Anti-Semitism, football and that Daily Mail article.

If you are at White Hart Lane today to see Spurs v West Ham you risk being arrested for singing “Yid Army” or “Yiddoes”, typical refrains of the Spurs faithful.

Not an ounce of malice is intended, but just because a few with fame and influence, like David Baddiel, have complained about “Yid” being used in this context the Metropolitan Police have taken a stand starting with today’s game.

I’m Jewish. I like hearing Spurs sing “Yid army”. No harm is intended. It is a bit of fun. Spurs have a lot of Jewish supporters and have a Jewish chairman, Jewish directors and once had a Jewish manager in David Pleat. Spurs fans are embracing that positively.

It is a far cry from calling someone a “dirty Yid” which is obviously racist. That prefix makes all the difference.

It is sad that the police have been taken in by Baddiel. When playing Spurs certain opposition fans chant “Spurs are on their way to Belsen” (some Leeds United fans) or hiss to imitate the sound of Zyklon B being thrown into the gas chambers by the Nazis (some Chelsea fans). That’s racism. Arrest those racist thugs, but not Spurs fans who intend no racism at all.

It’s not just Baddiel. The British public is being taken in by the likes of Owen Jones and Jonathan Freedland who are crying “anti-Semitism!” due to that Daily Mail article headlined “The Man Who Hated Britain” about Ralph Miliband, Ed Miliband’s father.

Ralph was Jewish. He was a refugee. He was a Communist thinker. Any of these three aspects have been deadly for Jews in the past, admittedly.

But, does this now mean that we cannot criticise a Jewish person with Ralph’s background, or any Jewish person?

This is Owen Jones:

“As others have pointed out, this whole episode reeks of anti-Semitism – of the rootless cosmopolitan Jew with contempt for his country, and so on.”

Even Ed Miliband who has spent the week coming to his father’s defence on radio, tv and in print, doesn’t sense any anti-Semitism in the affair, but to Jones it “reeks” of anti-Semitism? Wow!

Jonathan Freedland digs even deeper in his attempt to make the “anti-Semitic” label stick:

“This is why I…stopped at the reference in Tuesday’s editorial to “the jealous God of Deuteronomy.” That looked like another veiled pointer to both Miliband Sr’s indelible alienness – and his membership of an ancient, vengeful people.”

This is what the Mail actually wrote on that score:

“We do not maintain, like the jealous God of Deuteronomy, that the iniquity of the fathers should be visited on the sons. But when a son with prime ministerial ambitions swallows his father’s teachings, as the younger Miliband appears to have done, the case is different.”

So the Mail is using this biblical reference as an example of what generally shouldn’t happen. That’s all. Based on Freedland’s assertion we should now be careful lest we associate any biblical reference directly or indirectly with a Jewish person. How sad.

And Marc Goldberg is easily influenced by Daniel Trilling’s attack on the Mail in the New Statesman. Trilling writes “The subtext…is that there’s something foreign about Ed Miliband himself”. Goldberg empathises:

“..if even Ralph Miliband, the Marxist who left his Judaism way behind him and sired the head of the Labour Party could come under attack for not being British enough, then maybe the rest could too.”

Even Charles Moore accuses the Mail of “attacking a Jew”!

There are many other examples of this hyperbolic response to the Mail’s attack on Ralph Miliband. Commentators should attack real examples of anti-Semitism before trying to board the “it’s anti-Semitism!” bandwagon.

Alex Brummer, who is a journalist for the Mail, thinks apologies should be made by those who have suggested anti-Semitism by the Daily Mail. He’s right.

As Ed Miliband, himself, said when asked if the Daily Mail was being anti-Semitic:

“I’m always incredibly careful about throwing around the idea that the paper or somebody is anti-Semitic or racist unless there is real evidence for that.”

28 responses to “Anti-Semitism, football and that Daily Mail article.

  1. This is going to be an interesting discussion…

  2. Ze'ev Portner

    Tottenham also had a Jewish player in the form of Rocket Ronny Rosenthal who scored a great hatrick agaisnt southampton in the FA cup.

    • And Leonard Stanley “Len” Duquemin who played after the Second World War

      • David Graniewitz

        Duquemin wasn’t Jewish. I’ve just checked Wikipedia which doesn’t mention it. Also Steven Clavane would probalbly have mentioned it in his book “Does Your rabbi Know You’re Here?” in which he tells the story of jewish footballers in England. Duquemin was sufficiently high-profile enough to have been written about.

  3. And the Gooners had Yossi Benayoun! 🙂

  4. Brilliant analysis Richard.
    First, those who throw the Antisemitism label around need to serve time and understand what it is. Often the accusation is never far from the accuser – the intent needs to be checked.
    Ed Miliband has introduced his father into this arena, as an immigrant and a father who has influenced his thinking. It is therefore fair game that Miliband Senior be scrutinised – exactly who is this man who forged a son who would be Prime Minister.
    Ed Milliband stated he wanted to bring socialism back to this country. The five w’s form the check list of what why who where and when. We need to understand the influences, background, rationale and ideology of a man who puts himself forward in such a big way. That he happens to be of Jewish origin even if not in practice should have no bearing on such enquiry. Unfortunately though young Ed brought that into the debate as well. So it is understandable that some might shout Antisemitism.

  5. Jonathan Hoffman

    Good piece Richard. The Mail’s piece was not antisemitic. Unfortunately Mann, Kinnock, Jones and Freedland are using the false charge of ‘antisemitism’ as a stick to beat a Conservative-sympathetic newspaper. it’s distasteful political opportunism…

    • If the Guardian had written what the Mail did, you’d be the first to start jumping up and down. It was borderline anti-semitic, but because the Mail suits your extreme right wing agenda, you dismiss it.

      • richardmillett

        I am not extreme right wing at all. That is an unsubstantiated assertion. In what way am I? So are you saying that one cannot make a biblical reference whenever someone Jewish is involved, Joe?

      • What a berk you are, Joe!
        The Guardian disseminates poisonous libel against Jews/Israel every day….quite often several times in one day, and often with the help of their invaluable in -house Jews….the only way the latter get the attention they crave.
        Now there’s a nice opening for you….ever thought about it?
        What do you mean by “extreme right-wing agenda”?
        Define your terms.
        It’s always the give-away of someone losing the argument when they resort to ad-hominem attacks.

  6. Paul L Muslin

    I agree with all you have stated here.I am surprised that Charles Moore thinks it (The Mail) article is anti-Semitic as he writes some great articles in a very level headed way.It may be that because he is a strong supporter of Jews he reacted in our defense,Shalom,Paul.

  7. It is conspicuous that those on the left shaking their fists at this article are silent when blatant antisemitism does get printed. There has been apology after apology from newspapers because of cartoons etc., and nary an utterance from the appalled was heard!

  8. There are different subtle levels of anti semitism that may not be so obvious as instances of anti semitism except when taken in the context of the times we find ourselves in right now. Many British Jews cannot recognise such a concept because they have never been exposed to this corosive and dangerous type of anti Semitism because it seems too subtle.. On the surface such things could be unreal and should not be over emphasised but in the real world such negative concepts of Jews build up to form reinforcement of hateful feelings against Jews. .

  9. When I read Jonathan Freedland’s comment I was reminded of the timeless aphorism..”Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt”.
    He damns the Mail for comments which he deems anti-Semitic by extrapolation, yet writes for a paper that hides thinly veiled anti-Semitism behind a veneer of hypocrisy, and which is obsessed by Jews, but not in a good way.
    Freedland regularly gives succour to anti-semites and Israel-haters, and it’s about time he examines his own record in this regard before censuring others.

  10. Richard, your insights are always clear headed, intelligent and well reasoned. You are right – this was not anti-semitism.
    We unfortunately are well versed in recognising too many flagrant examples of the real thing.

  11. I’m really unsure about this. The argument of ‘fair comment’ that you & Jonathan use to defend the Daily Mail here is so often used by the opposition to defend the Guardian. Statements of fact are either true or false, but tone and nuance are up for grabs. I think this is the best comment I’ve read so far on l’affaire Miliband

    • The Guardian defence has usually failed (which they have admitted to) because they have either directly referenced the Jewish religion or directly used a traditional anti-Semitic trope when discussing Israel. The anti-Semitism of some of their articles is much much clearer.

      • If Steve Bell had done a cartoon on the lines of the God of Deuteronomy, you’d be among those going ape. There’s a word for it. Hypocrisy

  12. Jeremy Havardi

    It’s John (Lord) Moore who attacked the Mail, not Charles Moore.

  13. Jeremy Havardi

    Yes fair point, he did. An unusual lapse of judgment from Charles Moore. It must be possible to launch a diatribe against an unrepentant Marxist who also happens to be a foreign born Jew without being accused of anti semitism.

  14. Waive, Britannia, Britannia waives the rules—

  15. Daniel Marks

    I once had a friend called Malcolm. Today he is Mendel, an ultra-Orthodox hassid, but in his former life, the Malcolm I loved supported Arsenal and he too joined the other yobboes and with an angry grin on his then still clean-shaven face would chant, “Gotta get the Yids!” when his team met the Spurs.

    I didn’t consider Malcolm to be an anti-Semite, on the contrary, he was a very proud Jew and always the first to “put the boot in” when confronted by Neo-Nazis, etc., however, that is not to say that the mantra that he chanted was not just that. The word “yid” is derived from the Yiddish for Yehudi or Jew and in modern English usage is considered offensive – invariably used by our detractors. As a child my skull-cap was occasionally knocked off by larger non-Jews who would then shout, “Where’s ye Yid-lid mate?” while others might just randomly chant just, “Yiddo, Yiddo!” Returning to White Hart Lane, the writer of this excellent post might maintain that “Not an ounce of malice is intended…”, but I would respectfully question how he knows what is in the heart and minds of the throngs who shout, “Yid army” and how he is certain that they are not the same supporters as those who chant “Spurs are on their way to Belsen”.

    Are we truly to believe that there exist two distinct choirs; one singing, “Yiddoes, Yiddoes” without an ounce of malice and another composed of angry anti-Semites singing, “Spurs are on their way to Belsen”? I claim no expertise in the game of soccer, but this all seems to be becoming a bit far-fetched.

    I know that Richard is right and many Jews do feel only pride when being called a Yid army, but I would ask why. should a team managed by a man of African extraction feel equally flattered to be called, “Nigger Army” or something of the like? I know that I’d consider such statements to be racism and no explanations that that word is a derivative the Spanish/Portuguese noun negro, a descendant of the Latin adjective niger (“color black”) would set my mind at ease. It would be equally hard to convince me that no malice was intended.

    By definition whatever supporters of a football team shout at their rivals is derogatory, Can anyone think of a complimentary football chant? It may be sung in a tongue in cheek fashion and the singer may have many Jewish friends or even, like Malcolm, be a “Yid” himself. However, I feel that in this case the author of this excellent blog has may have uncharacteristically overstated his case in saying that such utterances are just “a bit of fun”

  16. Brian Goldfarb

    No of course it wasn’t antisemitic: it was a poorly conceived attempt to use a blatantly McCarthyite tactic to smear Ed Miliband with his father’s Marxism. It’s abundantly clear that whatever else he might be, an extreme left-winger Ed M. isn’t.

    However, it ill becomes a newspaper, still owned by the same family, to use the jottings of a 17 year-old refugee, a Belgian Jew who went on to join the Royal Navy in wartime and fight for the country that had offered hime refuge, written just a few years after the owner of that same paper had praised Mosley and his Fascists as well as Hitler. Further, anyone with even passing knowledge of middle and upper class attitudes of the time will know full well that the young Ralph Miliband put his finger right on the pulse of that life.

    Outsiders often have a clearer view of what is “inside” than those inside do: the latter both cannot (because they’re too close) and don’t want to (because they’d have to rethink core principles) see what’s under their noses – or inside their own heads.

    Anyway, I wonder what teenage ramblings the current editor and reporters of the Daily Mail are desperately hoping don’t fall into the wrong hands. Except, of course, that would be different…they’re only reporters, whose collective reputation is as low as, or lower, that of politicians.

  17. And so who is benefitting from this completely? Ed Miliband of course! I am beginning to think the rumour I heard that this story is Labour spin has some legs.

  18. I can’t fault Richard’s analysis here and personally, as a Jew and follower of Arsenal, I don’t have any problem with Tottenham fans identifying themselves as “Yiddoes”. However it is also a badge of racial identity. What I believe is sadly endemic and reprehensible in the context of football is the seeming acceptance of the principle that it is OK to stand up and profess ‘hatred’ of another [rival] team and its supporters. I don’t go to many matches but there are unfortunately not many of us who remain rooted in our seats at Arsenal when the pathetic but popular cry “Stand up if you hate Tottenham” rings out.

    Rivalry is one thing but I believe this acceptance of inter-group ‘hatred’ is the fundamental issue that needs to be eliminated. In this country it is the ‘incitement to racial hatred’ that is the crime. Unfortunately when one football group identifies itself with a racial badge, this ‘normal’ rivalry between football club supporters does become racial hatred. It is almost impossible to police, though. No doubt slippery floors would be deemed a health and safety hazard but if I were the management at Spurs I would have sprinklers installed above the visiting fans area to give the hissing chanters ‘a taste of their own medicine’.

  19. For decades both in UK & Continental Europe (Italy & Poland come to mind but there are others too) we have been exposed at football matches to hissing sounds & other more direct references to gas chambers, chants of Yids, Yiddos etc., but now when Spurs Jewish fans re-appropriate the Yid word in a positive way, suddenly the FA and legal authorities have become all exercised about it and are threatening legal action. That is just typical of this country which doesn’t get -or doesn’t want to get ANTISEMITISM & JEW HATRED plain & simple. Context is EVERYTHING
    As for the Ed & Ralph Milliband furore, the same inversion applies in spades. Whatever the history of the Daily Mail in the 1930s., it’s by far the most consistently pro-Jewish pro-Israel newspaper in the UK today (which can hardly be said about Ed Milliband or large sections of the Labour Party and Unions that put Ed there, or ED’s own mother Marion, a member of some fringe group: “Jews who hate and are ashamed of Israel” or suchlike) which is (just) one of the reasons the metropolitan liberal elites in politics law media hate it so much. Accusations of antisemitism are disingenuous hypocritical and malicious humbug. The Mail, along with the usual rubbish you find in all papers, runs many excellent pieces that relate to the concerns and interests of very many British people, of all ethnicities & cultures. It has a huge circulation in print and online. Jim “Naughty’s” comment on the Today prog about no-one taking any notice of the Mail, tells us far more about his mindset – and that of the BBC – than about the Mail. I regularly read the Times, Guardian and the Mail, and the more I hear those who would rule over us refer with contempt to the Mail – the more I’m determined to read it
    Ralph Milliband led a privileged and influential existence in British academia & owned and lived in a big Victorian house in leafy Hampstead, and as a Marxist / useful idiot, fellow traveler, was an advocate and apologist – like many of his fellow Jewish colleagues,* Hobsbawn, Slovo, Laski (all of the deracinated non-religious universalist anti-Zionist tendency – thus no friends of Jews as a collectivity) for the brutal inhuman Soviet Stalinist Regime which condemned tens of millions of its captive citizens to lives of misery poverty and oppression. Ed Milliband has often waxed lyrical about his father’s influence on him – so it is fair game to examine his father’s record & beliefs etc.The Daily Mail just went a bit over the top in saying he hated Britain – that is all. Let’s hope we don’t get press regulation inspired by petty vendettas.
    * Note of Caution: We have to be careful here about equating this argument with the term Judeo-Communism, used instrumentally by right-wing ethno-nationalist historians in Eastern & Central Europe to excuse their countries’ collaboration and active participation in the extermination of Jews during WWII as “self-defense”. True, many Jews were attracted to communism, seeing it as a path to emancipation, but such historians have greatly exaggerated their numbers and influence in top communist cadres of that time

  20. L Homme Libre

    While not seeing anti Semitism, in the article its self, as in my opinion, the issue is that the man was a Marxist academic, which would have still been Mail territory even had he not been Jewish, or Polish born.

    Though did feel, slightly uneasy with the “god of Deuteronomy” reference.