Row over the nature of anti-Semitism in Holland

Sunday March 20th was a sunny day and after a long period of cold weather Spring was in the air. Like any other Sunday there were numerous football matches, like the long awaited duel between Ajax FC and ADO Den Haag, the teams from the official capital, Amsterdam, and from the government seat, The Hague. That day fortune was on the side of ADO Den Haag, a mediocre team in the premier league, and they defeated the mighty Ajax FC in a a tension-filled match, 3-2.

Both football players and fans of ADO Den Haag were exhilerated by this victory, and, like any other gathering of hardcore fans, insulting and offensive songs were sung. Prominent ADO Den Haag football player Lex Immers greeted the fans by singing “we will hunt the Jews” and everybody sang along. What followed was a huge outcry in the media and accusations of anti-Semitism, because the singing was taped and circulated on YouTube. The Dutch Royal Football League KNVB suspended Immers for four successive games, but this was not the end of this story. 

Lex Immers was not singing about hunting Jews because he is a National-Socialist or even an anti-Semite, but because of club rivalry. The Ajax supporters call themselves ‘Jews’ due to the Jewish roots of the football club. The English club Tottenham Hotspur has a similar tradition. Nowadays Jews are a rare feature at Ajax, but the chairmen of Ajax are usually Jewish, like Michael van Praag and Uri Coronel. Although the majority of the supporters of Ajax are native Dutch, they wear the Star of David, sing Jewish songs (Hava Nagila) and even hoist the Israeli flag. This has no political meaning, but it provoked ‘anti-Semitic’ reactions from supporters from rival teams. Because of this, the board of Ajax deplores the identification with Judaism by hardcore fans.

In a time were Jews has increasingly become targets of anti-Semitism in Western Europe due to rising and violent anti-Semitism among Muslim immigrants, the issue has political overtones. The former Jewish mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, had sent home hundreds of supporters of Utrecht FC in 2003, because they chanted ‘anti-Semitic’ choruses when they arrived in Amsterdam for a football game between Ajax and Utrecht FC. By this gesture Cohen seemed tough on anti-Semitism, but Cohen did not refrain from publicly debating with a Lebanese former Hezbollah volunteer Abou Jahjah, leader of the Arab-European League, who seeks to impose the Sharia law and Arab domination of Europe.

The crackdown on native football supporters with no political agenda is in stark contrast of the leniency towards genuine anti-Semitism among Muslim immigrants. Even the Jewish chairman of Ajax fanned the flames of the media campaign against Lex Immers by lamenting about perceived anti-Semitism among supporters: “I have heard business club members of Utrecht FC singing about hunting Jews and I have entered the Rotterdam stadium once through masses of youths bringing the Nazi salute.” This is a classic example of overreacting, because the chairman never enters the stadium by the same entrance as the public and business club members usually come to a football stadium for business, not politics.

If there are any political overtones in this affair, they were created by organized Jewry in Holland. The official representatives of the Jewish state of Israel, the CIDI, demanded harsh measures against both Immers and the coach of ADO Den Haag (because Den Haag was also there but did not interfere). Moreover the Federation of Dutch Jews (FJN) came out with a press release in which they demanded that Immers pay a substantial sum of money for the descendants of the Fogel family, Jewish settlers on the Westbank who were recently killed by a Palestinian, to escape a formal legal charge of anti-Semitism.

After this high water mark of Jewish lamenting about this non-problem, some voices in the media were more sensible. The conservative Elsevier weekly rightly commented that the ‘hunting of Jews’ was not directed to any ethnic or religious community but to the Ajax supporters. The songs of supporters are offensive but not directed to Jews as such. In the daily paper Trouw the historian Dirk Jan Snel opined that genuine anti-Semitism should be combated and football supporters should be corrected for their offensive remarks, but that the conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is undesirable for a sound discussion on Israel’s policy.

These opinions are a welcome relief after this witch hunt, but it’s obvious that Jews have no interest in clear thinking about anything related to anti-Semitism or Israel.

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