Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

The eyes of those who follow political news may have been turned towards the mini budget of the new Chancellor, Kwazi Kwarteng, or fixed on the Labour Party conference in Liverpool this week, or looking even further afield to contemplate the rise of the right in the Italian General Election.

Meanwhile, for some supporters and detractors of the previous Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the new Al Jazeera documentaries ‘Labour Files’ are priority viewing. I have friends who watched with interest, expecting to be named as Zionist conspirators accused of pulling strings to halt the rise of Corbyn during the four and a half years of his leadership. Some were not mentioned, others featured prominently. For those who have the means, there may be legal redress if they have been libelled, but litigation, which is a sequel to the Corbyn interregnum, could be as prolonged as the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, with everyone suing everyone else and, despite the success of John Ware, one cannot be sure that the outcome will always be favourable.

What is being said in the Al Jazeera films?

The material of the ‘leaked report’ is presented once again, showing acerbic emails and texts between Labour officials who disliked Corbyn, his advisors and his inner circle. Officials are named, alongside the text of edgy jokes targeting the Labour leader and, notoriously disparaging Diane Abbott. Corbynists and the Al Jazeera narrator tend to regard unkindness about Diane Abbott as racist in nature, although not, presumably, the unkindness directed against black politicians who are not allied to Jeremy Corbyn; still less if they are Conservative MPs or Ministers of State.

The Labour Party officials interviewed by John Ware for Panorama are presented in the Al Jazeera films as maligning Mr Corbyn and creating pitfalls to undermine his leadership.

A young man, disbarred once or twice from his profession as barrister, speaks of Zionist bullying so distressing to him that his stepfather actually passed away. He did not provide details of the connection but claimed to have received violent threats. Alarmed, he spoke of this to his stepfather who subsequently died. One sympathizes as the outcome is sad, whatever the reason, although the connection of one  event to the other appears speculative.

The Al Jazeera films are not forensic. Innuendo, buzz words and scary music are their modus operandi.

Initially, the Labour Files films concentrate their fire on Labour Party staff, accused of bringing down Corbyn.

In the second film, they name Jewish organizations: the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Against Antisemitism as well as Jewish MPs during Corbyn’s leadership: Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth and Margaret Hodge who is still a Labour MP.  All are accused of making up allegations of antisemitism, which resulted in suspensions and expulsions. For this second film, the Al Jazeera producers, keenly aware that they and the Corbyn movement may be perceived as antisemitic, conducted interviews with Jewish people from the cadre of activists who have stuck with Corbyn through thick and thin and who appear to espouse the eradication of Zionism and the Jewish State. These include JVL spokespeople Jenny Manson and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi as well as anti Israel polemicist Andrew Feinstein and Momentum activist James Schneider. They have not interviewed Momentum’s Jon Lansman who believed that antisemitism became problematic in Labour under Corbyn. Such an opinion would go entirely against the thrust of the films.

Interviews with the JVL ladies speaking either tremulously or laughingly about homicidal threats phoned in by persecutory Zionists, are juxtaposed with footage of Zionist activists, yelling or jumping up and down at meetings. The Enough is Enough demonstration against Labour antisemitism which took place in Parliament Square in March 2018, is shown several times, accompanied by sinister, non-diegetic music which could function adequately in a movie about killer sharks.

I was at that demonstration myself. For all the fear and anger so many of us felt at that time, I doubt that many of us foresaw the likelihood of appearing four years later on an Al Jazeera channel, being subliminally connected with Jaws.

Andrew Feinstein did concede in his interview that antisemitism exists but was at pains to communicate that it comes from the far right not the left. He showed articles which accused Jews of sinking the Titanic and killing Kennedy and where the phrase ‘Rothschild Zionism’ occurs. I appreciated that he did at least  confirm the antisemitism of this discourse but I wondered what he would say to someone like me, who sees that kind of language on Corbynist social media over and over again. I make screen shots, so that people will know what is said on Corbynist social media. It also saves me from using subjective, descriptive terminology. Responses range from the accusation that I forge the images to the apologetic that Mr Corbyn can hardly be blamed for the comments of a few cranks. The latter is not unreasonable but when an avalanche of similar invective is posted every day by individuals declaring admiration for Mr Corbyn, one feels he is attracting people with a certain point of view. More disturbing and probably more common is the response that the very antisemitic comments are ‘the Truth’, as often as not with a hashtag such as ‘Truth hurts’. Saying Israel or Zionism instead of Jews appears to satisfy most of the Corbynist left that they are keeping antisemitism at bay.

The second Al Jazeera film showed the Jewish husband of a Labour MP in informal conversation with a woman describes as right wing which, as as far as I know, she may be. He was explaining why he thought Sadiq Khan a good choice for London mayor. His civility in the conversation was shown to suggest that he nurtured right wing alliances.

When supporters of BDS, the boycott against Israel, demonstrated outside shops in the UK with Israeli connections, there was a Jewish presence, opposing them. Some members of the right wing English Defence League, highly unwelcome because of their known Islamophobic views, came to support the Jewish demonstrators . This was a windfall for BDS who photographed Jewish demonstrators in the proximity of EDL members. The footage appears of course in the Al Jazeera films.

At the end of the second film, quotations appear on the screen: refutations from some of those targeted in it. This is accompanied by the throb of ominous music in which one can detect the timbre of a ticking clock. To me it seems to suggest some looming danger, coming ever closer. What is that danger?

Is it the danger of a non-Corbynist Labour government, which would indeed represent a greater setback for the Corbynist movement than another Conservative win?

Is it perhaps that they consider Starmer’s Labour to be dominated by Israeli and Jewish interests?

The combination of the Qatari based Al Jazeera channel with the JVL leadership and other Corbynists expelled by Labour for antisemitism makes it seem overwhelmingly probable that this is the dog whistle being blown.

I had braced myself for the third episode of Labour Files on the Al Jazeera channel but, unexpectedly, the second episode was repeated instead.

Was there some restraining variable, some legal road bump, some liability or  libel which made it the prudent course for Al Jazeera to pull the programme?

I’m sure the disappointed Corbynists will have an opinion about who is behind the setback.

As I write this, the third part of the Labour Files series has still not been broadcast. I hear that it appeared briefly on Youtube but was taken down within minutes.

Already, aficionados of Al Jazeera and the Corbyn movement see this as proof of interference from powerful and malevolent operators.

I have posted below screen shots, showing some of their reactions to the series.

The content of the first two Al Jazeera films, as I expected, was not the obvious in-your-face antisemitism of Chris Williamson’s Press TV show, where Professor David Miller names Jewish schools in the UK for the attention of  Iran state-controlled media. The thrust of Qatar’s Al Jazeera investigation belongs more to the Simon Maginn genre of antisemitism: Corbynist Jews, familiar from every JVL picket and post, assure a sympathetic interviewer that anti-Corbynists, whether Jewish or not Jewish, all lie about their experiences of antisemitism on the left, in order to protect Israel from being talked about. Like Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Files team aims for plausible deniability. They mean to convey that it is not anti Jewish because, behold, Jenny Manson, Naomi Wimborne Idrissi and Andrew Feinstein are Jewish.

For myself, this does not work at all as deniability goes, but I saw from Twitter that the first episode at least was taken seriously by esteemed journalist Michael Crick. There is some danger of harm to the Jewish community when established broadcasters give credence to a theory of Zionist dirty tricks undermining British democracy. We know that some journalists do propound or accept such a point of view.

In this tolerant country of my birth, where the electorate rejected Jeremy Corbyn and all his works, contributors to broadcasting, academia and entertainment seem occasionally unable to recognize old prejudices in modern clothes, perhaps because it is so unfamiliar to their enlightened mindset that they simply do not identify the signs.

I posted a screen shot on Twitter last night, showing a bit of Hitler fandom in a private (you have to join to see the content) Facebook group called ‘Just Socialism the Corbyn Way’. On Twitter, there were many horrified reactions to the screen shot – although not at all in the Facebook group – and, so far, no one has attempted to excuse it. I did wonder how one might make a case for excusing it, and thought the strongest argument would be that all groups, however well-meaning, tend to include the odd disgusting comment, posted by supporters with poor judgment.

Anti Zionists make capital out of bigoted statements from the Israeli far right , posting the quotes on their forums to elicit rage and contempt, and a common response is to complain of Jewish chutzpah in opposing antisemitism when ‘…look what they’re doing to the Palestinians.’

Seek and ye shall find. Thus a Corbyn apologist may complain that I look for left antisemitism and find it, by stalking their social media which obviously isn’t perfect because, as Osgood Fielding III said in Some Like It Hot, nobody’s perfect. The prominence of antisemitism on the Corbynist left is still hotly denied by all who sail in it.

Meanwhile I, the stalker, am so accustomed to seeing extreme antisemitism, unopposed by admins or comrades, permitted on social media platforms, that I am not surprised when I see kindly references to Hitler from the self-styled Left.

The screen shots below show some of the comments I have seen. My stalking is not so thorough that I see all the Der Stürmer tribute acts of the Corbynist (sometimes also Provisional IRA) forums. Perhaps I should call it neo-neo-nazism [sic] because it is bespoke for the 21st century, for the left and for enemies of Israel. Some of this material is produced by Iranian sources, or Hamas or Hezbollah, some from Pakistan and I see it only because it filters through to groups with British or Irish administrators.

To fight it, we need to know it’s there.

If I were finding excuses, I say that Roderic, for example, doesn’t mean what he says or understand what he says. That’s quite possible, even quite likely. Some of these forums attract ordinary, left-leaning people, especially elderly people and get them high on hyperbole and passionate intensity, until they’re all in the Kampf together.

My sister once pointed out that in our family, where we were expected to be polite, not argumentative and not to shout (Dad sometimes shouted but we girls didn’t), it was considered acceptable to release political rage, when the adversaries were fascists, racists, far right or even merely warmongers.

Dad got arrested for causing an obstruction while sitting in the road with Bertrand Russell and the anti-nuclear Committee of a Hundred.

When we drove past some Mosleyites of the Union Movement and I shouted ‘Fuck off!’ through the car window, Dad said ‘Gill I know what we think of these people but there’s no need to be vulgar.’ Afterwards, Mum told me that he wished he’d said it.

In the wider family, everyone was a socialist except for those who called themselves communists, not so many of those after 1956.

Ever present alongside the political activism was love of Israel and great pride in the State born only a year before myself.  At weddings and bnei mitzvah, God Save the Queen and Hatikvah were sung. We were anti-monarchist, as reluctant to join in the British National Anthem as was Mr Corbyn during one of his early outings as Labour leader. Nevertheless, as I have mentioned elsewhere, my grandmother gave each of her grandchildren a lovely illustrated book of Princess Margaret’s wedding, which I perused many times with enjoyment.

At age twelve, I was taken to see an exhibition in Hackney Town Hall about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. I was also taken to see the film Judgment at Nuremberg starring Spencer Tracy, and, at about the same time, Exodus (scripted from the Leon Uris book by Dalton Trumbo), which my parents said wasn’t as good as the book. Then I read Exodus, more than once; I would say more than twice.

I had a strong sense of a world divided between good and evil.

Dad liked RA Butler and Bob Boothby which surprised me but he said that not all Conservatives were bad. Mum liked the Duke of Edinburgh, so there you are.

Now that there is no political party I agree with, I can’t find it in me to detest the current leadership of any party. As I write this, Boris Johnson is still the Prime Minister. I think, as many others do, that he became a liability to the Tories with his parties, his wallpaper, his ill-judged promotions and his untruthfulness, but his intelligence and sense of humour appeal to me; his fumbling diction often leading through winding rhetorical alleyways to a punchline or flash of informal panache, as with ‘Hasta la vista, Baby’. Gove too has a degree of charm, eloquent and entomological. While Priti Patel is not at all to my taste, I’m aware that her detractors on social media target her appearance, presumably because they have made it a priority to deny her undoubted good looks.

It is also said of Priti Patel that she is an Israeli spy but of course this is said of Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, David Lammy and indeed, most of the present Parliamentary Labour Party.

Today Michael Gove trends on Twitter because his return flight from a summer holiday has been delayed for thirty hours. Thousands of people are liking tweets which consider the hold up a just retribution for Brexit. Like the Mikado, their object all sublime is to let the punishment fit the crime.

It seems to me a waste of effort to wish minor inconveniences on enemies, and demeaning to wish on them misfortune, other than the misfortune of failing in their malign endeavours.

A case in point is George Galloway who got beaten up in the street in 2014. Photos of a bruised and battered Galloway appeared in the press and seeing the thin, discoloured skin of an aging man, I winced.  When you see the bruising, you see the vulnerability of the lived body.

Jeremy Corbyn was attacked with an egg and Nigel Farage with a milk shake. Similarly, the intrusive menace of these attacks was displeasing despite my immeasurable dislike of the victims. When someone threw green paint at Peter Mandelson whom I didn’t dislike, I could see him flinch at the attacker’s reach, as if aware that it could have been something more lethal than paint.

In the unusual case of John Prescott and the egg, Prescott landed a blow on his assailant and they scuffled. Video footage from 2001 shows that the egg, fired at close range, is indeed the embodiment of an insult and a potential hazard.

These are public figures. Much more painful is hating somebody in private life: the violent, the bullies, the malevolent and the abusers of power. I have been fortunate in not knowing many such people. I had a consuming detestation of a partner’s ex whose ambition in life seemed to be to destroy his, but later encounters showed her to be meeker and more mild-mannered than I had thought possible, going by earlier form.

When I was a twelve year old pupil at a girls’ grammar school, a girl of fourteen flanked by two confederates and wearing a beehive hairdo, threw potatoes at me and my friend every day during school dinners.

‘I do hate Beehive,’ said my friend. I didn’t think I hated Beehive but would have liked to see a potato ricochet and land in her backcombed hair.

Social media has been an education in how to hate and be hated. I’ve become accustomed to being called ‘child killer’ or ‘apartheid apologist’ which will be leveled at anyone who tweets sympathetically about the State of Israel. If someone wants to abuse me on Twitter, they often make something of my age, my surname Lazarus and my long face. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told I look like a corpse, a horrible simile which could only come from the keyboard of a confirmed hater.

And finally, I have learned to hate, sometimes fleetingly, individuals whose names I forget as soon as I block them and sometimes consistently, esteemed public figures who wield influence or power, the ones who have made life perceptibly harder for Jews in the diaspora. Not every antisemite makes life harder. Those who are incontestably cranky – David Icke for example – have influence but are generally on the fringes of political activism. Professor Miller was extremely dangerous in the lecture hall at Bristol University but, now representing Iran state-controlled media, seems to have lost some of his puissance if not his appetite for anti Jewish conspiracy theories.

I don’t wish illness or pain on those I hate but I have an acute consciousness of their activities and pronouncements.

Someone defined being in love as thinking about the person all the time. Hating also is an absorption with the object of hatred.

I despise but don’t hate terrorists.  Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad: I hate what they do, but circumstances and malign influences have driven them to the place where they find themselves. I don’t utterly discount the possibility of peace.

Even more antipathetic than these are the complacent ideologists of the west, the eminences of political thought and cultural creativity, those who, tweaking the vocabulary of other centuries, rise up against us, as it says in the Passover Haggadah, not once but in every generation.

On a rainy night in September 1996, I emerged from Baker Street Station and sought a taxi. Almost immediately, a taxi driver pulled over next to me. Rejoicing in my luck, I opened the passenger door but an elderly, myopic gentleman swept past me and settled himself on the leather seat. I had intended to give him the kind of hard stare which Paddington Bear perfected, but noticed something unexpected about the man. He was Rabbi Albert Friedlander.

I said ‘Rabbi, I’m going to the same place as you. Can we share this taxi?’

Courteously he indicated assent and I got in, sitting opposite him on one of the drop down seats. I was on my way to a graduation ceremony at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John’s Wood, to be awarded a masters degree from Leo Baeck College where Rabbi Friedlander was the Dean. I mentioned this and he insisted kindly on paying my fare, ‘as a graduation present’.

My parents, my partner, zichrono livracha, and some of my children had piled into a car and headed to the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, to see me graduate, but there wasn’t room for all of us and I was best suited to make alternative travel arrangements.

At the synagogue, I went into the ad hoc robing room, where gowns but not mortar boards, were laid out on tables. I found I was among the hocher fensters, distinguished academics and clergy, about to be honoured with honorary degrees and professorships. I recognized Rabbi Louis Jacobs and saw the director of my college, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Magonet, as well as the college librarian and renowned author, Hyam Maccoby. The engineer and scientist Professor Ludwik Finkelstein was there to collect another masters’ degree to add to his qualifications.

There was a problem in finding a robe short enough for me, which I remembered had been the case when I graduated at Manchester University. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not Tyrion Lannister. I was five foot two; perhaps now five foot one and a half with the passing of the years. Most of the people in the robing room were men but, as the photo above shows, there were some women graduating, and some rabbinical students were picking up degrees on the road to semicha (ordination).

The robes were turquoise blue, the masters degrees being awarded under the auspices of the Open University.

Attired in one of the smaller robes, I joined the procession of graduands as we lined up to receive our certificates from the Dean of Leo Baeck College. I was glad that I hadn’t said ‘Beat it, old man,’ when he took my taxi, but there had never been any danger of that.

I didn’t even know how to be rude, until the age of Twitter.

I learned from responses to the EHRC report, the ‘Leaked Report’ and also, going back to distant 2016, the Chilcot Report into Britain’s role in the Iraq war, that there is a wide latitude in the interpretation of long awaited reports, sometimes viewed through the lens of the reader’s preconceptions.

Now we have the Forde report, anticpated for so long by the Corbynist left that the very words Forde Report were used by them as a meme and a hashtag.

Like all the other reports, I find it could have been worse and could have been better.

Already I have seen Corbynists, including Mr Corbyn himself, reacting as they did to the Leaked Report, as if it denied antisemitism and vindicated the former Labour leader and his office. A spokesman from Momentum, Martin Abrams, on BBC’s Politics Live has said that the report reveals the repugnant racism from the staff of Labour HQ and Mr Corbyn also made this point, referencing ‘repulsive racism and sexism’ directed at Diane Abbott. This was the Corbynist response to the ‘Leaked Report’ which appeared in April 2020 and, so far, their perception of the Forde Report is no different.

The authors of the derogatory WhatsApp messages about Diane Abbott insisted that their hostility was unrelated to her being a black woman. Paragraph C6:8 of the report sees it this way.

The report faults both right and left factions of the Labour Party for considering themselves above racism and antisemitism. It points out that an anti racist record does not make one immune from prejudice, as shown by Mr Corbyn’s actions in perpetuating a culture of antisemitism, despite his perception of himself as a lifelong anti-racist.

‘…the failure of the elected leadership to countenance that (as lifelong antiracists) they could be behaving in a way which perpetuated antisemitism.’ This is something Mr Corbyn has always strenuously denied, to the extent of saying that the charges of antisemitism are made in bad faith, and often has not limited himself to accusing the staff of Labour Party HQ but implicated Zionists in general, Jewish journalists and Jewish communal organizations.

The knock on effect of this standpoint had a negative effect on Jewish members in some Constituency Labour Parties. The authors of the Forde Report express this clearly.

Ardent defenders of Mr Corbyn have often said that the ‘Leaked Report’ shows that there was no antisemitism in Labour, or that it was exaggerated or overstated but the Forde panel are right, in my view, to state firmly that this was not the case.

According to Forde, the authors of the Leaked Report believed that they were misrepresented as minimizing the problem of antisemitism, which they considered rife in the party membership. They rejected the view that it was exaggerated or ‘a smear’. When I read the Leaked Report in April 2020, I saw that they acknowledged the extent of the problem and I was sorry to see assertions on Corbynist social media that it proved – as Mr Maginn likes to say – ‘it was a scam.’

The thrust of the Forde report as far as I understand it is that factions of right and left, respectively Labour HQ and LOTO, had extremely rancorous feelings towards each other and used whatever they could to the other’s detriment.

It is axiomatic on Corbynist social media that, due to their hostility towards Corbyn’s leadership, the right wing of the Labour Party conspired to lose the General Elections of 2017 and 2019. The Forde Report rejects this allegation.

The report takes an even-handed view when apportioning blame between the factions, a degree of incompetence and confusion impeding the leader’s office, in their relations with Labour Party staff.

This even-handedness may be seen as a flaw, probably by both sides. My own perception is that one side, the Leader of the Opposition’s Office, perpetuated and nurtured antisemitism and, in opposing this, the staff at Head Office were justified in resisting them. This is not to say that Labour staff were justified in all things they did, least of all in the malicious WhatsApp messages, but their opposition to an antisemitic culture, confirmed by the EHRC Report, the Leaked Report and the Forde Report is not, in my opinion, culpable.

I am afraid that paragraphs such as C2.60, below, will be ignored or forgotten by those partisan to the previous Labour leader.

The most disappointing paragraph to me in the Forde Report suggested that JVL be included with JLM in providing education about antisemitism. I have written elsewhere about JVL attracting a significant number of antisemitic supporters and why I think their intense anti Zionism clouds their perception of classic anti Jewish tropes.

However, the point of my post here is that the report should be read, warts and all, and that it should not be misrepresented as supporting or condemning things it does not support or condemn.

Last night, I noticed a ‘Corbyn was right’ hashtag on Twitter apropos the report, and Mr Corbyn himself made a statement, to the effect that the report calls out racism towards Diane Abbott. He does not mention the comments regarding his own failures and perpetuation of antisemitism. This is from Jeremy Corbyn’s statement which also includes the usual reference to billionaires and repeats the slogan ‘for the many not the few’.

The report, in my opinion, largely corroborates the portrayal of Corbyn’s Labour in ‘Left Out’ by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire, as dysfunctional in many ways, perpetually circling round an indecisive but stubborn leader, out of his depth and out of his comfort zone which undoubtedly reached its apotheosis whenever he was informing his supporters at outdoor rallies about the iniquities of Israel.

I am sure the perception of Corbyn as antisemitic was not the only reason why Labour staff were hostile to the leadership. Some abrasive persons had been raised to positions of high authority and the situation of those answerable to them was unenviable.

For myself, it is a matter of overriding importance and the reason why I ceased to vote Labour.

I brace myself for the misreporting and wishful thinking which will be printed and posted in respect of the Forde report. Already I have been embroiled on Twitter and saw fit to highlight the sentence which the Corbynists will not want to read.

I had a quiet weekend, too much time for Twitter which seemed to be ablaze with all the replies informing me that Jews are Khazars and racists. Perhaps they meant that Zionists, not Jews, are racists – but who are the Khazars? I have never seen an anti Zionist Jew identify as a Khazar. Do those who adhere to the theory that Jews are from a Khazaria, which I cannot find on a map, maintain that the victims of the nazis in Europe were Khazarian?

They would have an answer to this, I am sure, as the quiet weekend was spent largely looking at their proliferating answers.

Today, I tried to trace the origin of a thread in which I was tagged, where adversarial accounts iterated the words apartheid, Khazar and other disobliging terms. Some accounts include the word apartheid in every tweet they write, with the compulsiveness of a child avoiding cracks in the pavement. They have articles by Amnesty, Btselem and Mondoweiss ready to hand.

The origin appeared to be a tweet from Chris Williamson, who quote tweeted Chief Rabbi Mirvis.

This generated some anger from those sympathetic to the Chief Rabbi and our answers provoked the ire of a panoply of ‘anti Zionists’, a sample of which will be shown below.

These anti Zionists abided by the Twitter tradition of tweeting with a jaunty self-confidence, jouissance almost, more marked as their tweets became more insulting. Of course this applies to all tendencies, not just those hostile to Jews, or should I say Khazars, as some of Chris Williamson’s fanbase like to call us. It is a commonplace for an individual accused of antisemitism to supply the spirited denial that, on the contrary, they are devoted to the semitic Palestinians.

It makes me weary. I would do better to go for a jog and then I would be weary in a good way, although to be honest, jogging no longer presents an option.

It makes me depressed, a word which the antagonistic accounts would replace with the phrase ‘playing the antisemitism card’.

And I am cursed with a desire to answer, for the performative value, for all the innocent bystanders who yet might be persuaded not to believe that an army of conquering Khazars traversed the Near East in the years after the Second World War.

Nevertheless, by the end of Saturday, I blocked all the hostile accounts in my notifications. On Sunday night, I blocked a lot more. One man repeatedly called me a racist. Eventually riled by this, I painted a blue Star of David on the back of my left hand, photographed it doing a middle finger salute, tweeted this to Kevin and then blocked him. The utility, if any, was merely to show that there is an end to my patience.

After this, the onslaught abated, except for one man called ‘Clemenza’ in honour of the Godfather character, who sent me a selection of iffy Talmud quotes famously assembled by neonazis.

When I think of the long, long arguments in the Gemara, often not resolved and finished only with the word ‘Teiku’ which indicated an impasse, I can’t imagine that Twitter would be the place to embark on Talmud apologetics.

However I will just quote the Mishnah (Avot 5:17) on arguments:

Every dispute that is for the sake of Heaven, will in the end endure; But one that is not for the sake of Heaven, will not endure. Which is the controversy that is for the sake of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Hillel and Shammai. And which is the controversy that is not for the sake of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Korach and all his congregation.

Not everyone will know about Korach’s rebellion (Numbers 16) or about the first century disputes between the sages Hillel (lenient) and Shammai (strict) but some arguments are worth having. Others are not worth having but you just can’t get out of them.

My Booba  (grandmother) bought me and all my cousins souvenir books of Princess Margaret’s wedding to Anthony Armstrong-Jones. It was beautifully illustrated with formal wedding pictures and informal photos of the happy couple, taken during their courtship. I looked at it many times. To my exacting eye, Princess Margaret was not truly beautiful, not like Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn or Jean Simmons. When you get old, any young person looks beautiful but I was ten.

I was a little surprised that Booba engaged with the celebrations of Princess Margaret ‘s wedding as  we were not what you might call royalists. Tsar Nicholas II was certainly no particular friend to the Jews when my grandparents left Russia and Poland. Booba was naturalized British but my other Booba, my father’s mother, was Russian all her life and had to report to the Home Office in accordance with the Aliens Act of 1905. The same applied to my father’s older siblings, he being the only child of his family born in England.

They were not Russian speakers as Yiddish was their first language but there was some syncretism: my aunt’s samovar, lemon tea taken in a glass; frequent use of the interrogative ‘Nu?’ and men dancing the kazatsky at weddings and bar mitzvahs. My father was able to execute a fine kazatsky, as did his nephew, my cousin Norman.

It was not so much the Russian connection as the socialist tradition which stopped my family becoming enthusiastic about the British monarchy. However, there was no resentment and when individual members of the Royal Family evinced kindly or conscientious behaviour, we liked them. My mother considered Prince Philip very handsome. I didn’t think so myself, until I became old enough to see, as I said, that everyone is beautiful under the age of about fifty.

In dramas about the English Civil War, we were on the side of the Parliamentarians and were irritated when they were portrayed as rigid killjoys while the Royalists got all the best lines, the good wigs and the cute dogs.

My brother-in-law, whose work in the charitable sector was recognized with an OBE, was invited with my sister to events where Royals, Ministers and sometimes Prime Ministers were present.  A photo of my sister and brother-in-law shaking hands with Prince Charles and Princess Diana adorned the walls of my parents’ house and was later displayed in their rooms in a Jewish Care residential home, along with a photo of my brother-in-law being introduced to the Queen. They also met – in reverse chronological order – Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Harold Wilson and Edward Heath. There was a photo of my sister shaking hands with Norman Tebbit, which she feared could be used as kompromat.

More than one member of my family met Princess Margaret but they did not warm to her. I am sure that it was mutual.

Some years ago, the then Prince Charles attended a COP climate change conference and was introduced to the UK team from the department of Ed Miliband, at that time Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. My son was a young and minor cog in the machine and was not introduced, but Prince Charles turned back before leaving the room, to speak to him and shake his hand.

This is a mensch!

I liked Princess Diana because she seemed so natural and kind. I read articles and watched programmes about her life and mourned her untimely death with most of the world. Later, I hoped that Charles would be allowed to marry Camilla. Why should people who have loved each other so long be forbidden to marry?

I  watched with interest all of the Netflix series The Crown and took away from it the perception that personal suffering is not lessened or cushioned by royal status.

In recent years, finding myself at odds with the Left as never before, I  am offended by excessively hostile posts about the Queen and other members of the Royal Family although certainly they have some duds. Such is life.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee is sure to arouse strong feelings, pro and contra.

Did you know – of course you did – that Jubilee is a Hebrew word?

The Jubilee occurred every fifty years and involved leaving the land fallow for a year (shemita) as well as cancelling debts and releasing slaves.

יוֹבֵ֣ל הִ֗וא שְׁנַ֛ת הַחֲמִשִּׁ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה תִּהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם לֹ֣א תִזְרָ֔עוּ וְלֹ֤א תִקְצְרוּ֙ אֶת־סְפִיחֶ֔יהָ וְלֹ֥א תִבְצְר֖וּ אֶת־נְזִרֶֽיהָ׃ כִּ֚י יוֹבֵ֣ל הִ֔וא קֹ֖דֶשׁ תִּהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֑ם מִ֨ן־הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה תֹּאכְל֖וּ אֶת־תְּבוּאָתָֽהּ׃

 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, neither shall you reap the aftergrowth or harvest the untrimmed vines for it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you: you may only eat the growth direct from the field.

Leviticus 25: 11 – 12

Yovel, the Hebrew word for Jubliee, becomes iobeleus in the Latin Vulgate. The Greek Septuagint uses a circumlocution which does not sound like jubilee but references the release which takes place in the fiftieth year.

All right, since you ask, the Greek version is:

 ἀφέσεως σημασία αὕτη, τὸ ἔτος τὸ πεντηκοστὸν ἐνιαυτὸς ἔσται ὑμῖν· οὐ σπερεῖτε οὐδὲ ἀμήσετε τὰ αὐτόματα ἀναβαίνοντα αὐτῆς καὶ οὐ τρυγήσετε τὰ ἡγιασμένα αὐτῆς ὅτι ἀφέσεως σημασία ἐστίν ἅγιον ἔσται ὑμῗν ἀπὸ τῶν πεδίων φάγεσθε τὰ γενήματα αὐτῆς

Leviticus 25: 11 – 12

Apheseos semasia, something like ‘a significant release’, is the term which translates yovel, jubilee.

In the case of Her Majesty, it is seventy years on the throne, not fifty. Her coronation is one of my earliest memories. Like so many other families, we acquired a nine inch television set for the purpose of watching it. I was bored by the coronation but soon discovered the delights of Muffin the Mule and Prudence Kitten.

I hope that this forthcoming Jubilee will be an apheseos semasia for us all, a time of release from the manifold troubles which beset us, royals and commoners, yeomen and labourers and all those who, like my grandparents, travel to this land from distant shores.

27 May 2022

This may be an urban legend. I have heard that George Stevens, director of The Greatest Story Ever Told, thought John Wayne, as a Roman centurion witnessing the crucifixion, uttered his line ‘Truly this man was the Son of God ‘ with insufficient spirituality.  ‘Can you say it with  awe?’ Stevens asked Wayne. ‘Aw, truly this man was the Son of God,’ said Wayne at the next take.

The story was denied by both George Stevens and John Wayne. As I supposed, it’s an urban legend. So many things are.

Apotheosis was a regular feature of Roman imperial life around the time of the crucifixion, give or take a hundred years. From my reading of Robert Graves, I seem to remember that Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar became gods. Caligula thought he was a god and Claudius was considered a god in Britain, a parochial deity.

In the modern age, the deification of political leaders is sinister, invariably resulting in the pursuit and punishment of allegedly deicidal persons. And not only political leaders. Being called deicides by the Church until the Nostra Aetate of Pope Paul VI in 1965 caused us Jews no end of trouble.

What I am doing here is procrastinating. This post, as you guessed, is about Facebook groups becoming increasingly worshipful of Jeremy Corbyn, which means my opening paragraph counts as deviation and hesitation, before I launch into the undoubted repetion of something I have mentioned many times before.

This way of talking about Corbyn as a godlike figure is not merely inappropriate or amusing. His opponents are invariably fingered as being Judas or Herod or Pilate or Caiaphas. Thus the Corbynist forums on Facebook become a veritable Oberammergau of Judenhass, with Israel often held responsible for Labour’s bad election result in 2019 or, by way of synecdoche, Keir Starmer, Margaret Hodge or Trevor Chinn stand in for the State of Israel and indeed for Am Yisrael, the people of Israel.

There has been no improvement in this state of affairs in the Corbynist social media I have seen. Whereas the suggestion that ‘the Rothschilds’ won the 2019 General Election seemed initially the opinion of outliers, it is now orthodoxy to say in these groups that Israel decided the election result. It seems ridiculous when you consider that Israel’s proportional representation leads time after time to inconclusive election results. It seems ridiculous for many reasons but it is an assertion which occurs repeatedly in the Corbynist groups on Facebook and is by now an urban legend nearly as popular as the anecdote about the awe of John Wayne. Even Corbyn himself suggested, in an interview he gave to an Al Mayadeen reporter, that Benjamin Netanyahu had played a part in his, Corbyn’s electoral failure.

The people making the comments are often the same individuals, members of every Corbynist group they can find and active in all of them. Can we put a number on them? The larger groups have more than 60,000 members and the smaller groups have fewer than 2,000. The usual number is about 10,000 members, a hundred of whom are regular contributors to the group.

And does it matter?

Does it matter if these predominantly elderly people have fixated on an elderly man who had little influence in politics until he was past retirement age, and whom they now regularly liken to Jesus? Many people whose opinions I value tell me that I’m focusing on a pathetic minority who turn to each other for the corroboration they can’t get in the wider world.

But I say, it matters if they think you’re Judas, Pilate, Herod and Caiaphas, rolled into one diabolical, election-rigging, scam-making, party-owning, blue and white T shirt-wearing entity.

Today being the sixth day of Passover, I decided to return some of the Pesach crockery to the top shelf of the big cupboard in my spare room. I had to remove suitcases and hangers from the cupboard until I could insert a kitchen chair with some degree of stability. I then climbed on the chair and returned some large plates, small plates, cups and saucers to their place. Moving my hand along the shelf to see what was there, I found a cardboard box, which I realized immediately would contain memorabilia which had belonged to my parents. I came down from the chair and out of the cupboard, with the box. It was full of letters, one from me aged fourteen, to my sister, written while on holiday. I related, with humorous asides, the experience of a student making a pass at me while thinking I was of legal age and that he withdrew when I told him I was fourteen.

There are letters to my parents and grandmother from my aunt in Sydney, Australia.

There is a glowing reference for my father, from the headmaster at the school where he taught although I know he remained on the staff for several more years.

Then there is this letter to the Observer, written early in 1960. The context is clear. The bereaved father of a British soldier killed in Mandate Palestine, 1947, had compared this to the Nazi genocide. Then as now, anything heinous was being compared to the Holocaust, a word which did not yet have currency in this context. Like many of us now, my father pointed out the error – I would say indecency – of the comparison. The occupation he refers to is the British occupation of what was Mandate Palestine until the State of Israel achieved independence in 1948.

His words about terrorists fighting occupation refer to the Irgun and Lehi, not the long terrorism of anti-Zionist violence in Israel and the diaspora. If someone challenged him today with a view to justifying Palestinian acts of terror, I think he would say that not everything can bear comparison but, in any case, he did not attempt to justify the activities of the Irgun or Lehi.

I don’t know if The Observer published his letter to the editor, but here it is, sixty-two years on.

ברוך אתה ” מחיה המתים

The Editor

The Observer

26 January 1960

Dear Sir

I am certain that Mr XXX of Bristol has everyone’s sympathy in the grievous loss he sustained by the murder of his son in Palestine in 1947 but to suggest, even indirectly, that these very sad but fortunately comparatively rare events, carried out by extreme right wing groups, whose activities are repudiated by thoughtful and moderate opinion, can bear any comparison to the organised campaign of mass extermination which was the deliberate and avowed intent of the Nazi government, is no more than the result of prejudiced thinking.

Whenever armies are in immediate occupation, and where the desire for freedom and self-determination among the occupied is paramount, clashes of an atrocious nature are bound to occur on both sides.

Mr XXX’s son was a victim of political and military circumstances and I am sure that right-thinking and humanitarian elements in Israel, as indeed they do everywhere else, deprecate most sincerely occurrences of this nature.

Yours sincerely

J Pressman

I can hardly remember joining Facebook, that day being lost in the mists of time. I was living in another house, still married to Mr Lazarus and my younger children were still at university. Or were they? I can’t remember. I posted favourite quotations, photos and made contact with former colleagues.

My Facebook page now is set of course on private and even so, I take proper care: names may be displayed but not together with places and vice versa.

The groups which I archive and report to Facebook are devoted to these things: hatred of Israel, veneration of Mr Corbyn, hatred of Zionists, veneration of anti Zionists; hatred of the ‘Jewish/Israel/Zionist Lobby’ and veneration of any struggle inimical to Israel.

Facebook very rarely intervenes to remove a post or a comment, but is more likely to do so if there is swearing and if the word ‘Jewish’ is used, rather than ‘Zionist’. Thus a lady who commented ‘F***ing Jews, who do they think they are?’ got suspended from Facebook for a month and her comment was deleted. In contrast, the word ‘kike’ gets a pass, perhaps because it isn’t flagged up by Facebook algorithms.

When I report Holocaust denial, I get the reply from Facebook that it does not go against their community standards. In a long thread about the Zionist Lobby being responsible for all the evils of the world, the one person who carelessly wrote ‘Jewish lobby’ had his tweet deleted by Facebook.

The recent spate of terrorist killings in Israel, March – April 2022, has been lauded on some of the forums but reporting them for hate speech or the promotion of violence falls on deaf ears, if indeed Facebook has ears.

I have collated my replies from Facebook. If you have the tenacity to read to the end, you will see the one or two cases where somebody violated their standards.

In some comments, numbers and punctuation signs are substituted for letters, as in Zi0ni$ts. Israel is spelled Izrael and Usrael, to avoid the censor. Why do they bother? Facebook isn’t bothered.

I have added some of the more recent decisions from Facebook.

If you scroll through the screen shots, you will see at the end that Facebook did remove a comment and, certainly, members of many of the groups shown below do complain that Facebook – which they consider Zionistic – removes many of their comments.

Facebook works in a mysterious way, its wonders to perform.

And finally, there was one time when Facebook agreed there was a problem.

And at last, perhaps we have Facebook’s ear, just once in a while.

  • James Casserly: Unfortunately there seems to be no middle ground, no nuance and even less humanity on Twitter. Like you, there are people I have no time for, some I a
  • keithmarr: G < div dir="ltr">Twitter is such a cesspit you can more or less guarantee any opini
  • Gillian Gould Lazarus: You're Nathan Hull, aren't you, an abusive troll who uses the alias Gerard O'Neill?