James Lawton: The Y-word is indefensible, even if Tottenham Hotspur fans seek to own it
Where, in any language, is a word so representative of of refined hatred?
Before any more embarrassingly soft-headed debate on the latest football controversy, it would be very helpful if a small experiment was conducted by some of those who say, straight-faced, that no offence should be taken when large numbers of gentile Tottenham Hotspur fans sing that they are the Yid Army.
It would be easy enough to organise and hardly expensive. All you need in a relatively small space is a Jewish person of workaday sensitivity and pride and some bozo in a blue-and-white scarf addressing him as a Yid, however well-meaningly.
Only a miracle of forbearance would prevent a consequence guaranteed to confirm the absurdity of the proposition of both Tottenham and the Metropolitan Police that it is possible to use in a positive way a word that for centuries has represented an extreme of hatred and contempt.
There is no way to dress up the word "Yid" in irony or self-mockery or any kind of intellectually fractured benevolence. Like the N-word, even on the lips of a reflective Muhammad Ali, it evokes too much pain, too much horror, too much recall of the worst of human nature.
The word "Yiddish", we know, refers to a language developed in central Europe 1,000 or more years ago by Jews and is written into the Hebrew language. The word "Yid" is derivative only of hate and persecution and pogroms and systematic genocide.
It was used by the Nazi military governor of Kiev when he ordered the city's Jewish population to assemble at a certain point and make itself available for relentless slaughter and, as the understandably exercised comedian and film-maker David Baddiel has pointed out, it was the war cry of Blackshirts rampaging in the streets of east London.
Baddiel has been driving the debate these last few days and, if some of his assessments of support for Tottenham among those of Jewish origin seem somewhat low, his central argument is surely unimpeachable – not least when he claims, "The idea that Spurs are reclaiming the Y-word and are entitled to because so many of them are Jewish is simply not true."
Some argue that the Y-army is removing so many of the demons that came with the ghastly sound of rival fans hissing their attempt to reproduce the sound of the gas chambers. They say that the complainants are simply in search of another battleground of political correctness. They should, of course, contribute to that experiment. They should sing, whisper or just utter the word "Yid" in the presence of a Jewish person who, from his own experience or any vague working knowledge of his and his family's past, has a fierce awareness of what the word denotes.
Many of us have knowledge of insults based on the origin of our birth or religious affiliation and they are not among our most pleasant memories. But they do not threaten the core of our existence. They do not convey all the venomous hatred of the N and the Y words.
The compelling reality is that there is no circumstance in which Jewish people would describe themselves as Yids and those in White Hart Lane, who may be more numerous than Baddiel believes, who hear it regularly can only be touched by disgust and maybe even a little despair.
There is certainly plenty of incentive for the latter emotion when you go back over Tottenham's statement of toleration of the chanting. It is a compendium of woolly thinking, ill-disguised optimism or, you might say, a wilful refusal to tackle an essentially offensive practice.
"The club," say Spurs, "does not tolerate any form of racist or abusive chanting. Our guiding principle in respect of the Y-word is based on the point of law itself – the distinguishing factor is the intent with which it is used with the deliberate intent to cause offence.
"Our fans adopted the chant as a defence mechanism in order to own the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse. They do not use the term to others to cause any offence."
Where is the FA? Missing from the action, as it happens, but surely it cannot be for long. Tottenham say their fans adopted a defence mechanism to deflect abuse and, hey presto, they came up with the magic device of owning the term.
Yid – it is some term to own, is it not? It is one unleavened by even a crumb of redemption. You hear it in the night and if you are a natural-born abuser, a malignant purveyor of hate, you say to yourself, "Oh, the Spurs fans have claimed that term, so it is beyond my use."
So what does he do? Dream up, perhaps, something more capable of inspiring instant hatred. But then how many thousands of years does he have? Where does he ransack his language, anyone's language, for a word that is so representative of horrifically refined hatred?
Where can he find a phrase so damning, so flavoured with the poison of persecution, of Auschwitz, of stars of David attached to the coats of children?
He doesn't because one doesn't exist and the sooner Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, the Football Association, the Metropolitan Police and the authors of one headline decorating a sports page yesterday which said, "Try targeting the real racists", understand this the better.
Wenger needs to relax his stance on Wilshere
Arsène Wenger's extreme reluctance to see Jack Wilshere's swift return to the England squad is more than a little confusing.
The young midfielder has been for some time potentially the Arsenal manager's greatest gift to the national team as a home-bred embodiment of a superior football philosophy.
Serious injury has been a frustrating and saddening obstruction to the hopes first registered by Fabio Capello and it is certainly reasonable for Wenger to be protective of such outstanding talent.
However, a friendly against Sweden surely represents a gentle enough return to the international scene the young player craves – and Capello's successor Roy Hodgson so desperately requires.
It is also surely true that one way of protecting Wilshere's health is firmly in Wenger's hands.
A major contribution would be some effort to curb the recklessness of the youngster's tackling, the kind that recently brought an inevitable red card and re-awakened fears that such a lack of discipline could lead to fresh visits to the medical room.
In another football age, ambushes would already have been laid by some of the game's more cynical old sweats. Even today, Wilshere's aggression is putting no one at more serious risk than himself.
Rugby's international rulers must do more to support emerging nations
The autumn internationals may be one of the engaging rites of English sport but the need for rugby union, in all its manifestations, to grow up casts a significant shadow over the visit to Twickenham by the Fijians.
The ruling IRB needs to be a lot more strenuous in protecting the interests of the Pacific islanders, who are weakened by the power of European clubs to happily plunder their talent while showing disinterest in the vital matter of encouraging their development on the international stage.
Last year's World Cup in New Zealand was badly disfigured by the need for emerging nations to marshal their strength for matches against potential rivals for qualification in 2015 rather than going full tilt at the established powers.
We are frequently told that rugby union is hell-bent on spreading its gospel but this, surely, is not the way to do it.
The spread betting firms are very slow about pricing up this game and you can understand why. All th...
by Gareth Purnell
20 June 2013 02:01 AM
The Prince of Wales Stakes today is regarded by many as the No1 race of the Royal Ascot meeting and ...
by Gareth Purnell
19 June 2013 02:01 AM
Today’s St James Palace looks a cracker and there has been sustained money for Dawn Approach since t...
by Gareth Purnell
18 June 2013 02:01 AM
Jamie Carragher can see why Luis Suarez wants move to Real Madrid
ACT Brumbies v British and Irish Lions - player ratings
Mike Ashley wants blood after last season's trauma at Newcastle - and it won't stop with Derek Llambias
Exclusive: Newcastle's star talent-spotter on brink as Joe Kinnear sparks walkout
Exclusive: Cristiano Ronaldo advised to stay at Real Madrid for further 18 months before making possible switch to Manchester United
- 1 Bankers could face jail after report urges the Government to introduce new criminal offence for reckless management
- 2 Breaking the Silence: In the reality of occupation, there are no Palestinian civilians – only potential terrorists
- 3 Richard Nieuwenhuizen death: Six teenagers and 50-year-old father convicted of manslaughter in shocking case of referee killed over a game of football
- 4 Exclusive: Newcastle's star talent-spotter on brink as Joe Kinnear sparks walkout
- 5 Vast methane 'plumes' seen in Arctic ocean as sea ice retreats