The Y-word debate is once more encompassing the footballing community. To opponents of its usage, it is an abhorrent term that never should have found its way into match-day vocabulary. Contrastingly, advocates of the term contend that language is understood in context, not just one word. As such, chanting 'yid army' does not equate to condoning anti-Semitism. As a British Jew, whose footballing love lies purely with Celtic, the debate has fascinated me. Should I be incensed that these fans are not just embracing but proliferating an anti-Semitic term? In my opinion, no, it is simply a harmless football song. The argument led by the likes of David Baddiel has two prongs. One based on the fact that chanting yid is anti-Semetic on its own merits and another contending that its singing encourages further anti-Semitism by other football fans.
Let's deal with the first point to begin. Baddiel argues that yid was used by Mosley and other fascists as a term of abuse, and thus Spurs fans chanting this amounts to tacit racism. This is true, and there are countless Jews in my parents generation who were met with this term in an abusive manner. However this point forgets that language morphs and evolves with time. Just because a word is once offensive, this does not mean that such offence is immutable. If this was the case, then we need a re-think of our language. For instance, a 'hooligan' is racist, it stems from a derogatory term about an unhygienic Irish family or what about 'cannibal', which is derived from an indigenous tribe in the West Indies, who, as far as anyone can make out, did not have a desire for the flesh of their fellow humans. The best of these examples is 'hip hip hooray'. It is a common chant heard at the end of a plethora of sporting occasions and birthday celebrations, one I myself have partaken in many times. Nevertheless, it has genuinely anti-Semitic routes. In the 19th Century, Germans would sing something similar when they went 'Hebrew-hunting' in the Jewish ghettos. Where is the campaign to end this insidious song? Of course there will be no ban, our language has evolved beyond their ridiculous origins.
The second argument contends that even if 'yid' itself is inoffensive, it encourages chants like the 'yids are on their way to the gas chambers'. This is pure lunacy, there are a whole set of extra words that completely change the context of the sentence. It is the extra words, not yid on its own that creates the offence. As a friend of mine once noted, should we ban the words 'on', 'their' and 'way', as well? Words impart different meanings when combined, this is hardly a concept that is not grasped by the majority. The intention of Spurs fans chanting 'yid' is in pride and solidarity with a minority of their fans who are Jewish, not to drive them away from White Hart Lane. The lack of malicious intent is absolutely key.
Detractors respond that unintentional racism, is racism all the same. Yet what Spurs fans are attempting to do, is to attempt to create positivity around an antiquated insult. That is something to be praised. That is how language changes. To paraphrase the fictional character on the West Wing, Matthew Santos, 'they have taken that insult and are wearing it as a badge of honour'.
Britain today, in both its football grounds and its society, has not rid itself of anti-Semitism. No society is free from intolerance, in one form or another, but we should concentrate on ridding ourselves of actual racism, rather than being engaged in a meaningless debate. For me personally, offence is not intended, and nor is any being taken.