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August 29, 2016 1:38 pm

Human Rights Organization Welcomes Decision by Governing Soccer Body to Investigate French Team for Anti-Israel Discrimination

avatar by Lea Speyer

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St. Etienne soccer fans seen waving the Palestinians flag and setting off fireworks during a match against Beitar Jerusalem. Photo: @JulienMaynard/ Twitter.

St. Etienne soccer fans seen waving Palestinian flags and setting off fireworks during a match against Beitar Jerusalem. Photo: @JulienMaynard/ Twitter.

The decision by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to investigate a French team for anti-Israel discrimination is a welcome step, an official from the international Jewish human rights organization that had urged the governing soccer body to take action told The Algemeiner on Monday.

“Politics is a factor in sports, but politicizing it impugns its values of fair-play and the pleasure of the game,” said Dr. Shimon Samuels, director for international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center-Europe, who called on UEFA to hold the team St. Etienne accountable for banning Israeli flags during a match last week against Beitar Jerusalem at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard stadium, while allowing French and Palestinian flags to fly.

In a letter to UEFA’s president on Monday, obtained by The Algemeiner, Samuels demanded that the organization uphold its self-described neutrality on politics and religion, which is “now gravely endangered by Palestinian political agitation among local clubs.”  

“St. Etienne fans were permitted to wave French and Palestinian flags, while the visiting Israeli and Jewish fans were prevented from bringing the Israeli flag into the stadium,” he wrote. “We urge UEFA to protest discrimination and delegitimization of Israel in the banning of its flag. Harsh disciplinary measures must be imposed on St. Etienne by UEFA to show that attacks on fair-play and the values of the beautiful game can not be condoned.”

In response, the legal affairs division of UEFA’s Disciplinary and Integrity Unit notified Samuels in an email — seen by The Algemeiner — that “disciplinary proceedings have been instigated against AS St. Etienne.”

According to UEFA, the unit will be investigating the team for four infractions — illicit banners, the blocking of stairways, the throwing of objects and the setting off of fireworks.

UEFA maintains a strict ban on political displays at games and the presence of the Palestinian flag falls under the “illicit banners” infraction. A disciplinary decision will be reached during UEFA’s Control Ethics and Disciplinary Body’s next meeting on September 22.

According to Samuels, “UEFA is keeping its balanced position, which is an encouraging sign,” adding that the possible sanctions against St. Etienne could be far-reaching.

“The penalty against the club for not controlling its fans could go from a fine to a suspension for a number of games or for a whole season,” he told The Algemeiner. “France can follow up with UEFA’s ruling and possibly issue its own independent ruling and downgrade the club by disqualifying its points. This would result in a drop in its division status, which is very costly and can lose them a number of sponsors. This is hardly the position St. Etienne would want to find themselves in.”

While violence has “always been a problem in sports,” Samuels said, today’s pro-Israel fans must now deal with the “added factor of antisemitism,” which he said is increasingly rearing its ugly head.

St. Etienne’s behavior is the latest act of anti-Israel and antisemitic discrimination in the soccer world.

As reported by The Algemeiner on Friday, some 50 Polish fans of the Widzew Łódź team set fire to “Jewish” effigies and paraded around a banner calling for the burning of Jews.

Earlier in August, as reported by The Algemeiner, Scotland Celtic fans waved dozens of Palestinian flags during a match against Israel’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva, despite UEFA’s ban on political displays. UEFA said it will also be investigating that incident.

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  • HaroldT

    Cannot wait for for the day sharia law is forced on European countries.
    Just pray the Jews have the sense to get the hell out of Europe beforehand.

    • Avraham


  • It’s time to audit and reevaluate churches of all denominations – it has to be that those clergy continue to spew hatred against Jews.

    Children are not born hating – they are carefully taught.

    Aren’t non-Jews tired of constantly hating the people from whom came Jesus, the Jew they pray to?

    What the hell is a “good” Christian??

  • Joanna

    The word “racist” should be attributed to the Arab world, since they are the only ones who look at non-Muslims as infidels, and treated inhumanely. There is no racism in Israel, with Arab Israeli citizens treated as equals. The real problem is the ignorance that abounds.

  • This is totally disgusting that it is still happening in this day and age!!

  • Yeh, it will be a token punishment. Same for Celtic. Antisemitism is ‘cool’ in Europe.

  • I say France should pay a fine and be required to makeup in which Palestinian flags are banned at the next match but Israeli flags will be welcomed! This will even things out!

    • Avraham

      You can’t legislate hate. However, those who hate will suffer their own consequences by the evil that abides within them.

  • stevenl

    What about the crimes against humanity committed in Qatar during the slaves constructions of soccer stadiums!!!

  • Rumpleforeskin

    I’m glad to see the French so welcoming of even more Muslims. Au Revoir France. Thanks for the memories, French toast and the Statue of Liberty. We won’t be saving your asses this time from total destruction. You’ll have to lay in the bed you made. Suckers

    • Raphaël CONSIGLIO

      Allez vous faire voir. Faut pas condamner tout le club mais juste le kop sud car eux ils ont déployé des drapeaux durant tout le match. Et toi Rumpleforeskin, t’es qu’un gros suceur, nique ta mère, fils de putte

    • Avraham

      It is unfortunate that the government speaks and makes decisions for the entire populace of France–who are, overall, very much against more Muslims. I have cousins in Paris and very much fear for them. However, one does not need to go abroad to see the hate–for it lives among us in colleges and universities (for one example) in the form of the Boycott and Divestment Sanctions. BDS is the new anti semitism in sheeps clothing. It also resides in the White House when Obama not once but for 2 years in a row spurned the president of Israel for spurious reasons, supported Morsi in Egypt with more arms and money who was Muslim Brotherhood (a terrorist organization against all non Shites) and then spurned al Sissi, the present President of Egypt who is very pro West and America by reducing support in various ways.