On Friday, the World Jewish Congress and the Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned the use of the word ‘Yid’ to describe soccer team Tottenham Hotspur supporters, whose club has historically called itself the ‘Yid Army’ as an homage to its large Jewish fan base.
The word “Yid” is a slang Yiddish short-form for the Hebrew Yehudi (Jewish). It can be offensive, usually when used by gentiles, especially during a pogrom; but it’s entirely inoffensive when used by Jews. It is often used as a derogatory epithet by anti-Semites as an alternative to “Jew.”
Some Jewish and non-Jewish fans of Tottenham Hotspur F.C. adopted “Yid” or “Yiddo” as a nickname and “Yiddo, Yiddo!” as a battle cry for their team. This started in the 1890s, when the club’s fans were “East-enders,” many of whom were Jewish immigrants.
The Jewish Tottenham fans use the term as an in-your-face against their opponents who use similar terms as a form of racism and anti-Semitism. East-end Jews have long since moved to other parts of London and the suburbs but being Tottenham fans continues to run in families. Haredi Jews who continue to live in South Tottenham and Stamford Hill, are highly visible in team home games, despite the fact that only few of them attend matches.
Apparently, the World Jewish Congress and the Board of Deputies of British Jews don’t like all this low-class culture warfare: “Contrary to the protests of many fans, there is no gray area when it comes to slurs that target a particular religious, racial, or ethnic group,” they announced, with the sober absence of a sense of humor professional Jewish officials tend to assume.
“The word yid has for years been re-appropriated from its original Yiddish to carry a distinctly pejorative and anti-Semitic message, and its use by fans in the stands, either as a self-designated nickname or as a slogan against rivals must not be tolerated in any way,” said WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer.
“The innocence this word once carried, as a simple translation for Jew, has long disappeared, and we must be extremely conscious of the anti-Semitic connotation it now bears.”
According to the BBC, the joint statement came ahead of Tottenham’s match on Tuesday against Chelsea at Wembley stadium. In December, Chelsea fans were rebuked by team chairman Bruce Buck and investigated by the Union of European Football Associations for singing an anti-Semitic chant during a game against MOL Vidi in Hungary. Buck condemned the “deeply unpleasant but vocal minority which refuses to join us in the 21st century.”