Full disclosure: I’m a 3rd generation Spurs supporter who started going in 1961, the ‘Double’ Year. I was last at the ground to see us lose 2-3 to Southampton on 9 February in a terrific match. I didn’t intend to respond to the idiocy of Baddiel et al but today they crossed a line ……And by the way, no-one can accuse me of being soft on antisemitism….
Jewish News and the Baddiel brothers have campaigned against Spurs Fans chanting our ‘Yid Army’ soubriquet. The latest is this piece by Lee Harpin. Before I address the substantive issues about the ‘Y-Word’ let’s look at the inaccuracies and distortions in the piece.
Harpin quotes Lord Mann calling for national flags to be banned in football stadia.
This is the Lee Harpin who – appallingly – attacked Israel’s response (and by extension mine – and that of many others) to the Amnesty Report:
The fact that ALL national flags already are banned at Spurs (and presumably other grounds) simply demonstrates how little he and Harpin know about this issue. And let’s remember that it was Mann who said a year ago the IHRA definition of antisemitism should not be used to assess the suitability of external speakers at Universities. Seriously? Why does he support its adoption by Universities then?
And where’s Lord Mann’s ‘own research’ that Harpin cites? We are not told whether his sample is just Spurs fans or the wider population? Was it a statistically representative sample? Who carried out Lord Mann’s survey? It’s an insult to readers to cite ‘Lord Mann’s own research’ without assuring us that it was scientifically carried out!
Harpin quotes from the 2019 Spurs survey of fans about the Y-Word. His quotes are both incorrect and selective.
Incorrect: He quotes ‘94 per cent recognised the word “Yid” could be a racist term‘. No that’s not what the survey said. It said ‘94% acknowledged that ‘some people consider the Y-word to be a racist term against a Jewish person’.’ In other words they do not disclose their own view – they merely recognise that at least one person in the world thinks it is a racist term. Very different from Harpin’s misquote.
Selective: Harpin fails to disclose the survey result that 66% of Jewish Spurs fans (me included) join the ‘Yid Army’ chant (36% ‘regularly’, 30% ‘occasionally’). And only 35% of the remaining 34% think that the word ‘Yid’ used in the Spurs context is offensive. That makes only 12% of the Jewish Spurs fans surveyed (=0.35 times 0.34).
Now to the substantive issues, of which there are two. The first is that those who oppose the chant wilfully ignore its origins and context. There is a long history of links between Spurs and London’s Jews. Most notably in December 1935 White Hart Lane was the venue for an international between England and Germany. Opposition was organised. “The Jews have been the best supporters of the Tottenham club ever since its formation, and we shall adopt every means in our power to stop the match,” one of the protest organisers told the Star, London’s paper. “We regard the visit of the German team as an effrontery, not only to the Jewish race but to all lovers of freedom.” 4 December 1935 was the day the swastika flew over White Hart Lane. The German team gave a wincingly sinister Nazi salute to the crowd before kick-off. The swastika flag didn’t last long – a fan climbed onto the roof of the West Stand and pulled it down.
The second issue is the context. When non-Jewish fans chant ‘Yid Army’ it’s in recognition of the history. And remember that the chant started in response to antisemitic abuse from the supporters of other clubs – notably Chelsea – who Baddiel supports! Non-Jewish Spurs fans are proud of the club’s Jewish links and that’s how they show it. Israel flags – along with all national flags – are banned but if they weren’t, I would feel 1000 times safer with an Israel flag at Spurs than at eg SOAS!
That’s why Anthony Clavane’s quoted comments are so wrong:
Personally, I feel uncomfortable walking to White Hart Lane and hearing the “Yid Army” chant. I feel it gives racist fans the licence to respond with offensive songs like ‘Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz’ and ‘He’s only a poor little Yiddo.’
The context of ‘Yid Army’ is a completely positive one. If antisemites respond offensively that is NOT a reason to try to ban it.
The argument is precisely analogous to those who want us to stop using the word ‘Zionist’ because antisemites use it abusively.
The day we allow antisemites to shape our language is the day Jew haters can declare victory.