Opinion: David Baddiel’s documentary highlights nothing but confusion

David Baddiel presented a highly praised documentary that only stirs more confusion.

Modern antisemitism is rooted in a myriad of claims and ideas that intersect at the veins of race and faith. Jews and Judaism, although still under threat from persecution by far-right and extremist groups, will always be protected by the international order. So much so, that any criticism of Israel, which Baddiel says he shares no affiliation with, is protected under the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of antisemitism which has been adopted by the international community. In it, it claims “Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”. This, however, is never the case as any criticism of Israel is always shut down as antisemitic and never weighed the same as say Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States. David Baddiel’s ‘Jews don’t count’ documentary highlights that Jews do count but other minority groups do not.

In Baddiel’s documentary, he is countered at one point by Miriam Margoyles who says he should care about the political position and actions of Israel. Considering Baddiel believes Jews are a race, it is almost an imperative that he stands at the forefront of what Israel does and says in the political world. After all, that’s what the IHRA says. But, I don’t believe he should answer criticism of Israel. Why? Because Judaism is not a race, it is a belief system encompassing a set of laws, rules and structure.

Baddiel’s claim is that, because far-right groups categorized Judaism as a race, we should all embrace the far-right’s idea. This is an atrocious notion to accept. Not only does it ostracize Jews that do not accept this idea, it excludes anyone seeking to embrace Judaism as their religion outside of a hereditary marker, positioning it as an exclusive group for a biologically endowed peoples.

On the eve of his documentary, Baddiel apologized to a former school peer, Jason Lee, only prior to the airing of the documentary for parodying him in comedic sketches with black make-up, a pineapple on his head and an accent. Frank Skinner and an ITV crew also participated in this, yet there has been no apology from him. The apology was low-key and poorly publicized – in fact, much of it was contained within the parameters of column journalism and Jason Lee’s podcast ‘AbsoluteLee’. So why wouldn’t Frank Skinner and the crew apologize? Simple – Baddiel has/had a publication and documentary due to air and must remove any controversy surrounding its broadcast. It took him 25 years to apologise. 25 years! Why now? On the eve of his documentary?

Jews will always count – but to use it to hurt others should not. In today’s world, criticism of Israel is branded as antisemitic which is a paradox to consider. It is as if to say, criticizing the state of Saudi Arabia is Islamophobic, or criticizing China is Taophobic.

Categorizing Judaism as a race is a political choice, one used to shield criticism of Israel which has inadvertently spilt into the mainstream voiding any debate surrounding anything related to the topic of human rights within the country. While it is true Jews were/still are targeted for being Jewish, how easy would it be to identify a Jewish person? There are Jews living all over the world including in Africa, south Asia, the Americas, east Asia, the list is endless. How would one know where to begin in defining Jewish people by race unless they’re generally known for practising Judaism.

Many other minorities have been forgotten, including the Black community, Muslims, (who have become second-class citizens) and an increasing uptick in the number of racially aggravated attacks. If Jewish people flee Ukraine, they are taken in by Israel. If Muslims flee Afghanistan, they are imprisoned at a detention centre. If you’re a white/non-Jewish person fleeing Ukraine, you will be hosted within a housing scheme as opposed to say, Manston detention centre.

It is worth watching ‘Jews Don’t Count’, as it lays out a pitch via the manifestation of some of your favourite celebrities aiming to tame your opinion, qualified only via confirmation bias. A hierarchy of causes only creates more causes and inequality. The Jewish community should always be protected, but confusing and melding politics with religion and history is a slippery slope to forgetting the origins of Judaism and what Jewish people believe its purpose is. Look up the definition of Judaism, and I guarantee you, the first thing you will read, will not be race but religion.

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