The premise of ‘Jews Don’t Count’ is that antisemitism is not taken as seriously by the anti-racist left as bigotry towards other minorities. Baddiel cites numerous examples of well-known figures who spew out antisemitic rhetoric, yet avoid the public opprobrium normally meted out to those who engage in racism.
The documentary received positive reviews throughout much of the British media – even at the Guardian. The one exception, however, was a review by the Telegraph’s Arts and Entertainment editor Anita Singh (“David Baddiel: Jews Don’t Count, review: well-argued, but not entirely well-balanced”, Nov. 21).
Singh called it a “slick, well-argued film” in calling out leftists “who are forever speaking up for other minorities but remain curiously silent on antisemitism”. But, later in the review, she writes this:
Baddiel pointed out double standards in the arts world: no outcry when Radio 4 broadcast a reading of TS Eliot’s lines from Burbank with a Baedeker: “The rats are underneath the piles/The Jew is underneath the lot.” Some other double standards were not mentioned, such as Sarah Silverman appearing here as a contributor with no mention that her own comedy has offended the black and Asian communities.
Things went awry when Baddiel attempted to head off critics who bring up his mockery of the former Nottingham Forest player Jason Lee on Fantasy Football League – a recurring “gag” which involved Baddiel in blackface and on every occasion involved playground-level bullying. The comic huffed that he had apologised countless times but it was only here, 25 years late and in service of his own documentary, that he bothered to apologise to Lee himself. The air is thin up there on the moral high ground. The air is thin up there on the moral high ground.
However, the Telegraph critic misses Baddiel’s point.
Baddiel’s book and documentary don’t suggest that Jews who are victims of antisemitism are, themselves, morally pristine. It’s simply that racism against Jews is not taken as seriously as racism against other minority groups. It’s not a “double standard” for Silverman or Baddiel to share their feelings on how antisemitism is not taken seriously while having engaged in racist behavior of their own.
As she acknowledges, Baddiel has apologised repeatedly for his behavior 25 year ago.
Also, Silverman was held accountable for the incident Singh is alluding to. She was reportedly fired from at least one movie after producers came across a sketch from The Sarah Silverman Show in 2007 where she wore blackface make-up in order to examine racism. Her firing occurred despite the fact the she’s apologised for the incident many times. And, if you look online, you’ll see that she continues to reap scorn for that 2007 episode.
On the other hand, many well-known figures who’ve engaged in antisemitism continue to escape such critical scrutiny.
During a NY Times interview with Alice Walker, the author best known for “The Color Purple”, she wasn’t challenged by the reporter after she recommended a vile antisemitic book – nor did the journalist ask her about past racist statements, such as her charge that the “poisonous” Talmud condones pedophilia and rape; The BBC continues to defend one of their commentators, Abdel Bari-Atwan, despite the fact that he frequently spews vicious antisemitism and consistently celebrates the terrorist murder of innocent Jews; And, extreme Jew haters like Louis Farrakhan and Iran’s supreme leader spared getting banned from Twitter, even as far, far more innocuous personalities saw their accounts suspended.
As Baddiel wrote in his book, “With the transition to identity politics”, the left “has become less about for the masses and more about specific minorities”. A “sacred circle”, he added, “is drawn around those whom the progressive modern left are prepared to go to battle for”, and the ‘monied’ and ‘powerful’ Jews aren’t in it. When ‘progressive’ anti-Semites attack Jews, others writers similarly cognizant of this dynamic have argued, they often believe they are “punching up” – that they are bravely “speaking truth to power” and rebelling against the (rigged) system.
Though, in our review, we were critical of one aspect of Baddiel’s book, we’re immensely grateful that he’s brought this pernicious double standard to the public discourse.