“Jew Boy is eating bubblegum, Miss”.
“Jew, Jew Jewing gum on Jewsdays?”
Translation: do you chew chewing gum on Tuesdays?
Diane Abbott’s now infamous letter to the Observer in which she asserted that Jews cannot be the victims of racism, that they experience only “prejudice” akin to that endured by white people with “points of difference” such as having red hair, incensed me.
So much so that it has prompted me, for the first time, to go public about the anti-Jewish racism I experienced at my state primary and two comprehensive schools, some decades ago.
Why has it taken me so long to share these experiences? Because of the shame I felt. Racism can work like that: even as you know you shouldn’t, you internalise it.
I was called Jew Boy and Jew Bug so frequently at my Essex primary school, where I was the only Jewish child in my class, that one teacher stopped noticing.
When a kid told Miss that Jew Boy was chewing bubble gum, she simply told me to throw it in the bin, immediately.
At my Essex secondary school, the abuse got worse. That’s where “Jew Jew Jewing gum on Jewsdays?” began, and where I also had to endure the song: “And the animals went in Jew Boy, Jew Boy, Jew Boy Jew.” (And the animals went in two by two by two.)
But the physical violence I suffered was worse. Day in and day out I was beaten up for being Jewish. Every day, I had to give the Nazi salute when I came to school and say Seig Heil, or get a kicking.
On one occasion, my nose was held while a pork sausage was stuffed down my throat by the biggest bully of the year. To the delight of his jeering acolytes.
Eventually, I told my mother some of what was going on, and she moved me, at the age of 13, to another school where you could at least count the Jews on the fingers of two hands.
My hope for a better life was soon quashed. My new classmates discovered which school I had left and unfortunately for me one of them was friends with the chief bully at the old one. He whacked me around the head with a biology textbook and told me that I’d soon wish I’d stayed where I was.
He was right. The beatings got worse. At one point, a boy who was on crutches after he’d broken a leg on a school skiing trip, continued to bring them to school long after his leg had healed. He was clear why: I like whacking you, Jew Boy. I hid the bruises on my legs from my mother and the ones on my chest from the ‘nipple crunches’ I received.
I did not want to upset her. And I didn’t tell her that I was no longer Jew Boy, that I’d graduated to ‘Dirty F*cking Yid’ and ‘Yid Features’.
Neither did I tell her that during my first half term at the new school, my head was slammed on the desk in the chemistry lab while someone turned on the gas tap used for Bunsen burners.
Or that when the Holocaust was taught in history, it was to the sound of boys hissing in the background. The teacher cannot have failed to hear, but chose to remain silent.
I don’t like hierarchies of racism but, given the choice, I would rather have rather sat at the back of the bus than be kicked in the testicles for who I was.
Diane Abbott’s letter to the Observer is a total disgrace. She does not deserve to be an MP.