David Baddiel on Modern Antisemitism


David Baddiel and David Schwimmer Photo: PA Photo/Channel 4

Jewish comedian David Baddiel says there is one form of racism that has been overlooked in society’s serious fight to eradicate hate: anti-Semitism.

Often, he says, Jews are seen as not counting as a “true minority,” so while they still suffer severe discrimination, they often don’t enjoy the same protections as other minority groups.

“Someone tweeted me once and said, ‘Anti-Semitism is racism sneaking past you,’ which I thought was a really good way to put it,” Baddiel says, 58 years old.

“Other forms of racism are sometimes more obvious than anti-Semitism.”

In February 2021, Baddiel published his book Jews Don’t Matter, which looks at “how identity politics has failed a particular identity” – how Jews are often left out of the conversation when it comes to protecting and to defend minorities.

Now a one-off Channel 4 documentary of the same name explores this on screen and sees Baddiel joined by other famous Jews – David Schwimmer, Stephen Fry, Sarah Silverman, Miriam Margolyes and more – who share their experiences and thoughts. .

“Being Jewish, trying to talk about the racism that you suffer from, and Jewish inclusion, or whatever…you often get this slight sense of fury, that you don’t deserve it, that’s not something thing you need,” he added. says Baddiel, who is known for his work with Frank Skinner on the 1990s comedy show Fantasy Football League and for creating the ubiquitous Three Lions football anthem.

“One of the things I talk about a lot in the book and in the movie is this notion of Jewish power and Jewish privilege, which a lot of people think shouldn’t be talked about – and Kanye West would be the one of them – they don’t think it’s racist to say that Jews are powerful and privileged.

“Because they just think it’s true, or they think it’s kind of a compliment, but obviously it’s not. It’s a stereotype, but historically it leads to immense violence against the Jews.”

But this conversation is relevant because violence against Jews is not just historical. Anti-Semitism did not begin or end with the mass slaughter of Jews during the Holocaust – which, of course, is still within living memory.

“There’s a huge increase in attacks right now,” Baddiel says.

“Eleven Jews killed in Pittsburgh in 2018 by a far-right gunman who believed in something called the Great Replacement theory and believed that Jews were responsible for controlling multiculturalism in America,” he adds, referring to the shooting at the Tree of Life. Synagogue, the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States.

“They were trying,” he adds, his voice softened by tears, “they were trying to house Syrian refugees in America. And this guy thought that meant they were destabilizing the region and the white races.

“So he killed 11 Jews.”

The stereotype that Jews are powerful, wealthy and controlling is a harmful myth that Baddiel returns to throughout his Channel 4 documentary, as it is a stereotype that not only attracts anti-Semitic hatred, but also leads progressives to refuse to protect the Jewish people, because they ‘are seen as ‘not really needed’.

“What comes down to a strange logic is that if the Jews are powerful, they’re not vulnerable; and if they’re not vulnerable, if they get attacked, it’s not that important. We don’t have to offer the same protections we offer other minorities,” Baddiel said.

“I have a problem with anti-Semitism and how it doesn’t follow other forms (of racism). I think if people are cancelled, or there are consequences, as you mean, for the racism or discrimination, for public forms of hate speech, then they have to look for Jews, otherwise Jews don’t count.

“And also, we’re talking about a very, very old form of racism here. Anti-Semitism is very endless, I’m afraid. It keeps reoccurring.”

Kanye West, as Baddiel mentioned earlier, has brought anti-Semitism back to the discourse agenda in recent weeks. The rapper has, to say the least, had a fall from grace over the past few years that peaked in October, with his collaborations with Adidas and Balenciaga canceled and his net worth reduced following anti-Semitic hate speech in interviews and on social networks.

But the damage was done. Neo-Nazi groups took West’s comments as a rallying cry, and his words helped perpetuate dangerous stereotypes that Jews hold power over society.

“It’s kind of a real double-edged sword, because it raised the issue in a really big way,” Baddiel says of West’s hate speech.

“I’ve seen quite a few reactions against it, a bit different from what I might have seen a few years ago. At the same time, there are two issues with it.

“First of all, all the myths and ideas that Kanye spouts, and many of his followers will simply believe, are related to what I’m talking about – stereotypes about Jews as powerful and privileged and controlling and blah, blah, blah.

“And the other thing is that there was a pushback against Kanye, and then within two or three days I saw people saying, ‘Oh, look at the Jews trying to Cancel Kanye! The Jews with their power, they forced Adidas to do this.” So I thought, oh okay, it’s already gone bad.”

“And then, it’s just scary, by the way,” adds the comedian with serious candor.

“I was talking to my son about it yesterday, my son who is a huge hip-hop fan and identifies as Jewish. He was, on some level, clearly troubled just by looking at Kanye, who is someone ‘one he would watch, talk like he does right now on various podcasts.

“He was like, ‘Dad, I was watching Kanye. He really is a fucking anti-Semite.

“And, you know, that’s a complicated conversation to have with your son who loves hip-hop.”

By bringing this complicated conversation to television, Baddiel, a father of two, hopes to reach people who are “fighting the good fight” against discrimination in all its forms and who may have neglected to include Jews on their bucket list. minorities to protect, “people who can never thought before”.

“I want people to see it, because I’m talking about something that I think is very real,” he says.

“What I hope is that someone who is clearly a thinking person, who is a liberal, who cares about minorities, whatever, can be presented with things about Jews that they don’t haven’t really thought about before.”

Jews Don’t Matter airs on Channel 4 on Monday at 9 p.m.

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