|Much has been said and written since
the self-appointed Society of Black Lawyers has proclaimed that they
will make complaint to the metropolitan police should spurs fans
keep using the word 'Yid'.
But these 'Johnny come latelys' don't know the history of why or how it came about and the Oldham Athletic South African Jewish footballer Dean Furman is entitled to his view that it is offensive and shouldn't be used, but if he looked into it, he might realise that this is the coming together of a community of 30,000 fans at a ground to support not only their club, but their fellow supporters ? He says you can't use it as a chant as abuse will come back. Well, if it is to come back that says more about the people who are using it as an abusive term and not that the "ownership" of the term has done more to prevent it over the years. In my view, it is the very opposite of anti-Semitic abuse. Can it be a term of abuse if you don't use it against anyone ? By adopting the 'Yid Army' tag, they are referring to themselves and not anyone else.
I don't claim and I am sure that most Spurs fans don't claim that Spurs should 'own' the term 'Yid'. There are large Jewish communities all over the country and there are no doubt large Jewish followings for certain clubs around Britain, but Tottenham were the club who always got stick for it. Much as Ajax do in Holland, Bayern Munich (they had a Jewish president and coach at the time of WWII) in Germany and other clubs in other European countries. So, without the football authorities and law enforcement agencies taking action to stop the anti-Semitic abuse, the fans decided to do something themselves. And it is interesting that two of the clubs who were the worst offenders when it came to anti-Semitic abuse now have Jewish owners.
It would have been great if Spurs fans hadn't adopted the chant in the first place, but there was a reason for it.
Mr. Herbert should really have been there in the 1980s when the hissing noise replicating the gas chambers of the concentration camps and the songs of "Spurs Are On Their Way To Auschwitz" were regularly sung at Tottenham supporters and anti-Semitism was at it's height. The background of the club having strong links with the Jewish community, being not far away from Stamford Hill, meant that if anything, many Spurs fans have a greater understanding of the persecution that Jews have been subject to. And while for some it might just extend to a football point of view, I remember visiting a museum in Arnhem in Holland and being moved to tears by the detail of what the Jews suffered in World War II there.
Having been called a Yid by opposing
fans, why then shouldn't I use the term even as a non Jew ?
There are other offensive terms for those of the Jewish faith that
Spurs supporters (or opposing fans) could use, but I haven't heard
those. I was at a secondary school in central London in the
1970s and there was a majority of pupils who were Jewish. It
was the first place I heard the term Yid and it came from the Jewish
lads at the school. They wore it as a badge of honour and
referred to us as Yoks (i.e. non-Jews). I didn't take that as
an offensive term, just what they called those from outside their
community. Would Herbert have that term outlawed as well ?
The anti-Semitic abuse has dwindled away to just a couple of clubs who now perpetuate it and even then, it is mainly the occasional incident. This is because it is not worth chanting such abuse at Spurs fans, because they 'own' the term and it would come back louder and prouder at them.
So, what Spurs fans have done seems to have been a positive act. With positive outcomes and I am sure that Mr. Herbert would not want to deprive the gay and black communities of the use of the words they have taken possession of to provide them with a shield against the words being used in abusive terms. Surely he is not saying that the use of those words amongst their own communities is not acceptable (although I certainly read that he thought that the case in the black community in one article on the BBC ... "If you had a group of Afro-Caribbean supporters using the "N-word", even as a defensive mechanism, it would be completely unacceptable."). To throw one of his arguments back at him, why is it unacceptable in a football ground and not outside ? Hebert is quoted as saying in the Independent, "If a crowd of men were walking down Tottenham High Road singing the Y-word causing offence they would be arrested. It doesn't make sense that they can make White Hart Lane a no-go area for law." So, why should the wider world outside a football ground be classed any differently ? Surely, that would be worth tackling first as a greater number of people might be exposed to it even if it be one person using the term and not a large group ?
Let's accept that the Oxford English Dictionary definition does list 'Yid' as meaning 'a follower of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club', but with usage and time behind it, one day it might creep in their as such a definition. Why not ? Or Y not ? Language changes and evolves and has done for thousands of years. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to understand the words in this article. Whether that be through corruption, mis-use or slang that words become a part of everyday 'usage and abusage' (see the book of the same name and you will find entries such as "Gent, 'a gentleman', is an illiteracy except when it applies to such a man as might be expected to use the word"). Many words have been abducted from the English language to mean something else as a glimpse through the Urban Dictionary will prove.
David Baddiel (the Jewish comedian
who fronted "The Y Word" video to stop anti-Semitic abuse in
football) has jumped on Mr. Herbert's campaign wagon and it is
interesting that the club he supports is one of the main offenders
when it comes to anti-Semitic abuse over the years. I am
interested to hear what Baddiel has done to raise the issue with
follow supporters at games he has attended when they have been using
the Y word and worse. His proposition that the acceptance of
the use of the word Yid makes anti-Semitism more acceptable than
other racist terms. Well, maybe that while the thrust of the
efforts to deal with prejudice in football has been aimed at colour,
religion has been over-looked a bit and the issues surrounding it
have led to fans taking their own action - whether that is right or
wrong, only David Baddiel can say ... from his own view-point.
Interestingly, I heard on TalkSport (hard to believe I know), that one of their reporters - Ian Abrahams (or "Moose" as he prefers to be known) - talking about the abuse he used to get as a Jewish youngster. Abrahams is a West Ham fan. Again, what has he done to re-educate his fellow fans about the use of certain words ? Or does none of this matter when it is not your own team's supporters who are using it against Spurs?
We are being told to stop singing 'Yid Army'. Well we get accused of being a library at the moment. Without one other song in our armoury, we are in danger of becoming what other fans are calling a "library" anyway. Is that offensive to librarians ? Following the "We're Tottenham Hotspur, we'll sing what we want" chant at the Maribor game on Thursday, there were only a couple outings for "Yid Army". Anyone would think it was sung non-stop during games. And when it is sung, it is not accusing the opponents' fans of being Jewish, so where is the intent to cause offence ?
Where does all this end ? Do we stop calling Arsenal fans Gooners, as this might be offensive to Goons (hired heavies) or 'The Goons' if any of them were still alive. Does anyone argue against Newcastle United fans shouting 'Toon Army' ? Surely, this is a slight against those who Campaign to Protect Rural England ? Do Grimsby Town, Fleetwood Town, Ebbsfleet United or Codicote fans offend non-piscitarians when they chant "Cod Army" at games ?
I saw a comedian recently called Josh Howie, who was quite challenging in pushing the boundaries about what comedy could deal with in terms of all the 'isms'. Race, religion, sex. All fell under his comedy eye. Including the issue of the use of 'Yid Army' for he was Jewish. From North London, he asked a member of the audience who was also Jewish if it was appropriate for Spurs fans to sing 'Yid Army' at games. She said no (she was American and had no idea of why they sang it, but nonetheless, she was offended by the term). He then asked if the term would be acceptable if used by a Palestinian spotter in the Sinai peninsula when he saw Israeli troops approaching.
I think the idea behind this joke was to show that context is sometimes what makes things acceptable or not. Obviously, there are terms which are never acceptable and some of them are heard at football grounds, but the whole concept of anti-Semitism is not someone being offended by a term, but the way it is used.
Much of the background to hate crime in this country today revolves around how the act is perceived by the recipient. This is understandable, as they are the only ones who know how they feel about the thing that brought the legal action, but that does not mean it was intended that way in every occasion. And the intent in using 'Yid' as a term does not have any intent to offend. It may do so along the way, but then we are all offended in life by a lot of things, but we don't go running to the law every time it happens.
I find Mr. Herbert's presumption that action should be taken against my club for not taking action for what he thinks is a problem to be offensive. There are other, just as important problems facing football today and that includes the matter of racism, which is where Mr. Herbert came in. He was involved in raising the alleged racist comment made by a match official at a Chelsea game against one of their players. Coming just days afterwards, a Chelsea fan was pictured imitating a monkey with the action being aimed at a black player. Chelsea were of course at the centre of a racist incident themselves a year or so ago and you have to wonder that ,ever since the outcome of that investigation by the FA, have the club started to throw smoke screens to deflect attention away from the problems at their own club ? By issuing a ten point plan, it appears that the SLB are spreading their net wide and perhaps hope to catch any dolphin in their tuna nets to claim as a scalp.
Interesting to see that Piara Power, Executive Director of the Football Against Racism In Europe organisation, has criticised Herbert as being naive and not understanding football properly. My big worry is that the lack of understanding may lead to the rise of anti-Semitism again, now that this subject was failing to be a major issue for Spurs fans (apart from themselves being the problem of course) and now it is in the spotlight again, some people might think it is OK to perpetuate the abuse. Especially with the deadline set by Herbert and Co., of 20th November, coming five days before Tottenham host West Ham United.
To protect everyone's sensibilities and to appease Peter Herbert and to allow him to get on with some proper legal work, I propose we start called ourselves the "Ijid Army" and pronounce it in the Dutch fashion where 'ij' becomes a 'y'. This would not surely fall under Mr. Herbert's interest. Or just the "Y Army". Or would any reference to an army be too militaristic for Herbert, whose name itself could easily fall into common parlance. Oh ... I've been beaten to it by Urban Dictionary ... and look how many different definitions they come up with for that (link - explicit). It appears that the term has changed somewhat since I was young, when 'herbert' meant someone who was a bit of a wally, but that's language for you. I guess in the idyllic society that Mr. Herbert might dream of, you could chose which definition you would want for 'herbert'.
I know which I would choose.
Benny The Ball
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