The real culprits in the ‘Yid’ debate are opposition supporters singing anti-semitic chants at Spurs fans

They are the ones who should face bans or criminal charges. Plus the overwhelming majority of Spurs fans who chant it aren’t actually Jewish

Related Topics

You know what they say: three Jewish Davids, four arguments.

Earlier this week, Josephs bookshop in north London hosted the launch of my paperback Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here?, which documents the previously untold story of Anglo-Jewry’s 100-year involvement in football. And guess what? The three distinguished guest speakers – two of them former FA chairmen, the other a former Arsenal and FA vice-chairman – all had different answers to the inevitable opening question from the audience: “Should the Y-word be banned.”

For those unware of the issue, the Football Association (FA) have stated that the word “Yid” should not be used at football grounds and warned that its use could amount to a criminal offence. Tottenham Hostpur fans, who call themselves “Yids”, have responded by continuing to chant the word. 

At the turn of the 20 Century, Jewish immigrants from Europe mostly settled in London’s East End, an area associated with West Ham United. Yet because White Hart Lane, Tottenham’s ground, was easier to get to using electronic trams, Jews who had bought match tickets in advance felt they were not desecrating the Sabbath - as they were not using a vehicle powered by a combustion engine. Over the following decades, as the community moved northwards, the link was sealed.

This Sabbath desecration business is all very complicated. But it’s got nothing on the Y-word issue.

Interestingly, one of the Davids – Bernstein – had to leave early to attend a Holocaust Educational Trust meeting, which was addressed by David Cameron. It was here, one presumes, that the Prime Minister defended, to the Jewish Chronicle, Spurs fans’ use of the Y word. I agree with Cameron that issuing banning orders against Spurs fans would be wrong. The real culprits are opposition supporters who have sung vile anti-semitic chants at Spurs games for decades. They are the ones who should face bans or criminal charges. Jewish Spurs fans, like gay people reclaiming the word “queer”, have chosen to adopt the word as a badge of honour. Their intentions are positive, celebratory even.

However, I would make three points. First, a large number of Jewish fans of other clubs are offended by the word. To them it is a race hate word on a par with the “N word” and “P word”. Second, opposition fans justify their appalling abuse by citing Spurs fans’ use of the word. And third, the overwhelming majority of Spurs fans who chant it aren’t actually Jewish – so the comparison with “queer pride” doesn’t quite hold up.

Finally, the issue actually diverts attention away from the bigger, and far more interesting, story of the unsung Jewish trailblazers who overcame prejudice and, at times, the prohibitions of their own community, to play a huge role in reshaping, and being reshaped by, the Beautiful Game. It is a story that runs from early 20 Century winger Louis Bookman, the first Jew to play in the top flight, to 1960s star Mark Lazarus, the first Jew to score in a cup final; from superfans like Morris Keston, who temporarily changed his religion to follow Spurs in Egypt a few years after the Suez crisis, to the visionary Jewish businessmen who helped form the breakaway Premier League.

This poignant, and often very funny, story, will be celebrated next month, via the use of memorabilia, film footage and interviews, at a wonderful new exhibition. Rather than focus on such a negative, divisive issue – and one that is marked by so many misconceptions –  Four Four Jew will document a 20 Century success story: the 100-year integration of an immigrant community into English society via the world’s greatest game.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot