Ah, so this one has reared its head again, and not just on a fan forum, but with the official support of the club, who have backed the pretty feeble, miss-the-point entirely film offered up by the Baddiel brothers entitled “The “Y” word.
This is a really complicated issue, and I’m not going to pretend I haven’t had my doubts and concerns about it in the past. I’m a passionate Spurs fan but I’m not Jewish, and so maybe I don’t even deserve to comment. But as someone who considers himself pretty enlightened, and who is very much not (as far as I am aware) anti-Semitic, but who does use the words “yid” and “yiddo” regularly at games, let me give a Spurs fan perspective into this sudden and unexpected media shitstorm.
The film that has been released, written and directed by the Baddiels and with the backing of various Premier League Clubs and the FA, seeks to make a valuable point but is misleading and frankly, misled, in the clips it uses to illustrate the alleged prevalence of anti-Semitism in the English game, and in what it implies about Tottenham Hotspur and our fans. There are clips taken inside White Hart Lane and in a Spurs Pub, showing Spurs fans chanting “yiddo”, and the implication is that we are morons, unaware of the meaning of the word “yid”, who bleat it indiscriminately and are just as bad as the idiot, ignorant NF scum minorities from other clubs who sing songs about Auschwitz and make hissing noises to replicate the sounds of the gas chambers during the holocaust. The film is a deliberate barb at Spurs fans that could only have been spawned by Chelsea fans and that makes no attempt to place in context the “Yid” chants, to explain how they started as a way of defying and rejecting anti-Semitic chants from other clubs, how they are a proud declaration of our north London identity and a way of showing that Jewish fans will always be welcome, and in fact form a key part of the fabric, at WHL, and that we have no time for anyone coming into N17 with an anti-Semitic attitude. (While I would never condone gratuitous violence, I am quite proud to be secure in the knowledge that if you turn up at WHL spouting anti-Semitc hate speech, you’re likely to leave with no teeth.) The film doesn’t explain that Jewish Spurs fans themselves use the “Yid” chant, and are proud to assert their own identity through Spurs. No. It’s easier to condemn all football fans as racist, Neo-Nazi cretins, and glide over all the details.
Adding insult to injury is the nonsense being talked on the official Spurs website. Apparently these chants are the work of “a small number” of Spurs fans. Turn up at WHL and see whether this is the case. The club says it wants an open and honest debate about the issue. Fair enough. Then accept that it’s a huge majority, not a “small number”, who join in “yiddo” chants and songs. We do it because we are proud of the club’s Jewish identity.
The funny thing is that I do think there are good arguments against the whole “yid” thing, and I have often thought about them and wondered whether I was doing the right thing by joining in these chants. But the film is way too sweeping and blinkered to explore them with any kind of subtlety. For example, you could argue that non-Jewish fans shouldn’t join in these chants, on the basis that it isn’t for us to decide what is and isn’t offensive to Jewish people. I can accept that. Personally, I have always felt ok about joining in those chants, and I have never felt that the Jewish friends who I am very close to, who I value greatly, and who I would never want to let down, would be offended. But maybe that sounds like the kind of rubbish argument of people who say, “I’m not racist – loads of my friends are black”. Maybe I really am that bad. It’s a worrying thought. Do I have it wrong, Jewish football fans? Please feel free to comment and let me know.
I also don’t personally like it when people fly the Israeli flag at Spurs games. I think it’s politicising the game unnecessarily, and I don’t think that being a Spurs fan automatically makes you a supporter of Israeli foreign policy.
Maybe you do see my use of the term “Yid” as some kind of grotesque, well meaning but ignorant blunder. I can’t do anything about that. Please, however, accept that at the very least Spurs fans are well meaning but misguided, rather than evil. Don’t tar us with the same brush as the group of fucking Neanderthals (and I have to say, having been at Spurs games for the past 15 years, I’ve only actually heard this chant once, away at Elland Road) who are heard chanting about Auschwitz in the film. I might be an unwitting anti-Semite, but I’m definitely not a deliberate one. The film steam-rollers all these intricacies and makes sweeping generalisations about football fans and Spurs fans in particular. And all in the space of a minute! It’s impressive to fuck things up that badly in so little time.
To the Baddiels I would say, don’t bother Spurs with this shit. Clean up the disgusting, stupid, anti-Semitic element at your own club, and issue an apology to any Spurs fans who have had to soak up their pea-brained abuse over the years. Don’t deploy the moronic argument that us calling ourselves “yids” makes it understandable for your lot to sing about the death camps – it’s beneath all of us. If all else fails, come and support Spurs, because at WHL you’ll never have to hear the kind of abuse you’ve been complaining about hearing at Stamford Bridge in your interviews.
As a hilarious footnote, check out Ledley King waxing lyrical about the evils of the word. I’ve never noticed him complaining when we’ve adoringly chanted “yiddo” at him over the years. In fact, he always seems to clap us back and love every minute of it. I guess it’s one rule when you’re living your life, and another when the FA shanghai you into making a rubbish public awareness video. Whatever.