Neviim Tovim, blogs by Gillian Gould Lazarus

Flitting between Corbynist forums, I’m not always able to get an impression about which groups are more intensely antisemitic than others and besides, the groups have a fluidity, often very much affected by the administrators. One forum was highly antisemitic, then somebody left and the remaining administrator was pro-Starmer. The group is still well to my left but it isn’t antisemitic.

Through Twitter, I met Natalie Evans, who works as a volunteer in Holocaust education. Natalie, a Labour supporter, had joined a forum called The Left Fights the Media and became aware quickly of the rampant antisemitism and misinformation in the group. She stayed in the group to argue back and was finally expelled last night, after questioning their received opinion that a holocaust was occurring in Gaza, perpetrated by he Israelis and equal in extent to the Shoah.

This post will be mostly screen shots as the threads I have seen on The Left Fights the Media leave me bereft of words. I will show two threads. One, from last night, got Natalie expelled. The other, from eight weeks ago, is a response to harsh words about Jeremy Corbyn, printed in the Jewish Chronicle. Thanks to Natalie for drawing my attention to the comment, ‘He isn’t the first JC they crucified.’

Below is the thread reacting to negative remarks about Jeremy Corbyn in the Jewish Chronicle.

Mr Corbyn and his supporters claim that the EHRC report ‘dramatically exaggerated’ the extent of antisemitism in the Labour Party during the period of his leadership. I believe that Mr Corbyn has a poor diagnostic eye for antisemitism and so do many of his supporters, not all, no doubt, but the many not the few.

Today, they continue what they consider their ‘fight for justice and fairness’.

In recent weeks, I’ve had some run ins with neo-nazi accounts on Twitter. The accounts belong to Americans, possibly a small number of individuals, opening a new account as soon as one gets closed down, or conceivably, as they insist, a large number of people, preparing retribution against non-whites, Jews, Muslims and LGBTQ. One can see the advantage of having them hate diverse minorities, in the sense of them promoting solidarity among us, their targets.

What after all is more painful than division between black and Jewish, Muslim and Jewish, gay and trans, gay and Muslim, Zionist and non Zionist, BLM and African Americans for Trump?

You would think the neo-nazi accounts might be an amusement almost, but they are so queasily gruesome, with their Stürmerish cartoons of Jews and their graphic depictions of black people as primitive, that they do have at least one power if no other, the power to disgust. And they are worse than I describe them here, as I don’t like to linger over their effluvia, which trickle sometimes into my notifications.

When I am exposed to far right racism, I think it must surely be worse than racism as it occurs on the left. If I were prepared to discount the antisemitism of the left, this would be nothing but the truth, but obviously, or not obviously, this isn’t something I’m prepared to do.

Whether it is myself or other Jews who are being called supremacist, colonialist, apartheid lover, Khazar or murderer, I’m not prepared to give these ‘anti-racist’ self-congratulatory, ill-informed moralists of the left the benefit of the doubt.

The very names which they call us tend to belong to the left and not the right. There are those on the left who say that our bloodlust targets Palestinian children. The neo-nazis say that our victims are white children, like little Saint Hugh of Lincoln. The word Khazar is used by the left to deny the Jewish connection with the Land of Israel. The far right call us Semites and embrace antisemitism, regarding us as non-white. Supremacist is not derogatory in their book.

Holocaust denial is de rigueur on the far right, while the radical left on social media ask why Jews should get special treatment in the memorializing of the Holocaust – were there not other victims and anyway, they sometimes ask, how many really died? And were Zionists not in cahoots with the nazis, they ask and what was wrong with Ken Livingstone’s remarks, he got it right didn’t he?

The left speaks of Jewish political power and martial brutality while the right maintains that we are insidious, physically weak but paranormally potent. There is an overlap. I have seen left wing forums where members maintain that Jews use occult power as well as money, to dominate the entire world.

The far left says, ‘If you don’t want us to hate you, stop being bad to Palestinians.’

The far right doesn’t offer us any terms for eluding their hatred.

Both far left and far right accuse us of complaining too vociferously about antisemitism. Why don’t we just shut up about it and, as Len McCluskey might say, go into a room and count our gold?

I am referring to the racists of left and right, not to the spectrum of opinion which appears in parliamentary democracies. After all, I am myself left and right, albeit, most of all, centre. Political quizzes place me on the centre left, socially progressive but tending to favour a free market economy, more so in recent years, observing the Corbynist attachment to government regulation. But, to be honest, I don’t even know what that last sentence means.

I resent that left antisemitism undermines the natural solidarity I would feel with people whose causes they rightfully embrace. As for the neo-nazis, I resent that they are still with us, showing up in my notifications, while Twitter averts its algorithmic eyes.

As an undergraduate, I resided in a large hall of residence where, in my final year, I met my first husband, not Mr Gould zichrono livracha nor Mr Lazarus, but the father of my first two children.

There were three communal television rooms for the entertainment of the students residing in three adjacent blocks. Watching television must have been a bit of an event because I remember what I watched and how it felt. For example, on the night that I believed I’d mastered truth tables in symbolic logic (I probably hadn’t) I  went light-hearted to the TV room where The Third Man was showing. I had seen it before but never with such appreciation and exquisite enjoyment. When I see it now – and it holds up marvelously well – I think of truth tables.

Another film, and why this 1936 classic was being watched by students in 1970 is a mystery, was San Francisco with Jeanette MacDonald and Clark Gable. There was some laughter at the cheesier moments but the earthquake montage, when it came, was met with a stunned silence. In the nineteen thirties, special effects were special indeed.

As Sartre was then my favourite living philosopher, I watched with great interest a BBC serialization of his trilogy The Roads to Freedom, with Michael Bryant, Georgia Brown and Daniel Massey – BAFTA nominated, but it seems to have vanished, leaving behind only a footprint on IMDb.

Most memorable, in terms of viewing, was the night of the 1970 General Election, 18 June. I would have been home with my parents in London where, for the first time, I had the right to vote, but I had become ill after the exams and, while the lurgy persisted, was holed up in my room in the hall of residence. By 18th June, I was well enough to make my way to one of the television rooms. I imagine that all three were tuned to the election results.

I was a Labour supporter. My parents and sister were Labour supporters. So were most of my friends, even the revolutionaries from the Socialist Society. So also were my grandparents, uncles and aunts although there was one cousin who said he voted Conservative. That got talked about in the family, in lowered voices.

It was just two years after the Evenements de Mai, the groundswell of student and trade union activism which flourished in France in May 1968 and spread across Europe and the USA. It made stars of student leaders Danny Cohn-Bendit in France and Rudi Dutschke in Germany. Here we had Tariq Ali, notching up more television appearances than could be claimed in 2019 by Ash Sarkar and Owen Jones combined.

The most average and conventional of the students at my university, those who were still comparing A level grades, suddenly grew their hair, called each other ‘Man’, became revolutionary socialists and, in many cases, ‘dropped acid’.

 For the record, I never did LSD – too fearful of hallucinations. ‘For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come?’

Well, Labour was defending a majority of over a hundred, the like of which we don’t see these days, and their poll lead was around 12% so the odds looked favourable on Harold Wilson being returned to Downing Street.

As you will know, the Conservatives won the General Election of 1970 and Edward Heath became Prime Minister.

The TV room gradually emptied, leaving just a disconsolate few, myself among them, to see in a Tory dawn.

In 1968, France at least had seemed to be on the cusp of revolution. By 1970, De Gaulle had retired and Georges Pompidou was the President. In America, the Democrat Lyndon Johnson was out and the Republican Richard Nixon was in.

What happens when the Left gets disappointed? Does the conservative Right consume the middle ground?

During my teenage years in the SWP, I heard Tony Cliff blame the failure of the German revolution in 1919 on the Social Democratic Party of Germany which, insisting on a parliamentary system of government, then put down the Spartacist movement. The Spartacist leaders Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht were killed by the paramilitary Freikorps. Weimar followed and we know what beast burst forth in its wake.

The post 1968 narrative of the left was that, as in 1919, it had been betrayed by the centre, a motif overused at the present time by the disappointed ‘Many’ following the most recent UK General Election of December 2019.

Surrounded on the streets by like-minded people, calling in their thousands for justice, peace and plenty, with banners and placards carrying variations of the same message, some more inventive than others, and the chants of so many voices:

…one, two three, four, we don’t want this particular war,

Two, four, six, eight, choose the villain, feel the hate…

how can we account for the conservative tendencies of ballot box voters? Is it a desire for the quiet enjoyment of the life adumbrated in the final speech of Trainspotting or a fear that those street activists who may have been us in a previous year or decade will gain power and be the most conservative of all?

In 2019, for the second time in my life, I didn’t want a Labour victory (the first time was 2017) because the Left seemed to have taken on a brutal and intolerant triumphalism. It looked possible that we were at last on the cusp of a societal change which would harm me and many of those close to me. I realize that this is denied most emphatically by the disappointed hard left.

Where do the hard left go when they are disappointed? Presumably to the same place as the electorally disappointed far right: the fringes, the shadows and the room above a pub, to plan the next upheaval, the next threshold and how to cross it.

Yom Kippur discussion group 5781/2020

גָּלְמִי רָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ 

You saw my unformed substance/golmi

Psalm 139: 16

I wanted to talk about golems, because it seemed relevant to the repentance theme of Yom Kippur to discuss the aspects of ourselves which might be excessively defensive, or offensive, or triggered or even out of control, the way the Prague Golem became too powerful and delinquent for its creator.

The most well-known golem legend attributes its creation to Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague, a mystically inclined rabbi and scholar who was born about 1520 and died in 1609. He is sometimes referred to by the honorific acronym Maharal, Morenu ha Rav Loew, our teacher, Rabbi Loew. In order to protect the Jews of Prague from pogroms, he created a humanoid from the mud of the Vltava River and brought it to life by inserting into its mouth a clay tablet bearing the name of God. The rabbi would deactivate the creature every shabbat by removing the clay tablet. One week he forgot to do this and the Golem went on a destructive rampage until Rabbi Loew removed the clay tablet.

This legend post-dates the lifetime of the Maharal. It was a fiction which resonated with Jewish and non-Jewish authors alike.

What brings a golem to life is the name of God or another mystical formulation of letters which the golem wears, on his forehead or over his heart and when this is removed, life departs from the golem.

It was believed that a letter of God’s name would animate the clay figure of the golem or, conversely, subtracting a letter would take life away.

In 2009,the Czech Republic issued a stamp depicting the Maharal, minus the golem, price 21 korunas.

The German film director and actor Paul Wegener made two films about the Golem, the first one in 1915 being lost but the second film, from 1920, is extant and available on Amazon Prime. I watched it. Unavoidably, there is a slightly King Kong aspect to the narrative in which the monster falls in love with a beautiful girl. Paul Wegener played the role of the Golem in his films, so it is his image which we see in the stills from the movie.

Rabbi Jacob Emden, eighteenth century, gave an account of the Golem of Chelm, created by Elijah Ba’al Shem, a near contemporary of the Maharal, but not blessed with the Maharal’s longevity. The story is told in an anonymous manuscript dated 1630. The word emet, meaning truth, was inscribed on the Chelm Golem’s forehead. When it became too powerful,  Rabbi Elijah destroyed it by removing the letter א aleph from the word emet. This left the word met which means dead and so the Golem was rendered lifeless.

In the popular American television series X Files, an episode called Kaddish concerns a golem wreaking vengeance on some neonazi killers. As always, the golem goes beyond it remit and is returned by its makers to dust. In this dramatization, it is terminated by the removal of the aleph.

The Babylonian Talmud makes reference to the creation of a man by the sage Rava, in Babylon, third to fourth century CE.

רבא ברא גברא שדריה לקמיה דר’ זירא הוה קא משתעי בהדיה ולא הוה קא מהדר ליה אמר ליה מן חבריא את הדר לעפריך

Indeed, Rava created a man, a golem, using forces of sanctity. Rava sent his creation before Rabbi Zeira. Rabbi Zeira would speak to him but he would not reply. Rabbi Zeira said to him: You were created by one of the members of the group, one of the Sages. Return to your dust.

Sanhedrin 65b

The Gemara relates another story to support the statement that the righteous could create a world if they so desired:

Rav Ḥanina and Rav Oshaya would sit every Shabbat eve and engage in the study of Sefer Yetzirah, and a calf would be created for them, and they would eat it in honour of Shabbat.

Sanhedrin 38b

Their arcane knowledge is said to be obtained from a mystical work Sefer Yetzirah, which means The Book of Creation. The date of Sefer Yetzirah is generally thought to be Talmudic although there is a view that it dates from the later Geonic period. As it is referenced in  the Babylonian Talmud, fifth or sixth century CE should be the terminus ante quem unless it is a later insertion. The subject matter is creation through the force of words, letters and speech. In the account of creation which we read in Genesis, it is God’s words which create everything in the universe, from light on the first day to a human being on the sixth. Sefer Yetzirah served as a kind of How To manual for creation ex nihilo.

Another Babylonian sage states that Adam was created initially as a golem.

It is taught in a baraita that Rabbi Meir would say: The dust that served to form Adam the first man was gathered from the entire world, as it is stated: “When I was made in secret and wrought in the lowest places of the earth, Your eyes did see my unshaped flesh” (Psalms 139:15–16).

Sanhedrin 38b

God breathed the breathe of life into Adam and he became a man, in the divine image.

Midrash speaks of Abraham as having mystical powers of creation and this is based on Genesis12:5:

וַיִּקַּ֣ח אַבְרָם֩ אֶת־שָׂרַ֨י אִשְׁתּ֜וֹ וְאֶת־ל֣וֹט בֶּן־אָחִ֗יו וְאֶת־כָּל־רְכוּשָׁם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רָכָ֔שׁוּ וְאֶת־הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֣וּ בְחָרָ֑ן וַיֵּצְא֗וּ לָלֶ֙כֶת֙ אַ֣רְצָה כְּנַ֔עַן וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אַ֥רְצָה כְּנָֽעַן׃

And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

The souls they had made is interpreted usually in Midrash as referring to converts Abram and Sarai had made.

It is said that the eleventh century Andalusian sage Ibn Gabirol created a female servant – an early medieval Stepford wife, perhaps. Although a story about Ibn Gabirol creating a golem is found in more than one contemporary source, I can find nothing which isn’t modern and it may be derived from a fantasy or a metaphor which can possibly be attributed to a twentieth century American Rabbi Ben-Zion Bokser.

What do all the golems have in common? They are created by humans in their wisdom, in imitation of God’s creation. The golems are physically mighty and the creators tend to lose control of them.

A golem is servile, obedient, physically strong, primitive, wild, sometimes emotional and sometimes vengeful. It can be a servant or a weapon, an industry or a movement. It may be managed or it may be out of control, like Dr Frankenstein’s monster or like a nuclear bomb. A golem can be a creation made by humans, or by God. There is usually a danger of it becoming more powerful than its creator intended.

In Freudian terms, the Golem might be our id, out of control and disempowering the superego.

It may be a synth who gets ideas above their station.

It may be a powerful political leader whose clout exceeds their reason.

According to cinematic representations, it may be an emotionally sentient creature who falls in love.

God’s creation, humanity, got out of control in many ways. The disobedient Adam was followed by the fratricidal Cain and eventually an entire generation did ‘nothing but evil’.

וַיַּ֣רְא יְהוָ֔ה כִּ֥י רַבָּ֛ה רָעַ֥ת הָאָדָ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ וְכָל־יֵ֙צֶר֙ מַחְשְׁבֹ֣ת לִבּ֔וֹ רַ֥ק רַ֖ע כָּל־הַיּֽוֹם׃

The LORD saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how every plan devised by his mind was nothing but evil all the time.

וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם יְהוָ֔ה כִּֽי־עָשָׂ֥ה אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ וַיִּתְעַצֵּ֖ב אֶל־לִבּֽוֹ׃

And the LORD regretted that He had made man on earth, and His heart was saddened.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָ֗ה אֶמְחֶ֨ה אֶת־הָאָדָ֤ם אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֙אתִי֙ מֵעַל֙ פְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה מֵֽאָדָם֙ עַד־בְּהֵמָ֔ה עַד־רֶ֖מֶשׂ וְעַד־ע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם כִּ֥י נִחַ֖מְתִּי כִּ֥י עֲשִׂיתִֽם׃

The LORD said, “I will blot out from the earth the men whom I created—men together with beasts, creeping things, and birds of the sky; for I regret that I made them.”

וְנֹ֕חַ מָ֥צָא חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃ (פ)

But Noah found favor with the LORD.

Genesis 6:5 – 8

We, God’s creation, are likened to clay. Our beginning is the unformed substance – ‘Like clay in the hands of the Potter,’ said Jeremiah.

וַיְהִ֥י דְבַר־יְהוָ֖ה אֵלַ֥י לֵאמֽוֹר׃

Then the word of the LORD came to me:

ק֥וּם וְיָרַדְתָּ֖ בֵּ֣ית הַיּוֹצֵ֑ר וְשָׁ֖מָּה אַשְׁמִֽיעֲךָ֥ אֶת־דְּבָרָֽי׃

“Go down to the house of a potter, and there I will impart My words to you.”

וָאֵרֵ֖ד בֵּ֣ית הַיּוֹצֵ֑ר והנהו [וְהִנֵּה־] [ה֛וּא] עֹשֶׂ֥ה מְלָאכָ֖ה עַל־הָאָבְנָֽיִם׃

So I went down to the house of a potter, and found him working at the wheel.

וְנִשְׁחַ֣ת הַכְּלִ֗י אֲשֶׁ֨ר ה֥וּא עֹשֶׂ֛ה בַּחֹ֖מֶר בְּיַ֣ד הַיּוֹצֵ֑ר וְשָׁ֗ב וַֽיַּעֲשֵׂ֙הוּ֙ כְּלִ֣י אַחֵ֔ר כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר יָשַׁ֛ר בְּעֵינֵ֥י הַיּוֹצֵ֖ר לַעֲשֽׂוֹת׃ (פ)

And if the vessel he was making was spoiled, as happens to clay in the potter’s hands, he would make it into another vessel, such as the potter saw fit to make.

הֲכַיּוֹצֵ֨ר הַזֶּ֜ה לֹא־אוּכַ֨ל לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת לָכֶ֛ם בֵּ֥ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל נְאֻם־יְהוָ֑ה הִנֵּ֤ה כַחֹ֙מֶר֙ בְּיַ֣ד הַיּוֹצֵ֔ר כֵּן־אַתֶּ֥ם בְּיָדִ֖י בֵּ֥ית יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (ס)

O House of Israel, can I not deal with you like this potter?—says the LORD. Just like clay in the hands of the potter, so are you in My hands, O House of Israel!

A golem has its origin in common with Adam, who was made from the dust of the ground, and adam is a generic name for mankind.

and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

In the ensuing discussion which was via Zoom after the Yom Kippur musaf service, members spoke about aspects of personality which may appear to be out of control and the relationship of hidden aspects of the self to creativity. The question arose whether comparing a human to a golem emphasised the passivity rather than the free will of the human being.

By the time the discussion was over, there were only four hours remaining until the end of the fast.

אבינו מלכנו זכור כי עפר אנחנו

Our Father, our King, remember that we are dust.

Avinu Malkenu

Last year, just before Rosh Hashanah, I decided to use a rectangular canvas, 30 x 20 centimetres, to paint an angel. The big white wings spread across the width of the canvas. The angel himself was a teenage boy, early twentieth century Europe perhaps, old enough to wear a tallit but too young for a beard. He wore a peaked flat cap above which floated a silver halo and his tallit had gold fringes. His trousers appear either too short or too long, ending just above his working boots and he stood firmly in the sky casting a slight blue shadow. Most importantly, he carried an open book, bound in red leather and this, I supposed, was the book of life or, due to its relatively small format, the book of my life. This year, I look at the painting again and it strikes me that this is my guardian angel, not an archangel but one who died in Europe in the twentieth century and ascended to heaven and whose remit is to do whatever guardian angels do, in respect of myself.

I can go no further without mentioning Clarence, about whom George Bailey muttered ‘You look about like the kind of an angel I’d get.’ Henry Travers as Clarence in the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life is the prototype of the kind of angel we expect  to take an interest in the daily grind of our labours, problems and pleasures. And he is precisely the right angel for George as the benign Clarence is no fast-tracker but on the contrary, rather slow to get his wings, which is true also of George, bound by duty but not inclination to Bedford Falls.

When George remarks sourly ‘I got a bust in the jaw in answer to a prayer,’ Clarence corrects him: Oh no no no George, I’m the answer to your prayer.’

Peter Stanford in his book ‘Angels, a Visible and Invisible History’ (Hodder & Stoughton 2019) refers to a decline in theological angelology from about the mid twentieth century and cites Karl Barth’s view – which probably Peter Stanford does not share – that it is a mistake to treat angels as if attached to individual human beings. (Stanford p 283). Angels, according to Barth, are a force of heaven, not operators on earth for the resolution of human problems.

One must therefore rule out Cary Grant, the angel who befriends the eponymous bishop’s wife whose repressed husband, an uncharacteristically subdued David Niven, appears to disadvantage compared to Grant’s debonair and attentive angel. (The Bishops’s Wife directed by Henry Koster, 1947).

Films about angels are legion, literally in the case of Legion, Scott Stewarts’s 2010 horror movie. Often the angels are fallen, troubled and anthropomorphic, as in Kevin Smith’s 1999 comedy fantasy Dogma. I eschew horror film about angels and generally cannot take to stories about angels falling in love with individual human beings. Why would they? Our days are as grass.

I have worked in bookshops where the genre Mind, Body and Spirit was big business. Included on the MBS shelves were tarot cards including angel tarot with their Botticelli-meets-DG-Rossetti illustrations and popular memoirs by authors who spoke of being visited by angels.

The word for angel in Hebrew (מלאך) and Greek (ἀγγελος) means messenger as well as angel and the Latin angelus is virtually the same word as the Greek angelos. In the Hebrew bible, an angel is not always called a malakh but sometimes an ish – simply meaning man – especially when there is direct interaction with a human being. In the case of Jacob, he has a vision of angels of God ( malakhei Elohim) ascending and descended a ladder, but it is a man (ish) who wrestles with him until break of day.

Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (face of God); for I have seen God face to face and my life is saved.

Genesis 32:31 in Tanakh or Genesis 32:30 in some translations

There is certainly a human desire for intermediaries between us and God: angels, saints and messengers whose messages bear life-changing import. Perhaps also, there is a desire for human beings to be more than merely human and only a little lower than the angels.

מָֽה־אֱנ֥וֹשׁ כִּֽי־תִזְכְּרֶ֑נּוּ וּבֶן־אָ֝דָ֗ם כִּ֣י תִפְקְדֶֽנּוּ׃

What is man that You have been mindful of him, mortal man that You have taken note of him,

וַתְּחַסְּרֵ֣הוּ מְּ֭עַט מֵאֱלֹהִ֑ים וְכָב֖וֹד וְהָדָ֣ר תְּעַטְּרֵֽהוּ׃

You have made him a little lower than the angels, and crowned him with glory and majesty.

Psalm 8:5

On Yom Kippur, we abstain from food, drink, sexual relations, bathing and wearing leather and we wear white, all these things in imitation of the heavenly host.

Of course we want to keep our angels close.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee upon their hands, lest thou strike thy foot against a stone.

Psalm 91:11-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus I try to understand her position.

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

Are the elderly more easily radicalized than the young?

Is ‘radicalized’ the wrong word entirely?

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

Post Script

In June 2021, the group is what I would call radically antisemitic. This thread from today is typical of the discourse on ‘Jeremy Corbyn Should Have Been Prime Minister’.

Noelle, still active in the group, exhibits a Palestinian flag on her avatar.

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

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

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

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

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

How could they know such a thing?

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘They fear him because he cannot be bought.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quod contra saepius illa religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta

(De Rerum Natura 1:80)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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