Earlier this year, amid the fracas over the anti-Zionist Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer and that notorious linking of his to a website which accused Israel of involvement in the 9/11 atrocities and led to his bishop banning him from discussing the Middle East online, a friend upbraided me as follows by email: “I have been reading about Stephen Sizer. I was curious to see what you might say about the latest controversy and looked at your website… In your comment on the blog you express concern that he may now post material under a false name. I doubt very much he would do so… But your comment does raise the question whether you should post material under a false name. I have always been troubled that you do so. It seems cowardly of you to express strongly-held views and hide from personal accountability by using a false name. I hope you don't mind my saying this. But given your criticism of the practice of using a false name for a blog, I thought I should tell you what I think. I have adhered to my promise to you that I would not reveal to anyone who Daphne Anson is, but I think you really ought to reveal your identity.”
Before I could reply my friend sent a follow-up: “I just read [name supplied] my email to you. And I see that I may have been wrong. So I should apologise. [Name] said that what I hadn't realised is that you could potentially be in danger from fanatics who are incensed by your criticisms of Palestinian and Arab atrocities. Hence it may be prudent not to attach your name to the Daphne Anson blog. I can see the force of this argument; sorry I hadn't considered it.”
I responded: “What I meant about Sizer using a false name is that if he does we will no longer be able to track his appalling antisemitism… Regarding my own alias: I’m not keen on having my books rejected by anti-Israel publishers who know I'm a pro-Israel blogger (the major academic publishing house in Australia is headed by such a person). Nor do I want my blog, which is unashamedly partisan, confused with my history books, which are strictly non-partisan and objective… And I learned the lesson of posting in support of the Zionist Entity under my real name the hard way …
I related this hard lesson on my blog some years ago, but for readers who know nothing about it I thought, given the truly awful characteristics of the British Left that we are witnessing at present, with Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for the Labour leadership gathering momentum, that it would be instructive to relate it again. For I believe it says much about the type of people who are supporting Corbyn, as well as the manner in which antisemitism, as opposed to anti-black racism or “Islamophobia” is treated.
It took place some years ago when I was living in Britain. I joined a British social media site on which people used their real names, and took part in the political discussions. I developed a core of “friends” from the forum who invited me to a spinoff private forum that they founded. As far as I can recall, I was the sole non-Leftist on that exclusive little forum, but we were drawn together by interests that transcended politics.
Meanwhile, on the original forum (to which me and the others on the exclusive forum contined to belong) I began regularly to challenge posts, almost invariably made by Leftists, that unfairly criticised Israel. It was not long before my zealous championship of the Zionist Entity brought me to the attention of a rabid anti-Israel Leftist living in a big city in the north of England.
This middle-aged man began to stalk me obsessively on the site, flinging antisemitic abuse and derogatory, defamatory comments at me on a daily basis. I was "a rightwing Jewish bitch" ... a "ZioNazi" ... I habitually gloated (he alleged in his twisted fashion) over reports of Palestinian deaths ... and so on.
Complaining to the website in question (by me and others outraged on my behalf) proved continually futile, and accordingly this individual carried on his malevolent mischief with impunity, targeting me ever more remorselessly and, for good measure, posting despicable lies about the wife of an erudite non-Jew who, like me, enthusiastically supported Israel on the forum and, moreover, did so with a display of knowledge about Israeli history and politics that would shame many a Jew.
Things went from bad to worse, with two or three other Israel-bashing Leftists joining in the Zionist-baiting "fun" and either emulating the offender or egging him on. I must emphasise this late-middle-aged man in a white collar occupation was no mere common or garden troll, of the kind who infest many discussion sites. In fact, since the man was so relentless and sadistic in his treatment of me some posters began to wonder whether he was someone from my past who had a long-standing grudge against me.
One morning I received a private message from another member of the forum (herself a Leftist critical of Israel, but we had a mutual interest in matters literary which overrode all that). She informed me that, overnight on yet another discussion forum – to which I myself did not belong – my tormentor had posted my name, address, and telephone number, and suggested that anyone who did not agree with my attitude to the Palestinians (needless to say, this wicked wretch falsely depicted me, and Zionists in general, as considering the Palestinians less than human) should contact me to tell me so.
The time had come, my informant declared, for me to complain to the police about this man's behaviour, which had now undeniably gone beyond all the bounds of decency and acceptability.
During the course of the day I received two more private messages. One was from a woman who knew the offender's exact postal address (as well as his full name, date of birth, and occupation), and willingly gave it to me so that the police could be notified. The other was from a young lawyer, who said he had watched the ever-escalating abuse against me with mounting horror, and stressed that the time for police action had arrived.
Luckily for me, my tormentor had made a mistake regarding my phone number. He had obviously seen that in the phone directory it appeared twice (in error, actually), and had posted one of those two alternatives. It happened to be a number that was incorrect in the last digit.
Still, his posting my contact details plus the constant drip-drip-drip of derision had an unnerving effect, impacting on my physical and psychological well-being, and over the ensuing days and weeks he became more malicious than ever. With manic fervour, he created on both websites threads naming and abusing me, claiming, inter alia, that my husband (who had never posted on any internet forum and did not deserve to be dragged into this, yet who was mentioned by name by this sick man together with his work address and contact details) and I "salivate" every time a Palestinian is killed, that I write histories and historical biographies because, since the subjects are dead and can’t sue, I don't have to be accurate as to my facts.
There were all sorts of such grotesque and loathsome rubbish, much of it highly defamatory to me. (The truly reprehensible forum on which he had posted my contact details and these latest falsehoods refused my polite request, and those of sympathisers, that the posts be removed; the website was experiencing a boost in traffic from the brouhaha and was not prepared to let ethics win over the number of views it was notching up!)
I took advice from the Community Security Trust (CST) and the young lawyer, and learned that if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was to take action against my tormentor (probably for "racially aggravated harassment") the CPS would need from the police an "evidential download" of the offending material within 90 days of the material appearing. So, wasting no time, I strode into my local police station and drew to the attention of a rather baffled-looking policewoman the thick bunch of print-outs I had collected. After interviewing me she assured me the matter would be investigated.
Two days later I received a phone call from a young male officer: would I please collect those print-outs, he said, as this was not a matter with which the police could deal and I would have to take up the matter with the websites concerned (what part of “been there, done that” did the police not understand, I wondered!).
I told the CST (of whom I cannot speak too highly) of this development and was informed that the officer was in the wrong, since once the police have received such a complaint as I made they are obligated to investigate it.
Tearfully, I confronted the young officer and told him so, and was interviewed by another officer who, like the policewoman before him, appeared to take the matter seriously. Out of curiosity, this officer, given the name and address of the offender by me, searched the man on the electronic England and Wales police files (data base) he had at his disposal and volunteered that the man was already on them, for some past offence. (What that was he, quite properly, did not say, and I knew better than to ask.)
Within days the policewoman who had initially received my complaint was sent around to my house to take a formal statement, for forwarding with the other material to the CPS. Some weeks later later a detective from the station rang me to say that he had taken over the case from the policewoman, and that in the meantime it would be helpful if I did not participate on the forum on which the abuse occurred.
After that I waited ... and waited ... and waited for the police to get back to me. In the meantime, although I no longer participated on the forum in compliance with the detective’s advice, the abusive and defamatory posts about me continued.
And in the meantime the Leftists on the exclusive forum, who had pledged never to allow racist comments to appear on their site, and meticulously kept their word, made an exception in the case of someone who posted a repellent and ignorant thread about the Chief Rabbi. I vigorously protested the double standard but received from the Leftist administrators universal derision: the forum could not be expected to “tread on eggshells” regarding Jews, I was told. (Before long, I was unceremoniously expelled!)
Months passed, and seasons changed. Eventually I asked the police how things were proceeding, only to find that the police had done absolutely nothing! They had not lifted a finger to secure those crucial "evidential downloads" and consequently the 90 days in which they had to be made was long past! The print-outs of savage and sustained antisemitic harassment I'd given them were therefore wasted! The CPS had been given no inkling whatsoever of the antisemitic abuse and harassment perpetrated.
When I expressed incredulity, the police offered the lame excuse that detemining the offender's identity and whereabouts had proved more difficult to do than they anticipated! To that piece of bulldust I was able to retort that his precise identity and whereabouts were already common knowledge, and that I'd done their work for them by providing them with his full name, date of birth, occupation, and exact postal address! (What’s more, he had even posted photographs of himself online, confirmed to be genuine by one forum member who had met him!) Thus checkmated, they tried another tack: that they'd held off contacting the CPS because they'd assumed that, since I no longer participated on the website on which the original abuse had occurred, the abuse would stop.
Upset and furious, I wrote a letter of complaint to no less a personage that the Chief Constable of the county. As a result, I was fed an apparent cock-and-bull story about how seriously the police take allegations of antisemitism, and that the reason the investigation had stalled was due to the fact that the policewoman who originally dealt with my complaint is not computer-literate and had been overwhelmed by the reams of evidence at hand!!!
The outcome was that a local detective (one I had not previously encountered) phoned me. He assured me that although the opportunity to make evidential downloads within the requisite time-frame mandated by law had passed, my tormentor would within the coming week be contacted in person by a member of the police force in the district where he lived, and told that he must never again post my contact details online or mention me by name in such a manner on internet forums.
And, added the detective, he (i.e. the detective himself) would follow up that visit by phoning the offender to "fire an additional shot across his bows" by emphasising to him that a repeat of such abuse by him would not be tolerated.
Guess what? A local policeman did indeed call upon the offender, just as the detective told me he would. How do I know? Because, the day after the police officer's visit, the offender sent me a taunting message online to tell me so, and indicated by both word and deed that he would not be complying with the officer's request.
Oh, and guess what else? The detective never did phone the offender to fire that promised shot across his bow. And why didn't he keep that promise to me? Well, this is how the detective explained it to me when, indignant and disappointed, I asked him that very question: when the policeman confronted the offender at home and asked for his phone number the offender refused to give it. And the policeman (or so the detective said) had no power to force him to do so! Bunglers!
As for the tormentor, I have tried to put him out of my mind. But I do know that he's on Twitter, tweeting or retweeting sentiments hostile to Israel, including assertions that European Jews have no ethnic or historical ties to that country...
Predictably, he’s a fan of Corbyn. Not that he’s any longer a Labour Party member himself, he’s tweeted, having recently joined the Greens, but he admires Corbyn’s “principled politics”.