Perhaps it’s because I am Jewish. Or the son of immigrants. Or perhaps not. I don’t know. But I have always found British tribal political loyalty hard to relate to.
When I was a child growing up in Hendon, there was a baker we used to use on a Friday. Good bread, biscuits not bad, but service? Hilariously, unfailingly, rude. They wouldn’t just take an order, they would tell you what you should have ordered. “Bagels? You don’t want them. And anyway you had them last week. Rye bread’s nicer. You’re having the rye bread.” It would have been cabaret if they’d meant it to be funny.
I developed a theory. Yes, even though I was 9, I developed a theory. That’s just how I am, leave me alone. My theory was that we Jews are outside the British class system. In most shops, I’d noticed, there was a little deference to the customer, a little bit of “and what would sir like today”, even if sir was only just old enough to see over the counter. In most shops, the idea of poking the customer in the stomach and asking them if they’d put on weight wouldn’t occur to the salesman. But with one Jew, selling to another, a little bit of stomach poking was acceptable, is acceptable, as a matter of fact. Deference just doesn’t come into it. Nor class resentment.
Now I am sure that not all Jews feel like this, but on me all that prodding left a mark. I find class hard to understand, and class tension baffling. And being a member of one tribe (British Jews), I have never felt the need to add a second.
Now read the Finkelstein extract again.