I really like David Baddiel. His television comedy work was my era. He made me laugh hard back in the day. As a social media user, his wit and comical observations shine through to this day. I was drawn to this book for other reasons though. As I try and read far and wide and learn more about ethnic minorities and their cultures, Baddiel’s voice is strong in guiding me. His extraordinary BBC documentary, Confronting Holocaust Denial left me reeling at the depths of antisemitism exposed.
Jews Don’t Count rummages amongst celebrities, politicians and us, the general public, exposing the hypocrisy in our current world of virtue signalling, identity politics and ‘gotcha’ social media campaigns. It might be true that minorities are thankfully championed and supported in the public domain far more than when I was a young man, yet, as David Baddiel shows, Jews are largely (and glaringly) omitted from the agenda of the anti-racists.
It is a tough and uncomfortable lesson which Baddiel delivers in this short but mightily powerful book. At around 150 pages, it still finds room to pin down every riposte from even the most ignorant and bigoted view points. I saw somewhere this book described as a ‘polemic’. I’m struggling with that as the author’s case building and arguments really do leave no room for doubt as to the experience of Jews.
Baddiel is a great writer and such a persuasive and informative voice. Not that I would want to, but I couldn’t find any counter narratives within my own understanding or beliefs to any of the many cases studies employed here. I would consider myself to be progressive and anti-racist, not to mention left-leaning when it comes to politics. Have I ever been guilty of the dismissive, lazy racism (in the form of antisemitism) which Baddiel points to here? I hope not. But, I’ll be making sure I take my better understanding into the future. I thank Jews Don’t Count for this.
The book is crisp and cutting as well as beautifully elegant in its delivery. Remarkably, Baddiel rarely drifts into raw anger, but is constantly firm and refreshingly open. We shouldn’t need reminding that the Nazi’s (and Communists) feared and hated Jews. Both spread the image of a monied and powerful group who aren’t to be trusted. The modern day left and progressives seem to use the perceived wealth and whiteness of Jews to justify excluding them from the anti-racist and anti-persecution agendas.
Baddiel (very much leaning to the left himself), shows time after time again how Jews are portrayed in political campaigns, literature, the press and in the rest of the media, as being the white, privileged and capitalist enemies of progression. Worse though, Jews are too often subjected to physical, verbal and emotional racist abuse. Racism is not acceptable, full stop, a stand we must all take.
I read this pacey and urgent text in a day and feel enriched by the experience. From football terrace chants to comedy, the racism experienced by Jews simply would not be accepted were other minorities to be similarly abused. I am left with a determination to speak up with more force and confidence and to be brave enough to challenge those of my peers who seem to have (and what a horrible and dismissive phrase this is) a ‘blind spot’ when it comes to antisemitism.
The arguments made in Jews Don’t Count aren’t just powerful, they are essential, but you really need to read this book to understand just how powerful. It is not for me, from my actual position of white, middle class privilege to make this case, but it is for me to urge you to read the book.
Coincidently, I read Jews Don’t Count directly after reading A Meal In Winter, a powerful, pocket sized novella which has The Holocaust and antisemitism at its heart. I recommend both.