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Yid Army

September 19, 2013

 There’s been some controversy recently over fans of Tottenham Hotspur chanting at matches, referring to themselves as the ‘Yid Army’. For those who haven’t followed this, let me explain: Tottenham Hotspur football club, being in North London, has a comparatively high proportion of Jewish supporters (well, about 5% of their supporters are Jewish, according to David Baddiel). This led to fans of other London football teams such as Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham (who must have Jewish supporters too, of course) abusing Tottenham fans as ‘Yids’, and also, charmingly, making hissing noises supposed to represent Zyklon B being pumped into gas chambers. Tottenham fans thus responded by claiming the name of ‘Yids’ as a sort of badge of honour.

Now, thus far things looked pretty clear to me. The rival football fans’ chanting the word ‘Yid’ is nastily anti-semitic, but the Tottenham fans’ use of the same word in response is not; they are happily, proudly self-identifying as ‘Yids’ even though 95% of them aren’t. That’s what I thought until recently, anyway. But then the writer and comedian David Baddiel (who is Jewish and a Spurs fan) made a documentary, with his brother, calling this into question. I didn’t see the documentary, but I read the article he wrote about it (here’s the link: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/17/david-cameron-yid-really-is-race-hate-word?CMP=twt_gu) and have heard him interviewed on the radio. His two main points are: 1) ‘Yid’ is an offensive word whatever the intentions behind it. Spurs fans’ use of the word ‘Yid’ is not the same as black people reclaiming the word ‘nigger’ for use amongst themselves, because most Spurs fans are not in fact Jewish. 2) There doesn’t seem to be parity of offensiveness between different terms of racial abuse: chanting of ‘Yid’ is accepted, but chanting of ‘nigger’ (whatever the intention behind it) really, really wouldn’t be. Is anti-semitism less serious than other forms of racism?

David Baddiel’s arguments have made me think again. I am myself a passive Tottenham supporter; I watch them on television and never go to games. But if I did, I wouldn’t chant about being in the Yid army. Even if I was Jewish.

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One Comment
  1. Peter Matthews permalink

    “Even if I WERE Jewish” not “was Jewish.”

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