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November 5, 2020 2:54 pm

Officials Urge Pro Soccer Teams to Give Red Card to Jew-Hatred by Adopting International Antisemitism Definition

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Illustrative. Photo: Reuters / Michael Kooren.

A large group of officials from around the globe have signed an open letter urging professional soccer teams to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

The letter was prompted by the fact that antisemitism is not uncommon during soccer matches with boisterous and sometimes violent fans often use offensive language, including antisemitic slurs.

The letter noted a rise in antisemitism around the world, particularly amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and pointed out that several prominent British soccer teams had already adopted the IHRA definition.

Addressing teams directly, the letter said the definition’s “adoption will of course send out a very strong message about your club’s ethos that will be very warmly received by local and global Jewish communities and especially Jewish football supporters and employees.”

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“This message is key for all citizens and football lovers, as antisemitism and all forms of racism and xenophobia constitute an attack on democracy and is contrary to our values of human rights, equality, freedom, respect of human dignity, regardless of identity, origin or belief,” the letter said.

The UK’s independent adviser on antisemitism, Lord John Mann, initiated the letter. He told The Guardian, “Good procedures can isolate and remove the problem. If stewards and clubs know what they’re looking for there won’t be any antisemitic banners. They’ll be removed. Some of it is straightforward. Some of it is more challenging.”

“If the club gives a message of ‘These aren’t our values’ and invites the individual in for some education, most people would accept the invitation,” Mann added. “We’re getting to people who, perhaps because of their ignorance, are creating distress. It pulls away the majority of people who, when antisemitism is explained to them, don’t want to repeat what they’ve said.”

Among those who signed the letter are the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Ahmed Shaheed, United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Elan Carr and European Commission Coordinator on Combatting Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life Katharina von Schnurbein.

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