Jews are the Marmite of the world

The savoury breakfast spread apparently divides opinion and provokes strong feelings. Sound like anyone we know?

By Tracy-Ann Oberman, April 8, 2010

Mr O and I have a regular tussle over the condiments that appear on the breakfast table. Stifle your yawn, reader, this is going somewhere. He cannot think of a morning piece of toast without thinly spreading a layer of butter and a layer of Marmite. For him this is breakfast heaven. It is my idea of breakfast hell. And don't even get my three-year-old on the subject. "Yuk, mummy. It's horrid and sticky and black."

Mr O tries to extol the virtues but is always flummoxed by Mistress O's perfectly reasonable question: why can't they make it pink? Marmite's marketing gurus hit the right spot with the advertising slogan: "Love it or hate it." The product can certainly muster a heated debate.

This Marmite debate raged among a few of my friends recently. And yes, it got quite heated. It then moved on to politics and then moved on to Middle Eastern politics which then nicely segued into growing global antisemitism (real or imagined). And then my mate Jules completed the circle beautifully by declaring that Jews are the Marmite of the world. It's true. You either LOVE us or you HATE us. You don't get many ambivalent reactions to Jews. For example, Woody Allen, Larry David, and Jerry Seinfeld are either adored as comedy gods or loathed as self-obsessed charletans as funny as cholera.

Or the strong stance of Israel is seen by some as the poster boy for the oppressed: a small and surrounded nation able to stand up for itself, protect itself at all costs and not be cowed by flimsy public opinion. Or it is reviled by others as a pariah state crushing the weak and vulnerable with its mighty army.

People either seem to view us as wonderful people - funny, vibrant, successful in all areas, biting satirists, survivors with a huge wealth of history, and tradition behind us. I know many non-Jewish friends who would love to be Jewish for the sense of belonging and the laughs.

You either love us or you hate us. You don’t get many ambivalent reactions

Other people describe us as loud, abrasive, pushy, immoral, money grabbing, cliquey, exclusive and judgemental. We certainly do bring about a strong reaction. Like Marmite, we add flavour, and it doesn't take a vast amount of us to make that flavour felt. We can be spread quite thinly but still be very apparent. There's no disguising us. And if you love us, like Marmite, you'll love us forever, through thick and thin, fighting our corner against detractors. If you hate us then no argument, no matter how vociferous, will change your mind.

So who exactly does love us? Who loves the Marmite, as it were? Here is a very broad list as put together by a cross-section of my friends based on little evidence other than gut instinct: Richard Littlejohn, The Sun, The Queen, American Christian Fundamentalists, Tony Blair, the country of India, Waitrose (until it substituted my friends' Pesach order from three matzah boxes to three loaves of bread), banks, and thankfully because you wouldn't want her as an enemy, the brilliant Julie Burchill.

Who are the haters? Who wouldn't put the Marmite on their toast if it were the only thing to eat on a desert island? Again, based on gut instinct; the BNP, the Ku Klux Clan, Nazis, pig farmers, Mel Gibson, people who bought and agreed with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion - oh, and sometimes the loudest of all, other Jews.

    Last updated: 9:49am, July 9 2010


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