Hi all! It’s the third month of my boyfriend, Mark, being featured on the blog! Today he’s back with another review for a very important recent non-fiction release, Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel.
How identity politics failed one particular identity.
Jews Don’t Count is a book for people who consider themselves on the right side of history. People fighting the good fight against homophobia, disablism, transphobia and, particularly, racism. People, possibly, like you.
It is the comedian and writer David Baddiel’s contention that one type of racism has been left out of this fight. In his unique combination of close reasoning, polemic, personal experience and jokes, Baddiel argues that those who think of themselves as on the right side of history have often ignored the history of anti-Semitism.
He outlines why and how, in a time of intensely heightened awareness of minorities, Jews don’t count as a real minority: and why they should.
In Jews Don’t Count, David Baddiel offers his lived experience of antisemitism in the UK, and argues how the fight against racism, especially on the political left, has a blind spot.
“Progressives themselves will sometimes respond to anti-Semitism by pointing to the – implied – much worse racism suffered by minorities in, say, opinion columns in the Daily Mail. A fair enough point, but I’m not interested in those columnists, as their racism is active and obvious, and also, to be honest, not mine to talk about.”
Baddiel has been around for much of my life, from being an edgy young comedian to a more established pop culture figure via the song ‘Three Lions’. He has gone on to write novels for both adults and children, none of which I have read I must admit, but he has become one of my favourite modern grumpy old men via his TV appearances and on Twitter.
While it covers many areas that Baddiel has discussed throughout his career, Jews Don’t Count feels most like a companion piece to his documentary Confronting Holocaust Denial. Made with the BBC in 2020, and not on iPlayer at the time of writing, Baddiel directly confronted both current and historical attitudes to antisemitism, something he looks at closer to home further in this book.
“Jews are somehow both sub-human and humanity’s secret masters. And it’s this racist mythology that’s in the air when the left pause before putting Jews into their sacred circle. Because all of the people in the sacred circle are oppressed. And if you believe, even a little bit, that Jews are moneyed, powerful and secretly in control of the world … well, you can’t put them into the sacred circle of the oppressed.”
It’s fair to say I am predisposed to agree with Baddiel, so don’t expect a full critical breakdown of his arguments here. For a while now I have pondered on the nature of outrage and how it isn’t actually meted out in society as equally for some issues as others, so I welcomed the opportunity to read such a singular take on antisemitism. Baddiel covers a lot of ground in a short book, but essentially argues across various levels that racism against Jews, actively or passively, makes them the forgotten section of the anti-racist movement.
With a self deprecating style you might expect from his other work, Baddiel looks at the discrepancies in approach to problematic language and activity in a range of areas including football, entertainment and politics. He touches on Israel and addresses scandals, including his own from Fantasy Football League in the late 1990’s. He looks at the nature of being Jewish and what that means culturally, ethnically and religiously, but crucially also looks at the way current political divisions and identity politics both tacitly support antsemitism and, more often than not, forget racism against Jews. Hence the title, Jews Don’t Count.
“Anti-racists need to listen more to the enemy. Because anti-racists only exists to fight racists, it only has meaning oppositionally. If there were no racists, there would be no anti-racists. And the racists say: Jews are not white.”
I am sad to say in resulting discussions I have around this book, over the ambiguity about where being Jewish fits into racism, I have seen parts of Baddiel’s arguments confirmed with friends and have subsequently had to call them out. Something I have no problem with, but a disappointment I did not expect to be realised so easily. For me, the key might lie in Baddiel’s argument that we should fight less amongst ourselves as progressives and pay more attention to racist and white supremacists definitions, because if we’re truly committed to being anti-racist, we should be fighting their definitions, not arguing about our own.
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽