Responding to my post about 'Yid' chants, a longtime reader and Spurs fan has written with the observations below. I post them with his permission.
I saw your recent piece on the Y-word and wanted to put the case to you for why the Yid Army and other related chants are not anti-Semitic. I declare a huge self-interest and bias as a season ticket holder at Spurs who has been going to matches regularly for almost 20 years. I'm not Jewish but I think that for a variety of reasons I have an informed and sensitive view of anti-Semitism. Whilst I remain open to persuasion on the subject and am wary of telling Jews what is and is not anti-Semitic, I have not seen anything persuasive (from the Society of Black Lawyers, Baddiel or the Guardian).
1. It seems to be quite broadly accepted that the Yid Army chant is not anti-Semitic in intent. No one chanting it is motivated by anti-Semitic intent, nor is the message behind the chant anti-Semitic. As is widely known it was taken up some time in the 70s/80s in response and reaction to the anti-Semitism of some other supporters. It is used now in a self-referential way to talk about Spurs fans or the team rather than 'Jews' per se.
2. I accept fully that anti-Semitic intent, and certainly hatred or dislike of Jews, is not a prerequisite for anti-Semitism. The use of tropes and stereotypes etc can be anti-Semitic (eg Bell's cartoon) – although there is a significant moral difference. Much of the discourse about Israel is infused with this type of anti-Semitism (the 'lobby', the chosen people, eye for an eye, the Livingstone manoeuvre). However the Yid Army chant does not use tropes, stereotypes and there is no Spurs song of that nature. No conscious or unconscious use of tropes or stereotypes – even 'positive' ones is to be found.
3. The Baddiel argument, which you rely on, appears to be that the Spurs song is anti-Semitic not because of intentional prejudice or unintended stereotyping but because it encourages and gives opposing fans an excuse to engage in anti-Semitic chanting. But even if this were true (which I very much doubt - see ii below) the fact that something may increase the likelihood of racist behaviour by racists cannot be a basis for concluding that it is racist. It might increase racist attacks or behaviour if an Asian family is moved onto a 'white' estate in Leicester, or if a synagogue opened in a 'Muslim' area, or putting a plaque by the place where Steven Lawrence was murdered; but it is patently not racist. This thinking seems analogous to arguing that Blair is responsible for the 7/7 murders because British troops were in Afghanistan.
4. This still leaves open the argument that the term 'Yid' is so inherently racist and discriminatory that it cannot be used because it is anti-Semitic – without anything else - certainly if used by a non-Jew. The analogy to support this argument would be with the 'N' or 'P' words (for black and Asian people), which I would never ever use. I remain open to persuasion on the point but I don't think that is the case with the Y-word, particularly in the context of Spurs chants where the word 'Yid' on its own is never used. It is more like the use of the word 'Queer' etc which, whilst offensive if used in a derogatory way, could be used by someone who is not gay in a non-offensive way (eg a T-shirt worn by heterosexual mum at Gay Pride saying I'm proud of my Queer son). My position is, I think, borne out by the fact that the majority of Jewish Spurs fans are not offended by, and participate in, the Yid Army chants.
I also have the following observations on this issue generally:-
(i) Baddiel has argued that Spurs fans are embarrassed by or not proud of the Jewish connection with the club - but they have taken the Y-word up as a battle cry nevertheless. Almost like those disgusting England fans who sing about rather being a P*** than a Turk/Scot/etc. That is patently untrue in all of my experience and Baddiel's assumption results from his unfortunate choice of football clubs.
(ii) Anti-Semitism amongst opposing fans was there before the Yid chants, during the Yid chants and I am sure would continue afterwards. Most of it doesn't even involve the Y-word (like the West Ham 'fans' singing about Hitler last Sunday), in which case the perpetrators cannot say, 'They say it so why not us'.
(iii) The Y-word has been in active use by Spurs fans for at least 30 years and never has this issue been raised before and rarely has the anti-Semitism of other clubs. If Baddiel cares about anti-Semitism at football he could transfer his support from a club with some of the most anti-Semitic fans.
(iv) Spurs fans do not ever chant 'Yid' on its own. It is Yid Army, Yids, Yiddo or Yidio. Are all of these anti-Semitic on the Baddiel thesis? What about Star of David images or Israel flags?
(v) At the West Ham game the guy next to me – a regular attendee – is an Israeli from Jerusalem who was happy to sing the songs.
NG adds... Many thanks to R for this comment. Just one quick clarification about my original post. This was not meant to suggest that the chants of 'Yid army' etc by Spurs fans were themselves anti-Semitic, only that dropping them might be helpful to the effort of curbing the use of racist language by others.