If Twitter obsessed David Baddiel's book, Jews Don't Count was a Wikipedia entry it would be flagged as having "multiple issues".
The first problem I see is that David Baddiel is a so-called Centrist and Centrism could even be defined as a Rightism that thinks it's a Leftism. It becomes a major problem when it so thinks it is a Leftism it gets worse and thinks it is the only Leftism that the legitimate political spectrum has room for. Leftism has enemies to its right who it must defend against or attack but Centrism doesn't have enemies to its right, only to its left.
The book is published by the Times Literary Supplement which is supposed to be intellectually highbrow. Well bang goes that reputation. For a wit, indeed for a Yiddisher wit, Baddiel isn't very smart at all. He could be lamenting or simply asking where all our good Jewish intellectuals went but since the answer is probably that they got crowded out by a bunch of redbaiting self-appointees he won't be asking that.
Uh-oh, I've just seen David Baddiel in conversation with one of the nastiest pieces of work in the Zionist movement, Ruth Smeeth, and he's describing his book as nuanced. Wow.
I guess Mr Nuance isn't going to be asking about any tntellectuals then
So what is he saying? According to Hugo Rifkind, "Calmly, relentlessly, wittily, Baddiel makes the case that anti-Semitism is a racism like any other". While for Howard Jacobson, "This is a bare-knuckle fist-fight of a book". Clearly, they didn't read the same book. And for Hadley Freeman, Jews Don't Count is, "Just so brilliantly argued and written, I was completely swept along". I reckon she wrote that before she read it and then switched on a page turning auto-pilot. The book isn't argued at all. I'll show you what I mean by that.
Here's a whole passage from page 10 to 12:
The major BBC current affairs show, the one that sets the news agenda every morning, is the Today programme on Radio 4. It's a must-listen for those interested in politics. And a must-react to: if something controversial is said on Today, Twitter is set alight, and the conversation explodes.
On 13 March 2019, the American pollster John Zogby was on. At one point, he began talking about fissures in the Democratic Party, specifically around the then new Congreswoman Ilhan Omar's views about Israel and its supporters in the US. The interviewer, Justin Webb, who is a regular on Today, said in response:
If the party decided to say to its supporters , "Look we think that anti-Semitism is a bit like the way some of our people might regard anti-white racism, that it's a different order of racism. It's not as important - it's still bad - but it's not as important as some other forms of racism", what impact do you think that might have?
It was a strange moment. It felt less like a question and more like a helpful suggestion. Maybe this would be a way forward for the Democrats? was the tone. Webb did not qualify or contextualise it. He did not preface or add "Obviously this is offensive to say, but perhaps it's what some people in the party actually think". His tone was neutral.
Zogby moved on without really answering. But even if he had, it was the question itself I was struck by. I remember listening and thinking, Blimey, it's rare that someone just comes out with it: Anti-Semitism is a second class racism. I thought there would be an intense reaction.
Well it turned out there wasn't much reaction but Baddiel recorded the section he had heard and eventually got some reaction but only from Jews and from Justin Webb himself who got in touch to say that he only wondered if that was what some Democrats were thinking. A similar thing happened when Baddiel disagreed with Anthony Julius introducing the recital of TS Eliot's specifically antisemitic poems. He contacted Julius and spent 3 hours at lunch with him.
But where's the argument? It's all assertion. Where did Webb get the question about antisemitism from? Ilhan Omar has been falsely accused of antisemitism but from what we see that wasn't mentioned until Webb said it. Maybe there's as insight into Baddiel himself here. Look what he's done. Like Webb he has decided that the stuff about Omar and Israel is about antisemitism, not just a left/right thing or a foreign policy or a lobby group thing. Then he suspects Webb of saying that a) antisemitism is a bit like anti-whitism, ie, not really racist or not so racist, then b) that Webb would even suggest that the Democrats ought to play to that antisemitic prejudice that only Webb and Baddiel have inferred. And even when Justin Webb seeks Baddiel out to disabuse him, Baddiel still puts the thing in his book as if his own understanding of what Webb said trumps Webb's own explanation of what he meant.
And check out the very start of the session where the news agenda for the day starts with a BBC Radio 4 programme and continues through Twitter. I looked at Baddiel's own account for that day and it appears that Justin Webb's incitement to the hatred, well actually his helpful suggestion of incitement to the hatred of Jews in America didn't put Baddiel off his lunch.
And apart from the next day, he didn't tweet again until some time in May 2019 so I don't know when he posted his recording.
A few times Baddiel makes clear that his book "is for progressives" but it is embarrassing that he thinks of himself as one. He does combine laddish lad, even at 50 something, with Jew. Laddish lads are not progressive and his entire framework is a conservative one. I have read the book to the end but all of its general faults appear in the first few pages. And his Jewish identity is based on his oft stated belief that Hitler, the Gestapo, the SS or the Nazis would kill him tomorrow. In fact he rejects almost everything about Jews. He's not religious, he's not a Zionist. I'm very confused about his take on his own Jewish identity which only exists through his bloodline.
Baddiel swallows whole many a falsehood throughout the book, including the Nazis pseudo science of race, the good faith and even the meaning of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism without setting it out or relating any of the arguments against it, the sincerity of the EHRC without getting into any detail, etc, etc. He even accepts that Ken Loach supported at least the right to deny the Holocaust on the strength of a tweet by CST's Dave Rich where you can see, since Baddiel replicates it in the book, that Rich tampered with a quote from Ken Loach to make his point.
On page 40 you get a full blast of Baddiel's sheer ignorance of race, racism and history itself. He challenges the idea that there can't be racism against Jews because Jews aren't a race, only a religion and "religious intolerance is not as bad as racism". Of course, not being a race doesn't insulate people from racism and doesn't absolve racists, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, anti-Catholic, etc, of racism. We'll leave aside that religious intolerance has taken millions of lives throughout history and is still taking lives and causing exclusions. But this is where in a footnote Baddiel "explains" why he believes Jews to be a race.
"I'm an atheist and yet the Gestapo would shoot me tomorrow". I have heard Baddiel say it many times. Here he is on Twitter.
Not as far as racists are concerned. I'm an atheist. The Gestapo would shoot me tomorrow. I've said this on here about five thousand times. So yes: you are fucking silly #gutsforgarters https://t.co/Dp8QMKG2BI— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) April 11, 2018
I couldn't resist a quick QRT when I found that by googling baddiel "gestapo would shoot me tomorrow" when I read his footnote (p41) where he wonders why he always says tomorrow "as they would no doubt shoot me today". They won't shoot him today and of course, tomorrow never comes.
But it is strange that Baddiel offers nothing really as a positive thing about being Jewish. For all he calls anti-Zionist Jews "self-haters" when I am with my own anti-Zionist Jewish friends, we are very conscious of our cultural identity, you might even say we take pride in it at the same time as acknowledging there is something jarring about taking pride in what is partly (Baddiel says entirely) an accident of birth.
And this brings us neatly to Baddiel's professed non-Zionism. If Baddiel is truly a non-Zionist, he certainly helps them out when they're busy. He has participated enthusiastically in the smear campaign against Corbyn and the left and more recently he joined the campaign against Bristol University's Professor David Miller. The campaign against the left was not entirely about Israel but you can't run a smear campaign alleging antisemitism without a significant number of Jews on board. By no means all Jews or even all Zionists supported the campaign but Baddiel definitely did even minting at least one lie of his own.
Click this link to Baddiel on Frankie Boyle's programme in 2018. Baddiel says "29% of people who voted for Corbyn in the Labour Party think the world is controlled by a secret global elite and that global elite are Jews". Here is the YouGov poll that is closest to what Baddiel said.28% agree with the statement, "The world is controlled by a secretive elite". Actually some might believe that the elite are Jews but it doesn't say so in the poll. It doesn't even say that the agreers agree that the elite is unified. They might just take the view that the aggregate of all of the world's ruling classes could be fairly described as a secretive elite. It wouldn't be a good way to describe it but of itself it is certainly not antisemitic and not even necessarily conspiracistic. Put simply, Baddiel lied. Ok, maybe he didn't lie. Maybe he is so paranoid he thought he heard what he falsely claimed to hear. He actually feathers that nest of perception being more important than actuality on page 39:
We live in a culture now where impact is more important than intent; where how things are taken is more significant than how they are meant.
See him complaining about a culture he takes full advantage of to put the worst possible spin on what other people say or do. He's the same with the notorious mural by Mear One where he uses the artist's antisemitic reaction to criticism of his not unambiguously antisemitic mural.
Just a note here. This is the dreaded mural, a depiction of six founding fathers of the modern banking system, two of whom were Jewish and four of whom were not. Apparently two of them are Alister Crowley and JP Morgan but I can't be bothered to find which two. So, which two of the six men are supposed to be the Jews? By the way, Corbyn didn't even say he liked the painting.
Actually, Baddiel does do a lot of what he sets out to do with the whole book with the Mear One guy. He pretty much nails him as antisemitic. He might even be Jewish or maybe ex-Jewish. If so, he had a few full-on Atzmon moments even hashtagging #Rothschild and #Warburg to denounce the affiliation of complainants to them, ie, Jews. The hashtag confirms Baddiel's belief, as expressed earlier about the Today programme that something hasn't really happened until it has been tweeted and #hashtagged.