Cameron, Spurs & Yidgate: What’s In A Word?
If I was David Cameron I’d probably put on a mock New Yoik Jewish accent to read the title of this piece and say “Vat’s in a vord?”, so painfully turn of the century is his understanding of what it means to be Jewish in a modern society.
When he spoke to the Jewish Chronicle (top tip-the clue’s in the name Dave) he contradicted the FA’s recent ruling that the use of the word “Yid” should not be used in any context at a football ground saying- "You have to think of the mens rea. There's a difference between Spurs fans self-describing themselves as Yids and someone calling someone a Yid as an insult. You have to be motivated by hate. Hate speech should be prosecuted – but only when it's motivated by hate."
Saying “mens rea” (I learnt what “mens rea” means from Legally Blonde but I don’t think that cheapens my knowing it) puts his argument within the theoretical chokehold of THE LAW. Making it all seem lofty and academic when what he’s actually saying is “It’s alright to call people racist names if everybody else is doing it”.
Now, stick with me, because I’m about to get ALL kinds of etymological about this. “Yid” is a derivative of the German word “Jude” meaning Jew. It first entered British cultural psyche not with the wave of Jewish immigrants at the start of the 20th century (my Great-Grandparents amongst them) but with Oswald and his oh so charming Blackshirts in the 1930s. To clarify, the word “Yid” amongst Jewish people isn’t negative or derogatory; it just means “chap” or “mate”.
I’m well aware of the age-old argument that some people consider it hypocritical to say ‘it’s ok if we call each other *insert derivative descriptive racial term here* but not ok for other people to’. What that blinkered argument omits to acknowledge is the unequivocal fact that there’s a common experience binding people who society deems to be “the same” together. We are bonded by our all being Jewish and our shared experience of what that means. But, as soon as people who aren’t Jewish start saying it, it’s as if someone has overheard the pet name your boyfriend calls you and they address you with it casually in conversation. Its meaning changes on the lips of others.
The most important thing about this whole debate is the acknowledgement that wherever it might be said “Yid” is an indisputably racist word. If David Cameron had used the ‘N word’ he would no longer be Prime Minister. He’d be weeping into Sam Cam’s shoulder as Aussie men and their van loaded up all their objets d’art. So, why is he still Prime Minister after defending the usage of an outmoded, and more importantly, hateful racist word? I hope he understands the “rea” of my “mens” when I don’t vote for him in the next General Election.