In defence of Mario Balotelli

December 3, 2014 at 10:31 pm (anti-semitism, Jim D, Racism, sport)

Above: Balotelli embraces his foster mother

Antisemitism in all its loathsome forms is on the rise in Britain and the rest of Europe. Like all other forms of racism it needs to be challenged and opposed whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head. Shiraz has frequently made the point that sections of the left and liberal-left are all too prone to overlook antisemitism or “contextualise” it, especially when it takes the guise of “anti Zionism” or supposed Palestinian “solidarity.”

Mario Balotelli’s republished Instagram comments were foolish and ill-judged, but surely not racist or antisemitic in intention. In fact, as far as I can judge, he was trying to make an anti-racist point with humour, and to turn some  traditional racist stereotypes against the bigots. Naïve, certainly, but surely not deserving of a fine or ban from the Football Association.

Balotelli has now issued a fulsome apology, but his initial reaction – “My Mom is jewish so all of u shut up please” – struck me as quite understandable. His Italian foster mother is, indeed, Jewish and he’s clearly proud of that heritage. When members of the Italian team, including Balotelli, visited Auschwitz before the Euro 20 championship in 2012, he reportedly sat alone on the rail track at the camp, staring silently ahead and a little later told his team-mates about his foster mother and a box of letters she keeps under her bed. He’d never told anyone before.

Lay off this well-meaning eccentric, and worry about the real antisemites who campaign to boycott Jewish businesses, Jew-bait Israeli sports teams and performers, daub swastikas on synagogues and carry banners comparing Israel with Nazi Germany. There’s plenty of them on both the right and sections of the “left.” They’re the real antisemites these days.

6 Comments

  1. Celow Pippenfists said,

    It’s a shame that an otherwise good post ended with that last paragraph – which conflates Palestine Solidarity Activists with Neo-Nazis – but I was with you up until then.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    To be clear: I support Palestinian rights and attend pro-Palestinian demos. I am not suggesting that campaigns like the PSC are full of neo-Nazis or even very many conscious antisemites. But banners and placards that equate then Star of David with the swastika are commonplace, and even placards that seem to promote the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are tolerated. On a recent demo a man was photographed with a placard reading “Hitler was Right”! As far as I’m aware neither the organisers nor fellow marchers did anything about this. Israel’s undoubted crimes in Gaza and elsewhere are being used by people with antisemtic political agendas (eg for the total destruction of Israel) as a free pass to adopt an “absolute anti-Zionist” stance, that is increasingly accepted on the left and within campaigns like PSC and BDS as mainstream and acceptable.

  3. ZINR said,

    I agree entirely with the article.I find it slightly sinister when certain corners of the media draw so much attention to an ill-judged but ultimately inoffensive incident like this whilst cheerfully ignoring (or even sympathising with) the blatant antisemitism that is frequently on display from “anti-Zionist” pressure groups.

    Celow, this blog has been laudably even-handed in respect of the Israel/Palestine conflict and has always chosen its targets wisely and rationally. It is perfectly possible to support Palestinian statehood and Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank etc whilst recognising, and rallying against, the antisemitism on display from many supporters of Respect, PSC et al.

    Please keep writing this stuff Mr Denham, it can’t be said often enough.

  4. Mick O said,

    I see on the news the FA have decided to take action against Mario. No joined up thinking there.

  5. damon said,

    Yep, absolutely bonkers charging Balotelli over this.
    It’s what you end up with taking official anti racism to these extremes.

    The sports writer on Spiked-online magazine has been banging on at this theme for a couple of years now, and has defended the Wigan FC chairman and the club’s new manager.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/if-dave-whelans-a-racist-then-im-a-chinaman/16260#.VIMqAmhFAsI

    It’s too much for a lot of people, but basicly boils down to the original ”racist” e-mails and tweets being private, and therefore there should have been no fuss. Or the fuss should have been rejected, because the comments were private, and leaked by third parties.

    And I have to agree, but you can’t really say that in polite company these days (like in the sports media for example). There, their too scared of the reaction they’d get, so everyone goes along with the bandwagon.
    Then you get Balotelli.

  6. damon said,

    Just to add to my previous comment: I see from looking back at some previous posts, that this website took a very dim view of footballer Nicolas Anelka’s quenelle salute last year. Which is fair enough as it’s steeped in antisemitism.
    Although in Britain, not even David Baddiel knew what it was.
    I heard him say on the radio that he’d never heard of it before then.

    The Football Association certainly won’t have had any clue, until it was brought to their attention by people demanding action be taken against Anelka. So now the FA have taken the view that ”all racial stuff” has to be banned, just to be on the safe side. Even someone like Baletteli making a joke about jumping like a black man. Yes, even that bit of his comment fell foul of their new guidelines. Anelka was the thin end of the wedge. And saying that is something I got heaps of abuse for on another website.

    Even on the more clear cut (you’d think) case of the Wigan FC chairman, I just saw in the Jewish Chronicle, an opinion piece by someone saying what the football chairman said about Jews and money wasn’t actually offensive to him. The piece was titled: ”This football fuss is a bit rich”
    http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/columnists/126407/this-football-fuss-a-bit-rich

    So which way do you want it? To ban any possible manifestation (or misunderstanding) of race issues in football – and keep everything bland and safe – or lighten up with the PC overkill a bit and not be so controlling.

    Actually, I don’t think it can be the latter, as that view is considered ”contrarian” these days.
    And everyone hates contrarians, even when they’re right sometimes.

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