Life & Culture

Podcast review: Baddiel and Warsi try to teach us to be nice


A Jew and a Muslim Go There


In these febrile times, when friendships are being lost on a daily basis – not to mention political reputations and safe-seat by-elections – here come David Baddiel and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi to show us all how to play nicely.

I mean, sorry, “take a daring step towards open dialogue in a world where conversations are too often one-sided”, as their new podcast “A Jew and a Muslim go there” is billed. And true, many may find it a blessed relief to hear this Jewish man and Muslim woman discuss Rochdale, Lee Anderson and “from the river to the sea” in an even-tempered, though heartfelt, way.

In fact, although this was billed as the meeting of opposites, I imagine that only non-Jews and non-Muslims would tune in expecting a bunfight, as we all know Warsi and Baddiel are mirror images of each other, more interested in pointing out the impact that racism has on their own communities in the UK than in events beyond our shores.

If you’d edited out all the times they uttered the phrase “I do agree with you Sayeeda/David” then the podcast would have been considerably shorter than its 55-minute running time.

This first episode had a fearsome roster of topical events to dive into: Labour’s abject failure to deal with antisemitism in the run-up to the Rochdale by-election; the Tory party’s messy row over Lee Anderson’s remarks; the shenanigans in Parliament over the Gaza debate. This meant fearsome amounts of explanation – mostly well done, although the meaning of the word “Islamist” could have been much better unpacked, and in fact will be in a future episode alongside “Zionist”. Something to look forward to, right?

If you’re worried that David Baddiel doesn’t feel strongly enough about Israel, worry not. He is more than capable of explaining exactly why “from the river to the sea” is both slightly absurd (when sung by Charlotte Church) and actually threatening (when projected onto Big Ben).

Not only did he point out that the phrase could mean the killing or displacing of seven million Jews and the dismantling of the Jewish state, he also explained that rejecting that interpretation meant relegating the fears of British Jews to the bottom of the “hierarchy of racism” – a phrase he’s proud of having invented.

Baroness Warsi’s explanation of anti-Muslim racism in politics went off without incident. In this first episode, the focus was domestic. But they will, they promise, “go there”, to Israel, maybe even in person, although not right now. That’s when the bonhomie could crack, although who knows — these two seem capable of agreeing about anything. That’s the worry.

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