Attack on Spurs fans shows anti-semitism is alive and well

November 25, 2012 at 12:21 am (anti-semitism, Guardian, israel, Jim D, Middle East, palestine, sport, Steve Bell, thuggery)

Anti-semitism is the only form of racism that sections of the the left and liberal/left seem willing to contextualise, excuse, “understand,” downplay or even deny altogether. It’s one of the most pervasive leftist urban myths that the charge of anti-semitism is usually raised as a ploy by “Zionists” in order to deflect criticism of Israel.

When the Guardian recently published a cartoon (above) by Steve Bell  that (I believe, inadvertently) recycled a classic anti-semitic trope, and Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust wrote a very measured letter pointing this out, the response from Graun letter-writers was all too predictable: “Mark Gardner plays the dog-eared antisemitism card” wrote Edward Pearce, “(it’s) the old trick of pretending all criticism of the Israeli government is antisemitic” wrote Mike Scott while one Steve Smart dismissed Gardner’s letter as”preposterous” and people with such concerns as “zealots.”
Whatever you think of the Bell cartoon, can you imagine the charge of racism being dismisssed in such terms by liberals in any other context? Bell’s own response was particularly disappointing.

Well, smug Guardian readers and cartoonists who refuse to recognise anti-semitism as a real issue, may like to consider what happened in Rome on Thursday, when a group of Tottenham Hotspur fans were attacked by a masked gang armed with knives, knuckle-dusters and batons, shouting “Jews!” Whether or not any of the victims were, in fact, Jewish is neither here nor there: Spurs is a club that traditionally has a large Jewish following and has come to symbolise the London Jewish community. The question of whether the attackers,  Italian football hooligans, had any serious political motivation, is also largely academic. In the tribal world of a certain kind of soccer fan, apolitical abuse and semi-political communalism merge into one and the same thing. At the game itself, Lazio fans chanted “Juden Tottenham” and unfurled a “Free Palestine” banner. Similar scenes of Jew-baiting (and the same banner? See video below) were seen at a women’s match in Edinburgh this June when Israel played Scotland. The Jew-baiting was at least partially organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and lovingly reported at the Socialist Unity website.

The saddest part of all this is that it does nothing to help the just cause of the Palestinians, but certainly helps alienate and antagonise Jews everywhere. Genteel Guardianistas on the one hand, and football supporters who regard the situation in the Middle East as merely an excuse for tribalism and hooliganism on the other, are both singing from the same anti-semitic hymn sheet.

[As we were saying: ‘What is left anti-semitism?‘]

[Jonathan Freedland -in the Graun ! – denounces those who treat the Israel/Palestine conflict as though it’s  a football match]


  1. Babz Badasbab Rahman said,

    Those Lazio fans that unfurled a ‘Free Palestine’ banner probably did it to unsettle and rile the away fans and team. I doubt they could give a toss about the conflict itself. Still it’s bang out of order and nothing to do with Tottenham FC really.

    It’s like when Rangers and Celtic play, one side supports the Union, Protestant Church and Israel, the other Republican, Catholic and Palestine. I doubt very many of the fans have a clue what they are doing from a historical/political point of view.

    One thing I’ve always found quite puzzling is the distinction between racism and racism towards Jews commonly referred to as ‘anti-Semitism’. Racism is racism no matter who it’s aimed at.

  2. charliethechulo said,

    Babz: I agree with most of what you say.

    The difference between “ordinary” racism and anti-semitism (particularly “left” anti-semitism) is that a lot of anti-semites do not hate individual Jews personally. It’s the collective existence of Jews *as Jews* that they hate, and in particular the existence – the very existence, in any shape or form – of Israel. A bit like what MacPherson called “insititutionalised racism”.

    Typical of this would be the way the UCU (universary and college lecturers’ union) treats Jews: they’re welcome and treated with respect – so long as they pass the Israel Test (ie are willimng to denounce Israel).

  3. Matt said,

    According to press reports, the people who attacked the Spurs fans in a bar are supporters of Roma, a club that in the 70’s and 80’s tended to the left (unlike Lazio whose owners and fans have a long history of fascism).

  4. representingthemambo said,

    Interesting piece Jim, and there is definitely a lot of truth in what you’ve posted.

    I would make a couple of observations however:

    “The question of whether the attackers, Italian football hooligans, had any serious political motivation, is also largely academic.”

    I think regardless of whether they were Roma or Lazio fans, I would guess there was a ‘serious’ political motivation, as it were. Italian football has a far stronger tradition of explicitly political fan groups. I’m unsure as to why you think it’s ‘academic’. The right-wing politics of a minority of fans in Rome would have played a huge role in provoking an attack like this. Can you explain what you mean?

    I disagree that the ‘free Palestine’ banner is in and of itself ‘jew-baiting’. It wouldn’t be a slogan I would use but I don’t think the majority of people using it are anti-semites. I don’t unfurling it a match featuring Israel is by definition unacceptable either. It might be a very trite thing to do, that changes very little, but by the same token I don’t think its the expression of race hatred that you appear to assume it is.

    I suppose the nub of this, and the nub of where I disagree with you on Israel/Palestine, is that I don’t suspect the motives of as many of those in Palestine solidarity work as you appear to. Most of them aren’t racists, have their hearts in the right place and are just appalled by the way that the Israeli government treats the Palestinians. There are lots of other awful conflicts in the world right now but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to give attention to this particular one.

  5. Robert the cripple said,

    So not a group out to have a fight then….must have changed from my day then…

  6. Mike Killingworth said,

    “Racism is racism”. Now explain why Zionism isn’t racism. Please.

  7. The Judge said,

    You and Gardner are very much of a piece, aren’t you? Except that at least he has the excuse that he has to keep conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism (and thence seeing anti-Semitism where it doesn’t actually exist) in order to try to keep himself and his fellow members of Bouncers4Bibi in their positions of (self-)importance.

    When you come out with remarks like, ” Whether or not any of the victims were, in fact, Jewish is neither here nor there”, and “The question of whether the attackers […] had any serious political motivation, is also largely academic”, and when you smear pro-Palestinian activists as “Jew-baiters” for unfurling Palestinian flags at football matches, I have no hesitation in calling you fundamentally dishonest.

  8. SteveH said,

    “Anti-semitism is the only form of racism that sections of the the left and liberal/left seem willing to contextualise, excuse, “understand,” downplay or even deny altogether”

    If we could call you a small section of the left then we must add to this anti Muslim/Anti Arab/Islamophobia – whatever you want to call it, which you play down and pretty much ignore. I wouldn’t call it denial though, rather support.

    Your desperate attempt to use the attack on Spurs fans by nortorious fascists to uphold your Israeli apology comes as no suprise.

    The left do not downplay anti Semitism, yes they contextualise it because rational, enlightened people look to seek an explanation for things. I would contexualise everything, from Israeli attacks on Gaza to Hamas firing rockets, to the EDL attacking Muslims. For you enlightened values are a propaganda tool rather than a principle.

    However the fact is that the main concern for today’s hardcore far rightists is Islam and Muslims. They are the new Jews. This isn’t downplaying anti Semitism, just telling the truth.

    Support the One State solution!

  9. Babz Badasbab Rahman said,

    Steve H how can you support the One State solution? In an ideal world where we all get along I’d support one borderless world but please look at the facts on the ground and the reality of the situation. In Israel they barely discuss a democratic all inclusive one state, it’s either Eretz Israel amongst the right wing extremists or a two state solution ala UNSC 242 with minor and mutual adjustments which the international community including the including the Arab/Muslim world accepts and has done so for decades. It’s Israel and the US that have been primarily responsible for blocking a meaningful end to the conflict, they are the ones blocking the two state settlement.

    A one state would probably end up with an apartheid system of Government with Arabs as second class citizens since the Jewish population would probably be afraid of losing the demographic battle in the long run and so the popular votes. Either that or they’ll attempt ethnic cleansing and finish the job they started in 1948. What I’ve just said is far more likely to happen then Israelis and Palestinians living happily together in one state. The mistrust and hatred has gone on for too long and runs too deep. They need to live in their own country.

  10. SteveH said,

    Good summary of the arguments here:

    To quote,

    “Even if a two-state solution were to be instituted tomorrow, the Palestinian and non-Jewish population within Israel itself is growing so fast that it will constitute a majority of the population within a few decades. That leaves Israel with only three alternatives: massive ethnic cleansing of non-Jews, the imposition of even more brutal forms of apartheid, or the abandonment of the idea of a Jewish state.”

  11. comradeNosaj said,

    Steve Bell is a champ and legend, saw the dumb comments from cnuts when it was published. Cif idiots “omg!!! He has a Star of David in the background!! A Jewish symbol” and wibberals with too much sand in their vaginas like Norman GEras banging on bout Nazis.

  12. charliethechulo said,

    The Star of David in the cartoon is not the issue. The Jew as puppet-master is an old anti-semitic trope, used by Nazis and Stalinists over the years. I’m willing to believe that Bell was unaware of this, but his “explanation” is crap. I’m amazed that this needs to be explained to educated people on the left.

    • Mike Killingworth said,

      [12] Bell denies that it was a cartoon of “the Jew.” Nor indeed would I expect you to indentify Netanyahu with all Jews in our beyond Israel. Why do you wilfully choose to pervert and disrespect all those Jews who differ politically from Netanyahu? Why do you choose to empower “Nazis and Stalinists over the years”.

  13. Clive said,

    Suppose I drew a picture of, say, a sub-Saharan African dictator which showed him as an ape in a banana skirt. Even if I sincerely believed this particular dictator looked like an ape…. Actually, the train of thought is too stupid to bother spelling it out.

    The notion that this criticism of Steve Bell can be construed to mean that all Jews are assumed to agree with Netanyahu is not much better.

    Personally, I’m sure Steve Bell didn’t intend anything anti-semitic. But it would be a far more honourable response to criticism simply to apologise.

  14. Jim Denham said,

    Representin’ wrote (#4 above):

    “Most of them [pro-Palestinian campaigners] aren’t racists, have their hearts in the right place and are just appalled by the way that the Israeli government treats the Palestinians. There are lots of other awful conflicts in the world right now but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to give attention to this particular one.”

    I agree with you on that, Representin’. But I don’t think it contradicts what I wrote in the main piece.

  15. stefi said,

    The fight at the drunken ship and the chanting in the stadium are two separate issues. Firstly, there is no reason to believe that any Lazio Ultras were involved in the fight in the Drunken Ship. Whether or not Spurs fans did anything to provoke the attack or whether it was racially motivated is still unclear, but a bar brawl between opposing ultras is hardly atypical of either English or Italian football, and as far as I’m aware no one was maimed or killed.

    But as far as the chanting goes: how are Lazio fans guilty of racism for chanting “Juden Spurs” and waving Palestinian flags, when Spurs fans refer to themselves as the “Yid Army” and wave Israeli flags?!! That is absurd!

    Lazio have as much right to support Palestinian liberation as Spurs fans have to support the Zionist cause. Calling this Jew-baiting is just plain dishonest. If Spurs fans are so hypersensitive, perhaps they would be better off watching the game at home.

    • Babz Badasbab Rahman said,

      I did not know that about the Yid Army waving Israeli flags at their matches. Are you sure about that? I mean after all they are an English football team.

      Btw that’s quite the profile you have. I’m not sure if you’ll like it here as this is quite a left wing Socialist/Marxist blog though we do like a debate.

      • Babz Badasbab Rahman said,

        Your blog is hilarious! I’m enjoying reading this one….

      • stefi said,


        I’m absolutely sure, they have been doing it for years. Glasgow Rangers fans do as well. I was raised in the East End and the men in my family are West Ham fans, as are most the men I know.

        The problem with you argument is that you perceive the motive for the attack on Spurs fans as anti-Semitic because the club has a Jewish identity, but that is incidental. This level of violence is not out of the ordinary in Italy. This is a video of Napoli ultras arriving at Rome train terminal — the song they are chanting is “Roman bastard”. As far as I’m aware Lazio fans didn’t chant out Jewish bastards, but even if they did it wouldn’t be anti-Semitic. Obviously it would be different if they were chanting Jewish bastards outside a synagogue. Context is everything, and I think that is what you’re missing here. I’m also very uncomfortable with the English media trying to present the Spurs fans as innocents. Every Spurs fan who went to that match had a reasonable expectation of violence, and many would have been looking for it.

  16. Jim Denham said,

    It’s true that Spurs supporters have taken to calling themselves “Yids” (unwisely, in my opinion), but I don’t see how that affects the issue of antisemitic attacks. Unless anyone thinks the term “Yids” justifies such attacks.

    As I understand it, the “Yids” business is an effort to emulate some black US rappers using the “N” word, and some gays “reclaiming” the word “queer.”

    Meanwhile, the antisemitism against Spurs continues:

    • Mike Killingworth said,

      Jim, you’ve forgotten the 5-2 beating the Gunners gave your boys. An anti-semitic football resuilt already…

    • stefi said,

      They’ve been calling themselves the Yids long before rap and if they continue to cite other clubs for antisemitism whilst chanting Yid Army they can expect a strong backlash from other clubs and UEFA. Also I’ve yet to see evidence that the attack in Rome was motivated by antisemitism — it might have been, but it might as well been just violence between rival supporters. And I hardly think two people being cautioned for giving Nazi salutes as evidence of a trend of antisemitism against Spurs. The fact that no one has been charged with antisemitic chanting or any race hate crime suggests to me that at it was either limited to a few isolated incidents or it didn’t happen.

  17. Jim Denham said,

    An apology, of sorts, from the Graun: But of course, for a lot a Guardianists, this in itself is proof of the all-pervasive power of the Je…Zionists. The Je…Zionists now have the Graun’s ‘readers editor’ in their power. Read the comments that follow below the article:

  18. vildechaye said,

    RE: “Most of them [pro-Palestinian campaigners] aren’t racists, have their hearts in the right place and are just appalled by the way that the Israeli government treats the Palestinians. There are lots of other awful conflicts in the world right now but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to give attention to this particular one.”

    Oh please. Watch the videos of pro-Palestinian demos and you’ll see tons of racism. And yes, there are lot sof other awful conflicts in this world, so why focus your attention on only one of them. There are more condemnations of Israel by the UN Human Rights Council than there are of all other countries combined, even though, by any measure, many countries, including many on the UNHRC, have far worse human rights records than Israel. So yes, it’s wrong to give exclusive attention to this particular one. Very wrong. As are the reasons for doing so.

    • Babz Badasbab Rahman said,

      We don’t focus on just the Israel/Pal conflict. But one reason we do is because of the support Israel get’s from the West in particular the US. So in effect you and I are responsible for their actions in a way due to the billions in aid, investment, subsidies, diplomatic protection, you name we give to Israel. Regarding other conflicts (care to name any?) I very much doubt we are contributing to it. Not to say they are any less important but at least we don’t have others blood on our hands.

      • Babz Badasbab Rahman said,

        I mean to say “one reason that particular topic get’s more attention than most.”

  19. vildechaye said,

    RE: We don’t focus on just the Israel/Pal conflict. But one reason that conflict gets more attention than most…..

    It doesn’t get “more attention than ‘most’,”, it gets more attention than all the others put together, by the UNHCR and generally by the Left.

    RE: Care to name any? hmmmmm: Syria, Congo, Chechnya, Darfur, Tibet, Iran, India-Pak, Pakistan on its own, the list just goes on and on.

    RE: The so-called billions. Yes Israel gets $3 billion from the U.S., most if not all going to arms made in the U.S. for defence. meanwhile, Egypt gets $1.5 billion, and between 2008 and 2010 the Palestinians got $7.7 billion from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Canada and the EU. So once again, why are the energies of much of the Left, and the UNHCR, focused almost exclusively on Israel? What is so special about that little country?

    • Babz Badasbab Rahman said,

      You’ve just mentioned conflicts that do get a mention…often. That’s why you named them cause you’ve watched and read reports about them in the mainstream media. And anyway how are we contributing to them? Our Governments are contributing to the Israel/Pal conflict though so we in a way have Palestinian blood on our hands. Just take a look at the absurd position of the British Government regarding Pal UN non member status. Abstain on the vote if the Palestinians seek membership of the ICC? Returning to talks without preconditions (settlement freeze)? What a ridiculous and unrealistic position to take.

      Israel doesn’t just get $3 billion from the US. It get’s unequivocal support, militarily, diplomatically, ideological, hi tech investment and extra financial support for it’s weapons systems. And most of that ‘defence’ money is spent buying offensive weapons to attack much weaker forces using pretexts to justify it. Unlike the Pals, Israel doesn’t have to use those $3 billion to survive and rebuild their shattered infrastructure. The US and EU give the PA bribe money, to keep them afloat, pay their wages etc all the while Israel controls the Palestinians economically.

      And in case you’ve forgotten there was a war launched against Gaza quite recently hence the sudden surge of ‘attention’.

  20. vildechaye said,

    RE: “Racism is racism”. Now explain why Zionism isn’t racism. Please.

    No buddy. You explain why Jewish self-determination (ie Zionism), of all the self-determinations in this world, is racism. Please.

    • Mike Killingworth said,

      [20] Well, your comment really answers itself. What you are saying is that ethnicity X (in this case, Jews, but the logic applies gnerally) have the right to determine the conditions under which they shall live irrespective of the implications for anyone else

  21. Mike Killingworth said,

    [continued from previous] This is the natural condition of humanity: to believe that one’s own ethnic group is superior to all others, Jews are no different to anyone else in this. All I meant to suggest is that one can live naturally, or claim to be a socialist. But not both.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: