected from IDF soldiers and it will be handled appropriately on a disciplinary level,” stated the findings.’

According to Haaretz, the video is problematic but the accompanying text about it on JCLPF is as follows:

‘Proof that Israeli soldiers target Palestinian children (and rejoice when they make a hit!) Video from Israeli newspaper.’

These are the comments from members of the group.

 

It is normal to feel rage and despair when we hear of atrocities. That is how I feel when I read about the Shoah, for example. In this case, members of the forum express outrage, but not one of them questions the accuracy of what they are told. Those who question such posts tend to be removed from the forum. I refrained from posting the report from Haaretz, to explain that the video, disturbing as it was, was not what they thought (an IDF sniper sadistically shooting a child to accompanying cheers). I assume that if I posted it I would be outing myself as what they generally call a ‘Zionist shill’ as well as less polite names. I would be ejected from the group and no longer able to report on it.

Videos and photos concerning Israel are posted every day on the forums, Al Jazeera’s The Lobby being the most popular. The result is always the same: righteous indignation combined with a sense of vindication that their Jew hatred has been right all along. There is also great anger about the so-called antisemitism smears. What do the Jews expect? After all, nobody likes an infanticide.

I continue to document the material on the one Labour forum from which I have not been ejected.

Sometimes I think of Oscar Wilde’s wallpaper in the Paris hotel bedroom and his last words in his last room before heaven.

‘This wallpaper is dreadful, one of us will have to go.’

This is how I feel about the phenomenon of Corbynist antisemitism. One of us will have to go. Let us hope that it’s them – may they go, peacefully from the UK Labour party, and may we still still be here, in ‘this other Eden’ which has been our home since 1656.

 

As we approach August Bank holiday, I think of the death of Princess Diana, twenty-one years ago at this season. I remember the passionate grief in the United Kingdom and abroad, following the shock of her untimely death. No doubt the intensity of the public response was inspired by Diana’s superstar persona, beauty, philanthropy and transparent vulnerability. If any provocative journalist, presaging Katie Hopkins in courting opprobrium, suggested that Diana was neurotic, turbulent and not more than averagely intelligent, the response tended to be disgust and disbelief that anyone could fall so low.

No monarchist myself, I wept, read quantities of the Dianology then in print and watched all the television coverage. My daughters went up to Kensington Palace to lay flowers and my son, then fifteen, found a place to watch the passing of the funeral cortege. None of us was any kind of royal watcher. We supported Oliver Cromwell. Nevertheless, Diana was the archetype of the beautiful and good, dying young.

It all seems a very long time ago.

Last Friday, I watched the Channel 4 talk show The Last Leg, where Jeremy Corbyn was the butt of some quite edgy humour. He was represented by an actor as being naked in a tea cup but I need not explain the why and wherefore. Going by online responses, the fans were aghast, as they were in the face of Tracey Ullman’s comedy sketches lampooning Mr Corbyn, or David Baddiel’s remarks on the Frankie Boyle show.

My impression is that, for his most devoted supporters, Corbyn is Obi-Wan Kenobi, Gandalf and, despite the protestations of JK Rowling, Dumbledore. An old man with a beard should be wise, unless he compensates by coming down the chimney with presents – never a very wise choice. Corbyn is also seen as an older Jesus, if Jesus had not died at the age of thirty-three, even younger than Diana.

In common with Diana, Corbyn is a myth and a legend as much as a human being. Both are often perceived as martyrs and particularly as martyred by the press.

Corbyn is also loathed in a way Diana was not.  He is associated with Jew hatred, more now than at the time of the General Election last year. He is regarded as hypocritical yet powerful in the context of the Labour Party where his close associates display a sometimes feral potency. To be on the wrong side of the Corbynistas seems unsafe within the Labour movement, with all the talk of deselection and, more so, the very insulting and belittling language used of political opponents by those supporters who have high visibility on social media.

The Queen has seldom aroused such strong devotion and neither did Churchill in his life time. If the Queen and Churchill were regarded as uplifting symbols of Britsh life, they were not often more than incidental in the lives of the public.

Last year, during the Glastonbury Festival, Corbynmania was a word in all the newspapers. I have not heard it so much lately and it is possible that some of the Gandalfing of Corbyn has fallen away. In the last year, while his myth has been nurtured, he has not achieved very much, other than maintaining his support base and his leadership.

I, of course, have  a horse in this race. I am Jewish and I do believe that the Corbyn movement is injurious to Jewish well-being. My view is precisely the one most loathed and derided by a significant number of Mr Corbyn’s supporters.

This elderly gentleman, resembling Diana perhaps in his prodigious obstinacy and middling intelligence, has aroused love and hate among the public more than any British politician in my lifetime. Enoch Powell would be in the running, but I don’t believe he was ever as popular as Corbyn.

No wonder we loved Diana. She harmed no one except herself.


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