Book review: Jews Don’t Count, David Baddiel

David Baddiel’s Book is an exploration of modern Anti-Semitism

Anti Semitism is “the original racism”, and this book made me wonder, are we as a nation now blind and tone deaf to racism towards Jewish people, and if so, how can we root it out?

Football terraces

I knew racism still existed in football. This week Championship football clubs Birmingham, Swansea and Scottish League team Rangers did a social media boycott because of racism towards footballers online. I’ve joined in part way through in solidarity, because I think it’s important, regardless of your political views. I don’t even watch football and Villa are better than Birmingham anyway. I digress.

Surely no one would be racist towards David Baddiel at a footy match? 3 Lions Baddiel who with Frank Skinner, launched *the* football anthem of Euro ‘96, and every subsequent international football tournament?

David Baddiel, England football’s mascot and hero? The reason my brother and all his mates had fantasy football teams in the 90s? That David Baddiel?

Depressingly, David was present while some dunderhead started chanting “Yid” and “Fuck the Jews” at a Chelsea v Villa match at Stanford Bridge, at an admittedly dull juncture in the game. 

I didn’t know “Yid” was still in circulation, and I was wont to say “poppy-cock old bean” but this is Baddiel’s point. White cis (fe)males like me have a blind spot to the racism encountered by the middle class modern Jewish citizen, so now I was all ears. 

Fight them on Twitter

DB draws a large crowd on Twitter, where he valiantly takes on and exposes those with anti-Semitic views. He wades into political discourse with the intellectual aplomb of a civil rights activist. I knew he was smart ‘cause he always wins at House of Games on BBC2.

DB says “Twitter is not the real world, but it does politically refract a version of the real world, and the arguments that define it”. 

Wait, hold up! *needle scratches off the vinyl* DB did a ‘black face’ in Fantasy Football League like Bo Selecta’ of Nottingham Forest’s Jason Lee? What was he thinking? What were we all thinking? DB owns this lapse of judgment and has openly apologised. This is the difference between a right winger and progressive, those who apologise and make amends and those who intend to harm. “Those whom among us have never….”

Regardless of this Twitter Albatross around DBs profile, he has important points to make. 

Anti Semitism is a comedy vacuum. It sucks.

A comedy vacuum

“Schrodinger’s Whites” in when the whiteness of a Jew is in the politics of the beholder. DB puts it this way: “Racists say Jews aren’t white, whereas progressives think Jews are white, therefore, not deserving of the protection progressive movements offer to non-white people facing racism”.

The idea that Jews are not white is central to the ideology of white supremacists, and the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory that Jewish people want to wipe out Aryan whites. 

Sticks and stones

As a graduate of English language, I was fascinated by DB’s exploration of the term “Jew” compared with “Jewish”. DB’s Twitter profile famously says merely “Jew” because it’s funny, and because it’s a reclamation of the word used as an insult. No really, it’s subtle but listen to this.

The word “Jew” has strange status as a ‘bad’ word. People not seeking to cause offence tend to say “Jewish people” even about atheist Jewish people. Consider a ‘Jew’ banker compared with a “Jewish banker”, or a “Jew woman” compared with a “Jewish woman”. 

Now consider these words in another book by DB, where a Nazi female character writes: 

“I would much rather share my quarters with Aryan men than Jew women”. 

It certainly packs more of a literary punch, and hopefully that’s not trite to say. 

The world is full of actors

The acting world is beset with issues around actors playing the part of minorities. E.g. Halle Berry was admonished for taking the role of a transgender individual. Having a white man play Othello is unnecessary.

DB has similar issues with non-Jewish actors playing *stereotypical* Jewish roles – he comically calls it “Jew Face” like the “Black Face” of the Minstrels of the 1970s – “the stooped and shrugging body.” A bit like the 1950’s Negroe who scratches his head deferentially deferring to the intelligence of white people. 

I think this debate boils down to respect and stereotypes. No one wants to see stereotypes in film or theatre, it’s cringeworthy. Then there is the legacy of fewer parts for minorities hence the reason it’s more important those parts go to those actors. DB parallels “gayness” and a “gaydar” to his “Jewdar” when it comes to actors, and doesn’t shy away from revealing how many Jewish people he has spoken to who have kept their heritage “in the closet”, to avoid Anti Semitism.

Check your blind spot

Reading David Baddiel’s take on modern anti Semitism has given me the confidence to recognise and call out passive Anti Semitism when I see it. However, I am a cis white female, and DB says only the people experiencing racism get to say how it effects them, rightly so. 

As a final thought, I’m reading the Malcolm X autobiography concurrently. Malcolm X was a member of the Nation of Islam for a decade, and thought of white people as “the devil white man” for years. In fairness he met some really bad white people and was in the shadow of WW2. Later in life, on a pilgrimage to Mecca, he realised he likes all Muslims of all colours, even whites, because he experiences a “brotherhood” of those who share his faith.

Brotherhood

This got me thinking about the difference between “creed” and “race.” For example, DB sees himself as a Jew but also British, and he doesn’t consider himself white, perhaps because of racism he has experienced at the hands of racist white people. 

I would love to see more of a brotherhood among men and women of different creeds and faiths and no faith at all. Where we can find common ground of what unites us, not what divides us. I think DB feels the same, which is probably why he loves football.

And after reading this book, before I post anything on Twitter, like any good driver, I’ll try and remember to “check my blind spot”, but I’m a female driver so yada yada yada ….

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LucyBower

From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow.

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