EJC: Anti-Semitism An Acceptable Prejudice In Soccer

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Jewish groups slam Polish authorities after a municipal prosecutor in city of Poznan concludes that chants by soccer fans which made reference to Jews going to Auschwitz gas chambers were not anti-Semitic

European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor says he is appalled by the lack of reaction by the authorities to recent anti-Semitic incidents in European football, after a municipal prosecutor in the Polish city of Poznan concluded that chants by soccer fans which made reference to Jews going to the Auschwitz gas chambers were not anti-Semitic.

“Unfortunately, extreme anti-Semitic chants like those in Poznan are regularly heard in many European stadiums, including in England and Holland, and the reaction of the authorities is minimal,” Kantor said. “This coupled with the inaction of the clubs involved, UEFA and the FA in England over the Quenelle, demonstrates that anti-Semitism has become the last acceptable prejudice in football.”

“We have seen quick condemnation, bans and major fines when other minorities are attacked by players and fans in Europe, but barely a whimper is heard when Jews are subject to attack.”

The Anti-Defamation League has also called on Poznan authorities to reverse the decision not to bring charges against fans of local football club Lech Poznan who were heard making anti-Semitic chants during a match against Widzew Lodz in September.

The ADL cited local media reports which claimed fans chanted “Move on, Jews!” and “Your home is at Auschwitz!”

The local prosecutor refused to bring charges after deciding the chants were directed at Lodz players in the heat of a sporting battle, and not intended to harm Jews in general. But ADL chief Abe Foxman disagrees.

“Anti-Semitic incitement is illegal in Poland, and these chants are clearly anti-Semitic,” he said.

The issue is clearly a sensitive one. During World War II, Lodz was home to the second largest Jewish ghetto. Over 200,000 Jews are said to have passed through the ghetto, many later going to the notorious Auschwitz death camp. Only 10,000 are said to have survived.

Last September the English Football Association warned that any fan caught chanting the word “Yid” could face criminal charges. The anti-Semitic term has been aimed at the fans of Tottenham Hotspur, a London club which has a large Jewish fan base. Two West Ham fans were arrested for anti-Semitic gestures during their club’s game against Tottenham Hotspur last November.

‘Be as vocal when Jews are subject to attack’

Two weeks ago Dr. Kantor wrote to Greg Dyke, chairman of The Football Association and Michel Platini, president of UEFA, calling on them to take action in the wake of the recent Quenelle salute made by Nicolas Anelka. The EJC offered its assistance to discuss practical ideas and suggestions for combating anti-Semitism and racism in football, but have yet to receive a response from either association.

“It has been over two weeks since Anelka’s offensive salute and it is completely clear to all that the gesture was designed to offend Jews by an unrepentant anti-Semite and Holocaust-denier,” Kantor said. “The silence on behalf of the football authorities compounds the original offense by Anelka and if it is not harshly dealt with, it will be seen as implicit acceptance of this anti-Semitic affront.”

“We heard that there will be an investigation into the incident but have yet to hear any details about who will be involved, when will a status be provided and even what the mandate of the investigation will be. The process up until now does not fill us with any degree of confidence.”

Furthermore, the EJC says it is disappointed by the reaction by the organizations created specifically to combat racism and intolerance in football, like Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football and Football Against Racism in Europe, who have not condemned the Quenelle and other recent acts of anti-Semitism in and around football stadiums.

“These organizations are usually very vocal when a minority is attacked, but have been very publicly silent when Jews have been subject to attack,” Kantor said. “I call on these organizations to be as vocal when Jews are subject to attack and work with the EJC to stamp anti-Semitism out of football once and for all.”