Jews Don’t Count

David Bad­diel

  • Review
By – July 22, 2022

In Jews Don’t Count, Jew­ish British come­di­an David Bad­diel digs deeply into the sub­tle but per­ni­cious form of anti­semitism present today. Using exam­ples from the lit­er­ary world, the film indus­try, sports, pol­i­tics, and even the culi­nary world, he shows that anti­semitism is alive and well, even among pro­gres­sives who have admirably devot­ed them­selves to social justice.

The argu­ment woven through­out the book is that there is a hier­ar­chy of racisms,” which con­sis­tent­ly places Judaism at the low end of the list of impor­tance. The rules that apply to dis­course about oth­er eth­nic minori­ties and mar­gin­al­ized groups do not seem to apply to Jews. Among those rules (which he details through­out the book) is that those who do not expe­ri­ence racism need to lis­ten, to learn, to accept and not chal­lenge, when oth­ers speak about their expe­ri­ences. Except … [n]on-Jews, includ­ing pro­gres­sive non-Jews, are still very hap­py to tell Jews whether or not the utter­ance about them was in fact racist.”

Bad­diel doesn’t shy away from the thorni­est ques­tions. Is Judaism a reli­gion or an eth­nic­i­ty? He points out that peo­ple often try to down­grade the cat­e­go­ry of anti­semitism to that of reli­gious intol­er­ance.… Except anti­semitism has very lit­tle to do with reli­gion.” Case in point: Racists who don’t like Jews nev­er ask the Jew they are abus­ing how often they go to synagogue.”

When is it anti-Zion­ism and when is it anti­semitism? Here, Bad­diel offers a lit­mus test. One of the things about anti­semitism is: it’s a very old racism. There are bad … asso­ci­a­tions that anti­semites have been apply­ing to Jews for cen­turies, for long before 1948, when the state of Israel was estab­lished. If these are found with­in a polit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion about the present-day Mid­dle East, then my anti-Jew­ish racism radar goes off.”

But the murki­est ques­tion is this: In the con­text of racism, are Jews white? Bad­diel talks about Schrodinger’s White,” which is to say some­times yes, some­times no, depend­ing on the con­text. But if this ques­tion of Jew­ish white­ness is irk­some, it’s because it is mis­un­der­stood. “ … being white was not just about skin col­or, but about secu­ri­ty.… White real­ly means: safe.” Using data and exam­ples from the Unit­ed States and across Europe, Bad­diel offers a clear answer. He also acknowl­edges that this point “.… may have no res­o­nance for those Jews who are clear­ly non-white. And who some­times, for that very rea­son, have to suf­fer dis­crim­i­na­tion against them from oth­er Jews.”

Jews Don’t Count is a mini mas­ter­piece. It is a laser-sharp assess­ment of the newest ver­sion of an age-old hatred. It’s a book for anti-racists, or at least, those who would claim to be so,” as the author writes. But it is also a book for all of the Jews who have fol­lowed the evo­lu­tion of iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics with grow­ing dis­com­fort at the myr­i­ad ways in which this par­tic­u­lar form of big­otry is not only tol­er­at­ed but often­times unrec­og­nized as big­otry at all. Point­ing out the mar­gin­al­iza­tion of Jews from the dis­cus­sion of racism is often met with accu­sa­tions of racism, Bad­diel writes. The point about this accu­sa­tion is that it leaves Jews who feel the hier­ar­chy of racisms — who see and hear it every day … —nowhere to go.”

Discussion Questions