Antisemitic abuse in the football terraces is on the rise. Groups of football fans shout racially insulting words for Jews and use Holocaust imagery – including making hissing gas chamber sounds – in their pitch-side chants. One example is:
“Spurs are on their way to Auchwitz. Sieg Heil! Hitler’s gonna gas ‘em again. Sieg Heil!”
I watched a jaw-dropping contribution to the BBC’s Big Questions yesterday from one Hilary Salt of the “Institute of Ideas” (formerly ‘Living Marxism‘) when the programme decided to take on the issue. But first, let’s set the scene.
For several years a successful campaign has been run to tackle racism in the sport. This has focused principally on anti-Black and anti-Asian racism and dealt with racially abusive words by taking direct action and showing zero-tolerance, including banning abusive fans from games. More recently a campaign has started to tackle homophobia. But
antisemitism seems to be filling the void left behind as other forms of bigotry become increasingly unacceptable – leading one to wonder whether Jew-hatred is the last form of acceptable bigotry left in Britain. Certainly it is hard to imagine sports fans making fun of the near-extermination of any other racial minority and – so far – getting away with it.
Panelist Alex Goldberg, a Jewish university chaplain, explained how difficult it was – as a football fan – to take his two young sons to matches while this behaviour continued. No Jewish father wishes to explain to his children why a large mass of people are aggressively mocking the Holocaust and making the hissing sounds of escaping Zyklon-B while chanting “Sieg Heil!”.
There is no way to put a gloss over this: they’re chanting about killing Jews.
So what does the “Living Marxist” Hilary Salt make of this?
Well, it’s an assault, she rants, on ordinary working people by the bourgeois elite, of course!
“Football is a place where people an go and behave badly. It’s an outlet for society.” she says, without explaining why our society should need such an outlet or must express it in such a way.
“There was a time when racism was a real problem”, she concedes. Clearly, while pleased that anti-Black and and anti-Asian racism has been more or less dealt with, she appears to think that racially abusing Jews in the most disgusting terms is unproblematic. “Football is a robust atmosphere to take a child to,” she lectures Goldberg, adding “I’m sure you as a parent are capable of explaining to your child why those chants happen.”