This football fuss is a bit rich

November 24, 2016 23:21

There is much more to the Dave Whelan story than meets the eye. It is – thus far – a sad and miserable tale of political correctness taken to new depths of absurdity. To plumb these depths we need to recall how this sad and miserable tale began.

Whelan, a 77-year-old multi-millionaire, is the owner of Wigan Athletic football club. On November 19 he was asked by The Guardian to explain his appointment as club manager of one Malky Mackay, who is apparently under investigation by the Football Association following remarks of an allegedly racist and antisemitic nature he (Mackay) is alleged to have made while in charge of Cardiff City football club. One of these remarks allegedly referred to Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan (who is Malay) as a "chink," whilst another, referring to the Jewish football agent Phil Smith, allegedly declared there was "Nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers."

Whelan was quizzed about these allegations against Mackay, and is alleged – by The Guardian – to have replied as follows: (a) there was nothing offensive in what Mackay said and (b) "I think they [Jews] are very shrewd people … I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don't think that's offensive at all."

Whether anything will ever come of the FA's investigation into Mackay remains to be seen; the remarks Mackay is alleged to have made were in private communications (texts and emails), which, according to FA chairman Greg Dyke are beyond the reach of the FA's disciplinary processes. Not so Whelan's comments on what Mackay is alleged to have said. They were pounced on by one Simon Johnson, a former FA executive who is not merely Jewish but – unhappily for Whelan – is currently chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council. "Unfortunately (Johnson declared) Mr Mackay and now Mr Whelan have referred to some of the worst old-fashioned tropes which have been used in the past as the basis of antisemitism and stereotyping of Jewish people." And just for good measure Johnson reached for his Twitter account, where he called on Whelan "to withdraw and apologize for his use of disgraceful antisemitic language."

In my view there's nothing remotely antisemitic in what Whelan is alleged by The Guardian to have said about Jews. First he said that Jews are "very shrewd people." Who – reading this column, could possibly take umbrage at that? Then he said that Jewish people "do chase money more than everybody else." Now I have to admit at once that whether we Jews do indeed "chase" money "more than everybody else" is open to question because as far as I'm aware no serious research has ever been done on this subject. But it's certainly true that the Jewish view of money differs considerably from that of Christianity.

Certainly, the Jewish view is that wealth is a divine gift

Whilst it would be untrue to say that Christians view money as the root of all evil, the Christian approach to wealth is firmly grounded in Jesus' famous dictum (as recorded in Mark's Gospel, 10: 23-25) as follows: "Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, 'How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!' And the disciples were astonished at His words … But Jesus answered again and said to them, 'Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God'."

This is not the Jewish view. The Jewish view is that wealth is a divine gift. The Jewish view is that whilst one should certainly not impoverish oneself by – for example – giving to charity, one should try one's best to accumulate wealth in order to apply it for worthy purposes. Wealth is not an end in itself. But it is a means to an end. The Jewish view is that poverty is not a virtue. Indeed, rather starkly, the Talmud likens the poor to the dead – for the ability of a pauper to contribute to the well-being of his fellow man is limited, if not actually impossible.

I do not condone the use of the word "chink" to describe anyone of Oriental origin. An apology from Whelan is clearly in order here. But as for the contrived accusation that he said anything remotely antisemitic, this strikes me as complete, unadulterated humbug.

November 24, 2016 23:21

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