“Jews Don’t Count,” a new documentary from British writer and comedian David Baddiel that will air next week on UK broadcaster Channel 4, examines how, particularly in progressive circles, understanding continuous there that they are not Jews. entitled to the same protection and support as other minority communities. That impression is based on the anti-Semitic belief that Jews are all rich, successful industrialists and that they “rule” like Hollywood, if not the world order.
It is symbolic of the catch-22 at the heart of the film that the succession of Jewish celebrities appearing within it to talk about their experiences of anti-Semitism, such as David Schwimmer, Sarah Silverman, Stephen Fry and Jonathan Safran Foer, may come to an end. Other antisemites are sure that the basis of the documentary is not without foundation.
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Baddiel, a comedian and writer, admitted that difficulty at a press screening in London on Wednesday although he was finally sanguine. “I like [the documentary] not to be seen by Jews only,” he explained. “One very simple way to do that, I hope, is to have big names. It’s a pragmatic decision.”
Despite the starry guest list, when Diversity asked if there were any Jewish public figures who refused to appear in the film, Baddiel replied “many.” Out of respect for their privacy, he did not reveal their names but said there were “some very prominent Jews who don’t want to bring their Jewishness to the fore and don’t want to talk about this” on the list.
“This” is the uncomfortable but important discussion about how anti-Semitism presents itself today. On the right, it hasn’t changed much since the days of the Nazi Party in Europe and the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. But in recent years, anti-Semitism has become increasingly common, surprising many (especially Jews themselves). on the left and it is here, as Baddiel shows in the documentary, that there is a more obscure form, first of all by wrapping itself in terms that, although not overtly discriminatory, only exclude Jews from inclusive spaces, and secondly by refusing to confront when Jews are subjected to the kind of treatment that would foster anger on behalf of other groups (for example, illegitimate solutions).
“Especially in the last 20 years, with social media and all the rest, I think there’s been a lot of focus on trying to right the wrongs, which has been pretty good,” Baddiel said during the Questions and Answers. “But some of them were functional. And I think within the executive space, [in which] people [are] trying to make it clear that they are allies in a way that is more about their perception than the actual ally, Jews have no currency for them.”
The documentary is based on Baddiel’s non-fiction book of the same name but the two are separate projects. “The book is a very personal piece of work,” he explained during the Q&A. “I am talking about my own experience of this particular phenomenon. [In the documentary] I can go and talk to other Jews, and they can tell me if they have experienced the same kind of thing or not. This seems to be something that, as Sarah Silverman says, many Jews have been feeling for a long time, but perhaps not expressed before.”
“And I think the other thing that the book can’t do is make you feel things like the Colleyville incident, for example,” continued Baddiel, referring to the hostage crisis that occurred earlier this year, in which a young British synagogue man in Texas at gunpoint. Convinced of Jewish power and influence, the hostage-taker randomly chose the synagogue to demand that an unaffiliated (and determined) New York rabbi order the release of a prisoner and alleged al-Qaeda operative from Fort Worth .
The rabbi, Angela Buchdahl, will also appear in “Jews Don’t Count.” “The way we did it, you can feel what that is [her] suddenly being cast as this ridiculous stereotype of Jewish power that she has four people’s lives in her hands,” said Baddiel.
He also shows how Jewish schools in the UK take part in active shooter drills, a practice unheard of in Britain, which he links to anti-Semitism on both sides of the political divide.
Despite the sober subject matter, viewers may be surprised to learn that “Jews Don’t Count” also has plenty of laughs (at one point Silverman declares “I love money!” before he admits that this documentary is probably not the best place to say it. that out loud). “It’s a central part of the Jewish tradition that you also try to be funny about it when you talk about trouble and terrible things,” Baddiel said.
The documentary also sees Baddiel, who rose to fame as a comedian, tackle anti-Semitism in the industry. The film examines “Bo’ Selecta!,” a British sketch show from the early 2000s in which comedian Leigh Francis dressed up as public figures including Black (and Jewish) musician Craig David, whom Francis put on Blackface. Francis also caricatured Baddiel in the show, portraying him with a hook nose, long curly locks (which Baddiel never wore) and a thick accent. It was a portrayal of a friend of Baddiel’s that was so shocking he suggested it was a hate crime.
In 2020 Francis released a video apologizing for portraying Black celebrities, including David and Michael Jackson. Baddiel did not receive an apology from Francis, however. “I don’t like to call other comedians. We’re comedians and it’s weird to do that. But in this particular case, it is such a clear example of selective outrage in a sense that, as far as I know, no attention has ever been drawn to that. [lack of apology],” Baddiel said during the Q&A. He also revealed that Francis declined a request to appear on “Jews Don’t Count.”
During the Q&A, Baddiel also discussed Dave Chappelle’s SNL monologue about Kanye West, which happened a few days earlier. “I love Dave Chappelle, he’s a brilliant comedian,” Baddiel said but added that the SNL monologue was “weird.” “Dave Chappelle basically said, ‘Look, Kanye is right. We can’t say it out loud, but Kanye was right, because look what happened to him,’” Baddiel said, referring to the many brands that have cut ties with West following his litany of public anti-Semitic comments, with includes a threat of “death to Jewish people [sic].”
“There are consequences, of course [in the case of] every other minority, when people say racist or discriminatory things,” said Baddiel. “But with Jews, those consequences seem to reflect the power of the Jews.”
One of the most powerful moments in “Jews Don’t Count” is when Baddiel confronts his own racist caricature of Black British footballer Jason Lee during a BBC ’90s sketch show called “Fantasy Football League”. In the show Baddiel appeared in blackface as Lee with a pineapple on his head and his co-host, Frank Skinner, was Lee’s manager.
Baddiel apologized publicly several times for the sketch but never met Lee in person. In the documentary, he appears as a guest on Lee’s podcast, “AbsoluteLee,” during which he apologizes again. The two will then have a discussion about racism and anti-Semitism. During the Q&A, Baddiel revealed that, although not shown in the document, he apologized to Lee again before leaving the podcast studio. “I went up to him again, and I said, ‘I’m sorry, again.’ And he just went, ‘It’s done now.’ And my hand shook.” The experience, Baddiel said, was difficult but he was grateful for it. “I’m very glad I did it.”
Finally, “Jews Don’t Count” ends on a note of hope. “I think the dial is shifting, I say that at the end of the movie,” Baddiel said. “Things have definitely moved on since I wrote the book. I hope the film will make people think about it.”
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