Sunday, May 09, 2021

Jews Don't Count by David Baddiel


Rather like Promising Young Woman, if you immediately conclude that this is probably not for you, it almost certainly is. 

Particularly if you are the kind of 'progressive' inclined to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a person of colour yet at the same time disinclined to award the same status to any other member of his ethnic group. 
"The move to reclassify Jesus as non-white is good and historically accurate. The erasure at the same time of his Jewishness is neither."
I came to this thinking I had probably already had a basic understanding of the problem Baddiel is trying to throw some light on, but even so, this is a well-written, intelligently-presented polemic of serious quality and undoubtedly shocking in many places. 

How, he seems to be asking overall, does probably the most oppressed and persecuted ME in history find itself denied access to some fairly basic BAME protections today, and not just so-called micro-aggressions, but some really quite serious macro-aggressions too. 

He points to a key determinant: "The law of Schrödinger’s Whites, a brilliant conceit that I am not responsible for, in which Jews are white or non-white depending on the politics of the observer."

White supremacists are generally pretty clear on this. Jews are not white folk, rather they are 'Asiatic' types, secretly working behind the scenes with other dark races to replace them. 

Yet for many on the left, Jews are not only white, but in a sense more than white, a skin colour that manifests itself as kind of grey in a cultural sense or perhaps even invisible to the naked eye. 

Sacha Baron Cohen as Ali G (Baddiel regards him as more 'Israeli' than Jewish, apparently for his occasionally overbearing self-confidence) played on this when he asked an interviewee 'Is it because I is black?'. 

Cultural whiteness is not so much about skin colour, as about belonging to the group which doesn't have to worry too much about such things. And Jews have historically never been free not to worry. 

In one of his gentler turns Baddiel summarises the problem for Jews in a woke society...
The problem is that Jews occupy a socio-cultural grey area. Jews, although marginal, are not thought of as marginalised. Which means Jews can’t be seen as representative of a modern Britain that is intent on shifting marginalised experiences into the mainstream.
In its extreme form contemporary anti-semitic prejudice is grounded in the notion that Jews cannot be oppressed as they are secretly controlling the levers of oppression, specifically capitalist oppression. 

As Baddiel puts it: "Interestingly, a lot of those who believe in Lizard People also seem to be anti-Semites", whilst noting that the likes of David Icke use Rothschild Zionists as their preferred euphemism for Jews. 

There's a double standard at play here which is decidedly difficult to counter...
Jews are the only objects of racism who are imagined – by the racists – as both low and high status. Jews are stereotyped, by the racists, in all the same ways that other minorities are – as lying, thieving, dirty, vile, stinking – but also as moneyed, privileged, powerful and secretly in control of the world. Jews are somehow both sub-human and humanity’s secret masters.
Again, Baddiel doesn't go into the history of this, but the association of Jews with money has its origins in medieval mentalités: Christians then, just like Muslims today, found themselves hog-tied by dogma when it came to matters of credit and interest. So they farmed the job out to a minority that they could then despise for it, in what can only be described as a thoroughly despicable manner. 

The underlying racist prejudice somehow solidified as Christians gradually allowed themselves a more hands-on role in the expansion of capitalism. 

The actor John Cusack once tweeted a noxious anti-semitic meme with the added imperative 'Follow the Money'. Yet in the USA if you do decide to embark upon that particular trail towards monied minorities, it is Hindus not Jews that you will find in greatest abundance: both the most remunerated and high net worthy of American sub-identities. Meanwhile more than half of the millionaires on a global level are Christian. 

And even then, Baddiel feels impelled to add...
This is very un-Marxist of me – fuck off about money. Because money doesn’t protect you from racism. As I say, some Jews are rich. My grandparents were: they were industrialists in East Prussia. They owned a brick factory. They had servants. By the time they were fleeing to England with my mother as a baby in 1939, however, that had all been robbed from them. And by the end of the war, most of their family – and therefore a large section of mine – had been murdered. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, because the racists will smash in the door of your big house that they know you don’t deserve anyway and only own because you’re Jews.
There's a lucid chapter on the way Israel is used by many on the left to silence any Jewish misgivings about the way their opinions tend to fare in British political discourse, and he pinpoints the way Godwin's Law is being used to slap down any Jew who might dare to mention ze vor. And this when there's really nobody else more inherently entitled to bring the Nazis into an argument. 

Baddiel highlights another telling omission that I spotted and was duly irked by recently in Jojo Rabbit...
Jews remains the only minority – and now we’re talking beyond ethnic, to include disabled, trans, autistic and many other categories – where you don’t have to cast the actor in line with the real thing. 
Later on he seems to be gently mocking former ITV sports presenter Jim Rosenthal and his son Tom for somewhat aggressively asserting their non-Jewishness. This did make me chuckle, because Marcus in Plebs is one of the most thoroughly Jewish characters in contemporary British comedy. 

On a separate note, it once bothered V that Jim Rosenthal always used to appear on ITV's Formula One show with his top button done up and eventually went so far as to dispatch an email to the channel about this rather pressing matter. 

Shortly afterwards, he stopped doing it. Nowadays if you google him, there's only one image returned that suggests this was ever a thing.

1 comment:

norm said...

I see Jews as a polity of their own but a completely integrated part of whatever larger National polity they might reside in. That said, every national polity has its smaller polities that are actors on the whole. Our current Trumpeters here in the US come to mind, a very integrated lot of the the whole but defiantly outliers in the majority. Racism is illogical, lots of people are illogical; I doubt we'll see the end of prejudice based on faith or race anytime soon.