On Monday, David Cameron gave a moving speech at the Holocaust Educational Trust’s (HET) annual dinner.
He pledged to visit Auschwitz next year and said Britain would never forget where hate speech leads. He added: “The Holocaust did not begin with mass murder. It began with words. When we see this, we should stand up to it.”
The very next morning he encouraged Tottenham Hotspur supporters to continue chanting the anti-Semitic hate term ‘Yid’ at White Hart Lane.
It was Cameron at his ambiguous best.
Using the ‘N’, ‘P’ or ‘Y’-word without malice is not a crime, so the prime minister is on the right side of the law. But he, and the fans who chant “Yid” with delight, are on the wrong side of the argument.
There is no way around the word. It is racist, hurtful and vicious. And, as Cameron told the HET, when we hear such words spoken, we must stand up to them.
The 95 per cent of Tottenham fans who aren’t Jewish might be at fault, but it’s the other five percent who are to blame.
When basic common sense should kick in, they let their hearts rule their heads by condoning a powerful and poisonous slur against them out of blind loyalty to a football team.
Many refuse to even enter the debate or see that talking about the Y-word can be a positive thing. Why not at least take a nuanced view on what is, by their own definition, a nuanced issue?
Of course, the last thing the 95 per cent want on match day is a lecture on Semitic semantics. They want a chant and a cheer to rouse their spirits and their side. They want to impulsively yell ‘Yid Army!’, then scream ‘We’ll Sing What We Want!’.
At the very least, Jewish fans should silently sink deep into their seats when the word reverberates around the ground from the diehards on the South Stand (it’s rarely heard in the West Stand where most Jewish supporters sit).
Better still, they might make the fan sitting next to them aware of how Oswald Mosely and his fascist Blackshirts chanted “Yids out!” in the 1930s and how, outside White Hart Lane, Jews are regularly branded ‘Yids’. Then, maybe, over a half-time Bovril, mention to another fellow fan how the word is daubed on desecrated synagogues and gravestones.
They could then, perhaps, reflect on whether the cons actually outweigh the pros? Might the banal use of a belittling word be the cause of more prejudice than pride?
Could the word have goaded Lazio thugs to chant “Juden!” at Tottenham fans in Rome last season and attack them with broken bottles and baseball bats?
And could the word ever be condoned in any other sports setting? Imagine 80,000 people yelling “Yid!” at a Jewish athlete during last year’s London Olympic Games.
Racism cannot, of course, be eradicated. But the prohibition of a tiny three-letter word at White Hart Lane would be a small step in the right direction. Like it or not, it’s incumbent upon Spurs’ Jewish fans to start dragging their beloved club kicking, screaming and chanting in the right direction.