Tuesday, October 24, 2023

David Baddiel: Jews Don’t Count, at Paley

When this production aired late last year on British television, anti-Semitic hate crimes were on the rise in Western nations. This week, they have been exploding. It was timely then and it is urgently needed now. David Baddiel adapted his own book and serves as the presenter/host, exposing hypocrisy and prejudice in David Baddiel: Jews Don’t Count (directed by James Routh), which screens tomorrow at the Paley Center, as part of presentation on combating anti-Semitism [UPDATE: this event has just been postponed].

As British comedy writer David Baddiel increasingly embraced his Jewish heritage in his work, his Twitter/X feed steadily turned ugly. Obviously, white supremacists were not helping anything, but much of the subtler forms of hate and discrimination were coming from the progressive left. Weirdly, Baddiel lets Jeremy Corbyn off the hook, but he uses Labour MP Dawn Butler as text book example of progressives marginalizing Jewish citizens, by excluding them (accidentally or intentionally) from an long, drawn-out laundry list of social and demographic identity groups she vowed to represent.

However, Whoopi Goldberg’s ignorant comments on the Holocaust get the withering critique they deserve. Baddiel and his biracial niece directly challenge the notion Jewish Americans or Europeans can just “pass for white,” likening it to gays and lesbians told to stay in the closet.

In many ways,
Jews Don’t Count is even more relevant now than when it was originally produced. However, viewers might wonder if Baddiel’s segment on Israel might look considerably different if he could revise it today. At the time, Baddiel professed to have little affinity for Israel, as a secular Jewish citizen of the UK. In comparison, he asks if it would be fair to demand Muslims citizens to take personal responsibility for the policies of Saudi Arabia.

And then the last two weeks happened. If anything, Baddiel’s analysis now sounds modestly circumspect and overly optimistic. However, it is often funny, thanks to Baddiel’s dry sense of humor and that of the similarly frustrated celebrities who join him in conversation, including Stephen Fry, Sarah Silverman, David Schwimmer, and Neil Gaiman.

Baddiel and company raise a lot of important points in
Jews Don’t Count. Hopefully, PBS or another national outlet will broadcast it sometime soon. It needs to be seen, particularly by the university students and journalists who have been disgracing themselves. Very highly recommended, it screens tomorrow (10/25) at the Paley Center.