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Up the yids!

Charges dropped against Spurs fans’ Yid chants, reports the Tottenham and Wood Green Journal.

About bloody time. The charges were more than usually malicious and absurd. The usual level of malice and absurdity is to pretend that certain syllables – called “racial insults” among the illuminati – are magic spells infused with the irresistible power to turn any mortal that hears them into a raging savage. It was the rare achievement of these charges to be crazier, nastier and more insulting to the intelligence and decency of ordinary people even than that.

As reported by the Jewish Chronicle, although by shamefully few of the other reports of the case, the men charged had said “Yid” not as an insult but as a way to cheer on their own team. All three men are Tottenham Hotspur supporters. They may be Jews themselves; I could not find a source that stated whether any of them are or not, but given that they are Spurs fans it could well be the case. I found an interesting article in Der Spiegel (no need to say the obvious) that gave a brief but clear explanation of this phenomenon:

Tottenham Hotspur’s Jewish background is similar to the Ajax [a Dutch football team] story. The north London club was popular among Jewish immigrants who settled in the East End in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “The Spurs were more glamorous back then than the closer West Ham United or Arsenal,” says Anthony Clavane, a Jewish journalist with the tabloid Daily Mirror who published a book in August about how Jews have influenced the history of English football. Additionally, other northern London districts, such as Barnet, Hackney and Harrow, have traditionally been home to many Jews, which has also contributed to the Hotspur image.

So, for historical reasons the Tottenham Hotspur home stands sing of their own as the Yids, the Yiddos, or the Yid Army. For this it was proposed to put three men in jail. From the Jewish Chronicle link above,

Their arrests followed widespread debate late last year, after the Football Association issued guidelines in September announcing that fans chanting the word “Yid” could be liable to criminal prosecution.

The move caused anger among Spurs fans, who refer to themselves as the “Yid army” as well as the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust, which stressed that “when used in a footballing context by Tottenham supporters, there is no intent or desire to offend any member of the Jewish community” .

Following the example set by everyone from the Desert Rats to Niggaz Wit Attitude they have taken what was once an insult and turned it into a badge of honour. Tasteless? Possibly. Knowing nothing of the history of a Jewish link to Tottenham Hotspur FC, I recall once being shocked to see a blackboard outside a pub advertising a forthcoming match to be televised there as a contest between the “Yids” and whatever team were to oppose them. I mumbled an attempt at protest to a barmaid who had stepped outside for a fag. She didn’t know what I was talking about – in retrospect I’m not sure she even understood that “Yids” had any other meaning than a nickname for THFC – and I slunk off in embarrassment. One could certainly argue that it it is a poor memorial to the persecution and mass murder suffered by Jews over the centuries to make an insult used against them into a means to excite collective euphoria among people watching a game. But if you really want to contemplate great barbarities memorialised in plastic, turn your eyes to the attempts of the Crown Prosecution Service to charge Gary Whybrow, Sam Parsons, and Peter Ditchman with racial abuse, and smear them as anti-semites, for asserting the Jewish identity of their own team.

25 comments to Up the yids!

  • Johnnydub

    You highlight the hypocrisy inherent in this prosecution – I await Jay-Z’s arrest after a show in which he uses the word “nigger” abundantly…

  • Mr Ed

    It might have been sillier had the fans been called, say, ‘Samuel Cohen’, ‘Nathan Goldstein’ and ‘Moses Israel’, and in line with the sort of charges Vyshinsky brought during the Purges, but it would have been no less sinister. It would have helped meet the target, and how that they were ‘doing something’.

    In respect of the knowledge of ‘Yids’ and anti-Semitism, your suppositions do not surprise me, my own first awareness of ‘anti-Semtism’ was aged 12 at secondary school, near the south coast of England, late 1970s, having lived to that date in South London and not recalling now ever knowing any Jews. A classmate had developed the insult of calling someone ‘mean’ in what I now understand to be a mock Yiddish accent, but which to me sounded simply like an odd nasal voice. I had to ask someone else why he was putting on a voice, but I was none the wiser once I was told that it was a Yiddish accent, as I failed to see the connection to the stereotype. Only after a series of Divinity classes did I have any idea of the nature of the Jewish religion and identity outside of what I had gleaned from the conflict in the Middle East, having been State educated up to 11.

    And frankly, many football spectators are barely worth worrying about, unless they get too close.

  • bloke in spain

    Curious, Natalie, how in your pub anecdote, you may be replicating the same behaviour you’re commenting on.
    Depends, of course if you’re Jewish. If you’re not, the pub board “insult” is not aimed at you. So why would you complain about it? It’s between the pub landlord & whoever is being insulted. It’s got nothing to do with you. It’s that free speech thing.

    Declaration of interest; Haringay (the London Borough where Tottenham is)is home turf.

    Incidentally. Having grown up in an extremely Jewish area of London, I wasn’t aware Yid was an insult, until informed by the wider world. Apparently, it’s only an insult if you don’t know any.
    Shalom

  • Julie near Chicago

    Natalie, thus:

    “[T]hey have taken what was once an insult and turned it into a badge of honour.”

    Extremely percipient — a great observation!

    That is the tactic that people who get exercised about “racial slurs” and other “slurs” would do well to adopt.

    The principle should absolutely be employed by us “Teabaggers,” which always struck me as merely hilarious anyway. We (for I consider myself a Tea Party person to the core) ought to carry signs and pennants that say “Teabaggers forever” or some such thing (preferably more assertive and more humorous both), with a picture of a steaming cup of tea, and the bag prominently placed.

    The same thing goes for the “insulting” cognomen “Birthers.” The people who question the Sith’s eligibility on the grounds of failing the Natural Born Citizen (there is no hyphen, and that matters) requirement have, or had (whichever is true) a perfectly good point. Instead of being supported in their questioning by others who were anti-Sith, they were maligned with the “Birther” label. Well, they should have adopted it, proudly used it, turned it into a badge of honor.

    And as far as racial and ethnic slurs go, the Poles have learned to make Polish jokes, the Jews make Jewish jokes, the lawyers make lawyer jokes. And unless they sense that someone intends actual derogation, they mostly laugh.

    Do Paddy’s complain about being “Paddys”?

    Granted that there are still some “opprobrius epithets” used for certain racial groups, we all need to lighten up about this stuff.

    I speak as Yank and a Spic, and the widow of a Yid. :>)

    I also speak as one who’s had to work overtime trying not to be insufferably hypersensitive about “personal remarks” that might be “aimed at” me personally.

  • In a pub selling good beer in Haifa a couple of years ago, there were two Bavarian beers on offer, one light, and one dark. These were described on the blackboard describing which beers were on tap this week as the “Dark Nazi” and the “Light Nazi”. I asked the nice young Israeli woman behind the counter what I should make of this, and she basically said that the beer was good and they were relaxed about this kind of thing.

    I have to confess that I wasn’t. I am still not sure quite what to make of this.

  • Eric Tavenner

    One could certainly argue that it it is a poor memorial to the persecution and mass murder suffered by Jews over the centuries to make an insult used against them into a means to excite collective euphoria among people watching a game.

    It could also be argued that there is no better revenge than turning an insult into a badge of honour.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    bloke in spain,

    you may be replicating the same behaviour you’re commenting on

    No, I wasn’t attempting to ban or criminalise anything, merely making a comment to another citizen. Actually the whole “conversation” lasted for literally less than five seconds and was more like one of those cringemaking exchanges when one party has not heard or does not understand the language of the other party.

    Eric Tavenner,

    I do take your point. It’s difficult to state a general rule, but I argued on similar lines to yours back in 2005:

    I once bought a Lenin medallion from a street pedlar.

    I thought of the purchase as a slightly more socially acceptable version of taking the scalp from the corpse of my enemy.

  • bloke in spain

    “one of those cringemaking exchanges when one party has not heard or does not understand the language of the other party. ”
    I you were round Tottenham way, that does tend to be the default. We are a very enriched neighborhood.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Mr Ed,

    I didn’t know until adult that the word “yid” was the non-pejorative word for “Jew” in Yiddish. And I didn’t know until a minute ago that the non-pejorative Yiddish word was pronounced “yeed” rather than to rhyme with “did”.

    With all these matters (“yid”, “nigger/nigga”, “queer”) there are so many possible contexts in which a particular term can be used that it’s usually a mistake to say in advance that all uses of a term are either offensive or inoffensive. However with some terms I know which way to bet.

  • the other rob

    Some years ago a friend, who is a Spurs fan, said of my team “Newcastle will never win any silverware in my lifetime!” To which I replied “That could be arranged.”

    We both laughed but I now realize, in a true Maoist self-criticism stylee, that I was in fact making an anti-Semitic death threat and I am worse than Hitler.

    Christ!

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Speaking as a – mostly – Squarehead, I feel neglected. Is there a movement for Norwegian-American outrage I can join? If there isn’t, who can I blame?

  • Natalie Solent wrote:

    I didn’t know until adult that the word “yid” was the non-pejorative word for “Jew” in Yiddish.

    In Russian, the word “zhid” is the pejorative for a Jewish person, along the lines of “yid”; the normal term is “yevrey”, obviously from “Hebrew”. In the 1930s, when the French author André Gide visited the USSR, the Soviet press made a point to let the Soviet people know that Gide was, in fact, a Protestant, since his name is pronounced the same as the slur word.

    I’m told that in Polish, it’s the other way round, with “zhid” (or whatever it is in Polish orthography) is the normal term, with “yevrey” being the slur word.

  • the other rob

    Natalie:

    I once bought a Lenin medallion from a street pedlar.

    I thought of the purchase as a slightly more socially acceptable version of taking the scalp from the corpse of my enemy.

    I did the same with a bust of Lenin, at a street market in Kiev (or possibly Kishinev – it was a while ago and memory is blurred). It currently adorns a bookcase in my study and I viewed the purchase in much the same way that you did.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Many years ago, in a USENET group, someone posted an inquiry as to whether “Brit” was an ethnic slur.

    The resulting thread blossomed into a glorious slanging match as people from various parts of the Isles repeated every known slander or insult against each other.

  • James Strong

    I wonder if it might have been better if the prosecutors had proceeded and a jury returned ‘Not Guilty’ verdicts, thus sending the authorities away with a bloody nose, tail between legs and the resounding chants of ‘Fuck Off’ in the ears.
    That would have been a clear defeat for this ridiculous near-prosecution; as it has turned out the prosecutors might consider they have made a prudent tactical withdrawal, and they might attack again at another time and place.

  • Paul Marks

    The collapse of freedom of speech (and freedom of association) in this country since the 1965 is part of a general “PC” (i.e. Frankfurt School of Marxism) attack upon freedom in the Western world. In the United States Columbia university is where most of the Frankfurt School washed up – but P.C. (i.e. death-to-freedom, supposedly to help “victim groups” based on race, gender, sexual orientation or whatever) doctrines have since spread to almost all universities (Hillsdale and Grove City College are among a handful of exceptions) and schools – and from the education system to the media and politics (“practical” people who declared that what was taught in the universities had no effects in “real life” have been shown to be wrong).

    It is much the same in United Kingdom and every other major Western country.

  • John B

    Whic Humpty Dumpty decided on what ‘Yid’ should means? What about Yiddish, may it no longer be spoken.

    Will the folks song ‘My Yiddishe Momme’ be banned?

    Any word can be used as a pejorative particularly against minorities: the rich, bankers, for example, should these be banned?

  • Anat T.

    “[T]hey have taken what was once an insult and turned it into a badge of honour.”

    The perfect answser to PC. Let it be known that the meaning of words depends on usage.

    The first time I went to France, decades ago, some people referred to Jews as “Israelite”. The minute I realized this was PC, I began to insist on being called “juive”.

  • Tono-Bungay

    [quote]
    In Russian, the word “zhid” is the pejorative for a Jewish person, along the lines of “yid”; the normal term is “yevrey”, obviously from “Hebrew”. In the 1930s, when the French author André Gide visited the USSR, the Soviet press made a point to let the Soviet people know that Gide was, in fact, a Protestant, since his name is pronounced the same as the slur word.
    [/quote]

    Sorry, does this mean that the “zh” combination of letters in Russian is correctly pronounced as a hard “g” sound?

    I ask because I’m wondering how to correctly pronounce the old Zhiguli brand name.

    (Apologies if I’ve bollocksed up the “quote” tag for HTML. Clicking on the “these HTML tags” link only generates another copy of the page in my antiquated browser. :/)

  • Sorry, does this mean that the “zh” combination of letters in Russian is correctly pronounced as a hard “g” sound?

    No, it doesn’t. It is pronounced somewhat like the soft ‘g’, but not quite the same…

  • Tono-Bungay

    [q]
    …hope this helps.
    [/q]

    Yes, it does; thank you! :D

    I can’t view YouTube clips, but after poking around a bit, the “zh” sound seems to be pronounced like the “su” sound in “pleasure” (or “treasure” or “usual” as on the page you helpfully linked to).

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul:
    “It is much the same in United Kingdom and every other major Western country.”

    I don’t think i am going much off topic if i say that some Western countries have not reached such a level of depravity. Perhaps the most impressive example is the Netherlands, where girls in high school are taught to be wary of Moroccan boys, because some (not all, most likely not even a majority) of them tend to pimp their girlfriends.
    Also note that this is a new trend in the Netherlands: the Dutch used to be more PC. They are going in the “right” direction.

    On a personal note, the first time i found a nauseating level of oikophobia is when i moved to England and started reading the Grauniad occasionally. The most oikophobic community in the world might well be North American academia, but as a country the UK might be the worst.