Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel

Review: A Minority, But Not a Minority by Jonathan Usher

I am used to reading three types of books about anti-Semitism. The first type deals with European oppression of Jews from the time of the Diaspora in the first century A.D. until the Holocaust in the early forties. Generally it is a catalogue of the murders of Jews and the Jewish inability to stop the killings. The next type of book gives all the good ethical principles of Judaism and all that the world has learned and benefitted from Jews. The third type is on Jewish humour and deals both with positive and negative character traits of and prejudices about Jewish people.

David Baddiel’s book, Jews Don’t Count looks at antisemitism, primarily in Britain, among non-Jews from a non-Jewish point of view. His theory is that British antisemitism is acceptable as mainstream, as long as it does not directly support killing Jews.

Baddiel looks at different kinds of minority groups, noting that Jews are a minority group, acknowledges that there is prejudice in our society against Jews, and then wonders why Judaism is not included as one of the many minority groups that gets or needs special privileges or protection. Why in a world fixated on group identities and fighting against discrimination, are Jews not considered in the hierarchy of the oppressed?

He looks at various types of minority groups that are recognized as discriminated against. There are those of different races, like Blacks or Mexicans, and since Jews are not recognizable by their features and can “pass” they don’t fit into that group. Then he looks at poverty figures, and since Jews are “known” to be middle class or even wealthy, they don’t fit into that group. Often they are hated for opposite reasons, such as Jews are “insular” or they are trying to “weasel in” to white society. Or they are cheap but flamboyant with their spending on houses etc. They all have long noses and beards or they can too easily pass as Anglo-Saxons. In all of these situations Jews are essentially disliked because they are something or the reverse of that something.

For Baddiel the result of all this is that Brits feel it is ok to be antisemitic because there are so many ways that Jews can be categorized as being different from or better off than other minorities. Behind it all seems to be the Brits’ belief that Jews don’t suffer from prejudice because they don’t look, sound or act differently from the majority culture and therefore that majority cannot be prejudiced against them; and whatever prejudice there may be, is unimportant. In other words, Baddiel concludes, Brits feel that Jew-hatred doesn’t count as prejudice or something that is harmful, and that it can be dismissed as unimportant. They believe that Jew- hatred is a second class hate and that it is acceptable. They believe that Jews, because they are often rich or prestigious, are fair game for peoples’ prejudices and hatred.

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