David Baddiel’s Jews Don’t Count criticises the progressive left for their inability to treat Jews as they would any other minority in their fight against racism. Using examples of racism against Jews which would never be tolerated against any other ethnic group, he suggests that Jews are not taken seriously because they’re seen as having too much white privilege to be afforded the same protections.
Celebrities on Twitter have come out to praise it. Hugh Laurie called it “terrific and purely addictive.” The book is a must-read and as a Jew, I welcome seeing this argument finally being made public, a double-standard we’ve known about for years but for one reason or other have not spoken about outside of our own community.
However, throughout the 144 pages, there is no mention of the critical role of anti-Israel rhetoric in making prejudice against Jews acceptable. A case in point is how he describes the accusations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn. He refers to his defence of the street artist Mear One’s anti-Semitic mural. But this was wasn’t the smoking gun that proved the former Labour leader was anti-Semitic. It was rather his 2013 claim about a group of Zionists that “having lived in this country … they don’t understand English irony”. A good illustration of how the left use the term Jew and Zionist interchangeably
The cunning of the progressive left’s anti-Semitism has always been to twist the anti-racist debate around. Jews are not victims but racists through their support of Israel and the Palestinians are the real victims. The Jewish claim to Israel as an asylum from persecution becomes delegitimised because in their retelling of history Jews are white colonial settlers invading someone else’s home.
Perhaps Baddiel feared that bringing Israel into the mix would alienate the audience whose sympathy he seeks. After all, many of them might have been offended, insisting that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism. The experience of history shows otherwise. Prior to the creation of Israel, anti-Semites condemned “the wandering Jew”, a ghost people without a home. Yet when we finally found a place we could call ours, anti-Semitism persisted, proving that hatred of Israel is just another manifestation of the same ancient prejudice.
Baddiel maintains that he is not a Zionist but his failure to understand Israel’s vital role in deterring genocide against Jews indicates that he should at least consider revising his position. A country that represents Jews everywhere, with a military to back it up would surely have at least tried to have saved Jews from the Holocaust and just as the Nazis would have targeted him for being ethnically Jewish, so would Israel have rescued him for the same reason.
His examples of anti-Semitism seem superficial when compared to the concerns most Jews have. I do not lie awake at night worried about the double standard whereby you cannot have a White person play a Black character but there’s no objection to a non-Jew getting the part of the Marvellous Mrs Maisel, as he asserts. What I do worry about is the way anti-Semitic crimes against Jews are somehow airbrushed by being linked to Israel’s perceived wrongdoings. This is why the group of people who harassed me when I made my way to Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations a few years ago could justify their actions — I was in the wrong by celebrating Israel, not them for intimidating me. It is a reason that a well-known Jewish figure in the media who, in response to Israel’s actions in Gaza, demanded on Twitter that all UK Jews feel obliged to condemn the behaviour of Netanyahu’s government. To which I asked whether he made the same request of Black African’s to the deranged behaviour of some of their own dictators. CST statistics on anti-Semitic attacks show that they peak whenever Israel is involved in a military operation.
Israel isn’t perfect. Like a broken record we Jews have to keep telling those hostile to Israel that attacking the policies of Netanyahu’s government is a legitimate criticism, denying any claim Jews have to their land is not. (I’m yet to think of any other people constantly compelled to find legitimate ways their homeland can be criticised.) But for a significant number of us, religious and secular alike, Israel is central to our lives, in failing to mention how attacking Israel undermines the security of Jews, he has only told part of the story.