“Jews Don’t Count”: David Baddiel’s movie on Progressive anti-Semitism

November 28, 2022 • 9:15 am

Reader Eli sent me a link to this movie along with the header, “UK documentary on anti-Semitism from the Left—’Jews Don’t Count’, and his email said this (I’ve added a link)

You may be interested in a recent UK documentary on contemporary leftist antisemitism, “Jews Don’t Count”. It’s made by David Baddiel, a UK Jewish comedian, based on his book released last year, and includes interviews with Sarah Silverman, David Schwimmer (from “Friends”), Stephen Fry and others. It was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 but it is also available in the U.S. (so far hasn’t been taken down).
The Guardian gives it four stars out of five, and here’s an excerpt of their review:


[Baddiel’s] central thesis is that “Jews don’t count as a proper minority” when it comes to contemporary notions of prejudice and racism. He sets out to explore why so many people seem to ignore antisemitism, as well as “the dysfunction between progressives and Jews”.

It feels like a particularly bleak statement to make, but it couldn’t be more timely. Anti-Jewish hate crimes continue to rise in the UK and the US. Conspiracy theories and racist tropes about Jews and power continue to be given mainstream platforms. Baddiel’s book lends itself brilliantly to a TV format, which can bring in many other voices. “What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Jew’?” he asks, in the first of many monochrome interludes in which he speaks directly to camera. “Let’s ask some Jews.”

. . .What I like most about this documentary is how conversational it is. The thesis that Baddiel set out in his book (delivered here in the monochrome sections) forms the backbone of the programme, and on screen it feels like the opposite of the kind of back-and-forths that mostly happen online, often anonymously, about the same subjects. He sets out what he believes and meets people who agree with him and who sometimes disagree. It cuts through a lot of online noise and crude finger-pointing. He has a complex and nuanced conversation with his niece, Dionna, who describes herself as “a biracial person”. They discuss whether antisemitism is a “different” form of racism, and if Jews can “pass” as white.

. . . It is a sign of a solid documentary, I think, that every time a question came into my head, Baddiel was either asking it, or setting about answering it, as if I had said it out loud. Often, he pre-empts how people will respond to the point he is making. As someone who spends a lot of time on social media, he is used to anticipating what will be thrown back at him. People sometimes send him a screenshot of him in blackface, playing the footballer Jason Lee on Fantasy Football League in the 1990s, asking, “This you?”

Only four critics have reviewed it on Rotten Tomatoes, but they all give it a thumbs-up.

It’s just one hour long, and I’ve watched it all—it’s absorbing and gives a good idea of the anti-Semitism pervading much of the Left in the U.S. an U.K.  As Eli recommends, watch it before it’s taken down!

22 thoughts on ““Jews Don’t Count”: David Baddiel’s movie on Progressive anti-Semitism

  1. I agree. I think it’s excellent. It’s certainly not ‘left-bashing’, as Baddiel himself would probably describe himself as ‘progressive’ and/or on the left. But it does carefully explain why behaviour and language which in particular those on the left would never consider anti-semitic can be justifiably described as anti-semitic, and therefore racist. I thought his conversation with Miriam Margolyes on expectations around attitudes to Israel was particularly enlightening.

  2. I’ll definitely watch this today. I’m sure I’ll find it exasperating and will end up screaming at my iPad. I do love Sarah Silverman. I’m sure she’ll be great as always.

  3. Interestingly Baddiel has enraged both Jews because he eschews any connection with Israel and anti-Demites because, well, for obvious reasons

  4. Started watching to imprint it on my to-do-later-today list…but couldn’t stop.

    The film was not mostly about Israel but that topic did engender some dispute as commenter Chris Lawrence implies. Allies of Jews need to think hard about this in order to be useful, in my opinion.

    Can’t speak for Jews specifically–the film explains why it’s complicated–but I think all good people should support the existence of the state of Israel, which as with all states extends to the state-sanctioned use of violence. The policies of the Israeli government, though, are for Israeli citizens to defend and oppose, no one else. I don’t see why Jews who don’t live there ought to voice critical opinions (as Ms. Margolyes argues) or, worse, be assumed to be complicit in policies that the foreigner doesn’t happen to agree with. As Mr. Baddiel says, the Left doesn’t hold Muslims living in the secular west complicit in the policies of Islamic theocracies….perhaps–this is me, not him–because we suspect they’d say, “Yes, of course, women should be beaten and killed for showing their hair, as Allah wills it,” not what the Left wants to hear.

    1. Here in Germany, with our large Turkish minority, the left does tend to hold Turko-Germans (if they aren’t Kurds) responsible or dislike them for policies of the Turkish government. I have also witnessed American expats being accused of earlier US governments’ crimes, though not of late. The German Left used to be very anti-American, but its majority has since has done a pro-American turn.

      1. “I have also witnessed American expats being accused of earlier US governments’ crimes, though not of late.”

        Yeah, I recall being snubbed or treated shabbily by German tourists (in Thailand) during the Bush years.

    2. “The policies of the Israeli government, though, are for Israeli citizens to defend and oppose, no one else.”

      I disagree; I think the world’s opinions of government behaviors can be a force for reform. I don’t think Israel, or the US, or any other country, should be given a free pass.

      This does not mean that any country’s citizens as a group should be blamed for their government’s policies.

      1. I absolutely agree with you Lou. It is a very strange contention that only the citizens of a country may legitimately criticise or defend the actions of the government of that country. The idea that we should all sit in silence at, say, the grotesqueries of Vladimir Putin is frankly bizarre. As far as Israel is concerned, it should not be held to different standards to anywhere else but that does not mean that the outside world has no right to comment (positively or negatively) on Israeli government policies.

        1. Lou and Jonathan, certainly foreign hecklers have the right to make their views known, freedom of speech and all that. Their own governments should not criminalize this speech even if it undermines their country’s foreign policy vis-a-vis the country they are heckling. (Of course they will do, if they really really need to.) But the national leader of a country can heed only the people who put him/her in power, and who can boot him out. We like it when those people are voters, and this is where my argument is easier to make, but in principle, even if the source of his power is Divine Right, the Army, the oligarchs, the Tribal Minority Coalition, or whatever, he can’t run the country if he lets foreigners convince him to do things to the detriment of his own peeps. One way or the other he will be removed.

          Now in real life, national leaders do have to get along with other national leaders who can cause them variable amounts of pleasure and pain. A foreign hue and cry against some domestic policy may create a political force in a foreign country for a hostile state-level retaliation, like sanctions or “condemnation in the strongest possible terms” (short of actual action.) So the leader must maintain a robust diplomatic apparatus in foreign countries likely to be the source of support and opposition so as to shape the foreign governments’ attitudes to its advantage. It will know that few voters care enough about their own government’s foreign policy towards the domestic policies of other countries to oppose it electorally. It’s all hot air, in other words.

          So heckle away. But you aren’t going to be holding any foreign government to your standards, especially for its strictly domestic policies.

          This Richard Hanania Substack that appeared today touches on this “real life” principle as regards Western support for Ukraine in its seemingly suicidal defence against Russian aggression.

          1. I think you are perhaps underestimating the effects world oprobium can have on individuals within the offending country, and hence their willingness to effect political change. Not being an international pariah can have big benefits to the citizenry, perhaps enough to make it worth their while to reign in a crazy dictator or stop a particularly distasteful domestic policy. I recall that the fall of South African apartheid was at least partly facilitated by international opinion and boycotts.

  5. This may be of interest to Jerry and to some readers here, since antisemitism from the left is in part related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

    John Mearsheimer: The future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. the new Afrikaners.
    published in: Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor (eds.): After Zionism: One state for Israel and Palestine. London, Saqi Books, 2012, 135-153
    ungated access: https://www.mearsheimer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/PalestineFuture.pdf

    Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1982.

    Beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
    William I. Brustein & Louisa Roberts: The Socialism of Fools?: Leftist Origins of Modern Anti-Semitism. Cambridge University Press, 2015, 217 pages
    Using a range of primary and secondary sources, including the analysis of left- and right-wing newspaper reportage, this book traces the relationship between the left and anti-Semitism in Europe from the French Revolution to World War II and demonstrates that the relationship between the left and anti-Semitism has been much more profound than previously believed.

  6. This is just one case of some minorities officially counting more than others from the point of view of the left. See also views about women’s treatment officially not counting…see the shooting down of concerns about women in the Labour Party. Some details in the current issue of The Critic magazine.

  7. “the Left doesn’t hold Muslims living in the secular west complicit in the policies of Islamic theocracies”
    But the poor things are all refugees from the Islamists!
    That is really what naive do-gooders here in Germany thought in 2015. They thought Syrians (or Afghans an all the others coming in the Syrian’s wake) were all Western style liberals.

  8. Good video. As I’ve mentioned before, Reform Jewish leaders in the early part of the 20th century worked hard to transform the perception of American Judaism from a nation, a people, an ethnic group, and/or a race into “just” a religion. They did this to blunt the common belief that Judaism was a nation in exile and that the Jews themselves couldn’t be fully loyal Americans—the “dual loyalty” canard. To a considerable degree, they were successful.

    But this was a double-edged sword. Even though antisemitism remained—and remains—this change of perspective has lessened the ability of Jews to claim oppressed minority status. Jews “don’t count” because so many have assimilated into the American landscape that their concerns are easily dismissed when bigotry and hatred rear their ugly heads. To many people, Jews are simply doing OK, as someone mentioned in the video. The problem is that things are clearly not OK.

    I recommend reading Jonathan Sarna’s “American Judaism, a History” to provide some more context.

  9. A small segment of black Americans have declared these the “real” Jews, and white Jews are fake Jews. If you disagree with them then you’re a racist. That and Israeli politics is what makes progressives turn a blind eye to antisemitism.

  10. The documentary was fine. But two criticisms
    1) The adverts were way over the top. Two adverts repeated twice every ten minutes or so.
    2) I did not really get an insight as to the reasons for the control left’s view on why they are not overly allied with Judaism.

    But the video was nicely done and gives a variety of ‘enlightened’ Jewish perspectives.

  11. That deserves a wider audience than it will get. I’m afraid it will likely end up just ‘preaching to the converted’ and that’s a shame.
    I may have mentioned before, that when I married in 1980 (a civil wedding at a register office, you’ll be glad to hear) I had two best men, both Jewish. We’ve stayed friends, me in Canada, one in California and one in the UK. My friend in the UK, I’m sorry and ashamed to say, is ready to leave at a moment’s notice ‘if things get too bad.’ No one should have to live that way in a supposedly civilised country.

  12. Michelle Goldberg has a piece on anti-Semitism in the Times today. She is struck by how the Jews in Tom Stoppard’s play Leopoldstadt feel completely Austrian in 1899 – more or less right before the shit hits the fan (I have read the play but not seen it). I agree with David Schwimmer in the film: I have never felt “white,” not when the kids at St. Someone’s School beat me up for being an infidel, nor when tradesmen and others use expressions like jew someone down. Like Schwimmer, I can “pass,” but I should not have to.

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