Sorry, Charlotte Church. I’m a fan. But thing is, I’m also Jewish

The appreciation seems like it only goes one way says David Baddiel


LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 9: Singer and activist, Charlotte Church, raises her fist in the air after speaking during a rally in support of Gaza on March 9, 2024 in London, England. With the war on Gaza entering its sixth month and Ramadan due to begin on Sunday, pro-Palestinian groups around the world are calling for an immediate ceasefire. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

March 27, 2024 12:51

I’m a big fan of Charlotte Church. Amazing voice, obviously, but also she’s lived through some properly difficult traducing by our vastly exploitative media, and come out the other side admirably, into someone strong and individual and still clearly very talented. And also Welsh, which I like, being half that myself.

Charlotte, however, is not, or is not now, a fan of mine. She wrote a blog recently, in which, after making various references that my online trolls always make about my past career, she accused me of misogyny, indeed of applying a “shush, silly girl” attitude to her — and lumped me together with Nigel Farage.

So first of all, I think she has a point. Because what happened was that on my new podcast with Baroness Warsi, we did not take a recording that she was leading of a Welsh choir singing a musical version of “From The River To The Sea” completely seriously. And I would accept that Church is totally committed to Palestinian activism, and that the choir’s rendition — which was to raise money for an ambulance for Gazan children, a very good cause indeed — was entirely heartfelt.

In which case, I no doubt should not have made any fun of it. Of course, we live in a time when making fun of anything is assumed only to be mockery, which itself is a strange downgrading of laughter as a positive force — in this case, I would argue that I was treating it lightly because I was trying to take the heat out of the rage that surrounds the whole debate around “From The River To The Sea”, but let’s leave that to one side. I accept it could come across as belittling, and so I should expect pushback, which I have received.

But here’s the interesting thing about Church’s blog. It, as I say, lumps me in with Nigel Farage, and also Nick Robinson, who interviewed Farage on the subject. What it doesn’t mention at any point is that I am a Jew. The blog in general mentions Jews, a lot, and pleads, no doubt sincerely, that she is a great sympathiser with the Jewish community in general, but when it comes to me, she — and this is a tell — doesn’t even mention the name of my podcast: A Muslim And A Jew Go There. She describes it instead as “his new podcast with Tory Baronness Sayeeda Warsi”: as if, that is, our podcast is primarily some kind of right-wing take on the news, rather than what it is, two people from two minorities pitched, in the present, against each other, trying to find a place of communion, or at least, civil disagreement.

It’s a very telling “Jews don’t count” moment. Because in that podcast, I am trying to represent all Jews, as best I can. As it happens, I am not very fussed about “From The River To The Sea”. I go to Chelsea every home game, and at some point, at every one of those games, I sing that “Super, Super Chelsea FC” are “The greatest football team, the world has ever seen.” I don’t literally believe that. It’s a statement of tribal identity. Similarly, I don’t believe that most people chanting or singing FTRTTS are calling for the destruction and eviction of Israeli Jews. However, some Jews do. And for the sake of those Jews listening, I was happy to poke a little fun (without condemning it) at this mainly white Christian chorus singing that chant.

But the idea that I may be representing a vulnerable minority, some of whom will be feeling frightened by the acceptance and promotion of that phrase by apparently caring progressives — that isn’t in the frame of Church’s blog, at all. I am simply no different from the other powerful white men trying to shut her down because they’re powerful white men. And as a powerful white man, I can’t possibly, that is, be coming from a position of vulnerability.

It’s important this, because it’s a nuance on the old antisemitic trope that Jews are powerful. It’s a step away from that — it says white men are the power, and Jewish men are basically no different from white men, so they are the power too. It is harder to counter, because many people do not see any difference between Jews and white people. So its worth remembering: in the West, the vast majority of Christian white people do not, in their bones, carry a history of racial trauma. Of discrimination, ghetto-ising, dehumanisation, exile and genocide. Because Jews do, it means that when a Jew pushes back on what feels to them an attack, they are rarely doing it from a position of power. The opposite in fact: from an intergenerational memory of disempowerment.

Anyway. Charlotte will probably hate me even more now. Which is a shame, as I remain a fan. In fact, I’d love to hear her choir’s version of Super Chelsea FC.

March 27, 2024 12:51

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