By JOSHUA BAUMRING-GLEDHILL
Fighting anti-Semitism is not a priority for the progressive left. This is the central contention of David Baddiel’s new book ‘Jews Don’t Count’ in which Baddiel attempts to explain why it is that Jews are left out of today’s climate of identity politics and why anti-Semitism is so low on the agenda of the progressive left. This review will analyse Baddiel’s ideas as well as demonstrating how some of Baddiel’s conclusions are proven in practical contexts.
The book is a very short read and mixes humour and political commentary well. Its mixture of tweets, humorous personal anecdotes and cutting political analysis makes it an accessible read to anyone seeking to gain a better understanding of modern anti-Semitism. Throughout the book, Baddiel demonstrates how the Left’s advocacy of anti-racism often forgets to leave space for combatting anti-Semitism. For example, he details how at a football game, he was referred to by the anti-Semitic and derogatory term of ‘Y*d’ by members of the crowd whilst the stadium’s security did nothing, with Baddiel arguing that this situation would not have been ignored had the prejudice been levelled at a different ethnic group.
Baddiel argues that this example illustrates the ‘hierarchy of racism’ that is prevalent on the Left, with anti-Semitism low on the agenda of supposed progressives. Baddiel argues that because Jews are falsely associated with wealth and ‘whiteness’ they are not seen as either marginalised or as an ethnic minority. However, the association of Jews with money is false and an old trope of anti-Semitism that dates back to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus for financial gain in the Bible. Furthermore, Baddiel illustrates how Jews are not a homogenous white group, with Jews being far more ethnically diverse than the media presents them.
Another issue that Baddiel illustrates is that the association of Jews with Israel often leads to the lower position of Jews on the progressive Left’s anti-racist agenda. Baddiel argues that the Left has the false assumption that all Jews are supporters of Israel, and this is problematic for the Left as Israel’s policies towards Palestine has led the Left to support the Palestinian cause, assuming Jews are the enemy due to the belief that all Jews are supporters of Israel and all its associated policies.
But can we see this play out in real life, rather than in the pages of Baddiel’s book? Ken Loach is a film director who is one of only nine filmmakers to have received the Palme d’Or twice. However, Loach has also attracted notorious criticism for his views. In 1987, Loach was due to direct a play by Jim Allen called ‘Perdition’ at the Royal Court which falsely portrayed how Jewish leaders in Nazi-occupied Hungary collaborated with their oppressors to advance the cause of Zionism. The play asserts that the Jewish leaders of Hungary ‘practically led [the Jews] to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.’ The play was cancelled 36 hours before it premiere due to widespread accusations of antisemitism but Loach refused to apologise for the play’s harmful and dangerous historical inaccuracies, stating that the play was shut down due to ‘the strength and organisation and power of [the Zionist] lobby’, arousing the anti-Semitic conspiracy that Jews were in control of the world and media. More recently, Loach has been accused of Holocaust denial by stating that ‘history is for us all to discuss’ when asked to condemn discussions that had occurred at a fringe event of the 2017 Labour party Conference over whether the Holocaust had happened.
Last month Loach was invited to give a talk at St Peter’s College Oxford, a move widely condemned by Jewish students. Shocking, however, was the backlash against those criticising the decision, with #istandwithkenloach trending on Twitter on the day of the talk. Indeed, those such as comedian John Bishop tweeted that ‘Ken Loach does not have a prejudiced bone in his body’ and Tommy Corbyn similarly tweeted that Ken Loach was not ‘antisemitic’ but a ‘legendary film maker and national treasure.’ Similar to the example put forward by Baddiel at the football match, the fact that many were and are able to continue supporting Ken Loach clearly demonstrates the accuracy of Baddiel’s central thesis that Jews really don’t count for the progressive left.
For anyone seeking to educate themselves about why Jews should count, I urge you to read Baddiel’s book.