29/11/2012 10:46 GMT | Updated 27/01/2013 05:12 GMT

Sweetly Misguided - Y Word Campaign of Peter Herbert and David Baddiel, Part 2

I wrote a piece last week explaining the significance of Yid to Spurs fans and defending their right to chant it during games. It is a neutral term for Jew, originating from Yiddish. Tottenham are the only club linked with Judaism because of their relatively large proportion of fans from the faith as well as past and present Jewish owners. After being abused by opposition fans for many years, Spurs fans reclaimed the term in a poignant symbol of pride and unity.

The piece, which argued fans must be allowed to continue singing Yid, as long as intent is decent, generated almost unanimous support, the sole exception being a mischievous tweet from comedian and Chelsea fan David Baddiel, stating I was 'sweetly misguided'. I asked him to get in touch by email to develop his argument but regretfully he didn't take me up on that.

They say a week is a long time in football. First there was an unprovoked attack on Tottenham fans by Ultras in Rome prior to their match against Lazio. The home fans were cleared of the racial assault which was in fact premeditated by supporters of their rivals Roma. However, Lazio fans proceeded to display anti-Semitic banners and chant 'Juden Tottenham' during the match, using the German word with the implication they sided with the Nazis. Fast forward three days to White Hart Lane as West Ham fans hissed to imitate the gas chambers from the Holocaust. They let off a smoke bomb in the stand and applauded Lazio for their fascist stance. In the midst of all this action, Scunthorpe manager Brian Laws unfortunately proclaimed that his side's defending was 'as bad as the Holocaust'.

Quite a lot for one week, then. But essentially, at no point was the word Yid involved in any of this.

Yet Peter Herbert's verdict was as follows: "The link between the appalling incidents in Rome and the "Y" word chanting is obvious."

It may be obvious to Herbert, but Spurs fans subjected to the vile abuse do not agree. He ostensibly blames the animalistic behaviour of football hooligans associated with three clubs - Roma, Lazio and West Ham - on Tottenham fans, in what is a double blow for the victims.

Since the fashion is to pluck spurious links from thin air, here is a slightly more palpable link:

I'm a Jewish Spurs supporter and have had a season-ticket for two decades. The Tottenham faithful have incessantly chanted Yid Army throughout that time. And while I have witnessed the occasional flurry of anti-Semitic chanting, it has been decidedly rare. About once every other season. However, since Peter Herbert drew unrivalled attention to the Y word in a nonsensical campaign, three widely reported incidents - and one that almost slipped under the radar, Mr Laws - occurred in the space of four days. Could it be therefore that Peter Herbert is the root of the 'appalling incidents in Rome'?


The reality is that neither the Y word nor Peter Herbert is responsible. There exists an undercurrent of racism and prejudice in every society, and from time to time, its ugly head surfaces. On those infrequent occasions at White Hart Lane, the only weapon Jewish Spurs fans possess in their arsenal is their voice.

Perhaps Herbert would prefer that Spurs fans sit in a deafening silence the next time they're subjected to references to the Holocaust and abuse such as "six million wasn't enough".

After almost ruining the life of one of our league's best referees, Mark Clattenburg, by publically accusing him of racism without substantial evidence, it seems as though Herbert is determined to prove his credibility as a warrior in the fight against racism.

Unfortunately, perhaps out of sheer enthusiasm, his first two targets - Mark Clattenburg and Spurs fans - were ill advised. He caused far more harm than good in the first case because victims subjected to authentic abuse will now fear speaking out. And if legislation is passed preventing Tottenham supporters from uttering Yid on the terraces, a travesty of free speech and expression will have occurred.

Mr Herbert said: "The chanting of the word simply legitimises anti-Semitic abuse by other fans."

Quite the opposite.

In fact, his campaign seems quite badly thought out. If he manages to muzzle the caws of Yid in the stadia, what will it really achieve? Will it eradicate anti-Semitism?

More likely, the word will go underground, reverting to negative connotations once more. All the work that has gone into reclaiming and taking the sting out of it will have been a waste of time. It's not fanciful to imagine a scenario in a few years where away fans spit out Yid with derision and hostility, in the knowledge the term has been officially deemed offensive, while Jewish Spurs fans shift uneasily in their seats, legally impotent and stifled by Herbert's well-intentioned campaign.

I am a proud British Jew and I will not be suppressed.