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October 1, 2021 1:10 pm
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Israeli Soccer Fans Showered With Antisemitic Abuse as Maccabi Haifa Hammered in Berlin Contest

avatar by Ben Cohen

Maccabi Haifa’s Din David rises for a header as FC Union Berlin’s Genki Haraguchi looks on. Photo: Reuters/Annegret Hilse

About 1,000 traveling supporters of Israeli soccer team Maccabi Haifa were showered with antisemitic abuse by opposing fans at a UEFA Europa Conference League contest in Berlin on Thursday night.

The Israeli Premier League outfit were hammered 3-0 by Bundesliga side Union Berlin at the match in the Berlin Olympic Stadium — a venue originally built for the 1936 Olympic Games staged in the German capital by the Nazi regime.

The game was marred by ugly antisemitic chants and threatening behavior directed at the Maccabi fans by a section of Union’s support. In a tweet posted during the match, members of the German-Israeli Society Youth Forum who were in attendance reported that they were “threatened by Union fans, pelted with beer and insulted, among other things, as ‘sh**ty Jews.'”

In a separate report, the Fare network — a Europe-wide group combating racism in soccer — said that “eyewitnesses were shocked by the levels of antisemitism” at the match. The group tweeted a photo of a man draped in Union Berlin’s red colors proffering a Nazi salute towards the Maccabi fans.

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Another eyewitness told Germany’s Bild news outlet that the antisemitic chanting escalated after Andreas Voglsammer opened the scoring for the home side in the 33rd minute.

“Someone tried to set an Israeli flag on fire and there were chants of ‘f***ing Jews,'” the witness said, while emphasizing that “a handful of people were pestering us” and that a number of Union fans had protested, interposing themselves between the Israeli visitors and their would-be assailants.

The same witness added that plainclothes police officers had made themselves known as the antisemitic incidents unfolded, though they refrained from making any immediate arrests.

When Kevin Behrens scored Union Berlin’s second goal early in the second half, the antisemitic chanting became more “aggressive,” another witness told German broadcaster DW, while Taiwo Awoniyi’s addition of a third goal in the 76th minute resulted in objects being hurled at the Maccabi Haifa goal.

“We were many fans with Maccabi Haifa merchandise or Israel flags, but we were mostly watching the game passively,” the witness said. “We heard remarks such as ‘f*** Jews, we’ll finish you off again, f*** your Israel.'”

Union Berlin’s president, Dirk Zingler, forcefully condemned the antisemitic behavior in a statement on Friday and pledged to cooperate with police investigations.

“This behavior is shameful and we won’t tolerate it. We apologize to those affected,” Zingler said. “Antisemitism is unfortunately still present in our society, which is why it also shows itself in the stadium. However, we will never tolerate discrimination in our ranks. It is important to remain vigilant and to work tirelessly against it. We will support the investigations of the police with all sources of information available to us.”

In a later statement, the German-Israeli Society Youth Forum expressed its appreciation to those Union fans who had stood by the visiting Israelis.

“Thank you for the wave of solidarity online and to the Union fans who showed solidarity with us in the stadium,” the group said. “The majority of Union supporters gave Maccabi a friendly welcome and celebrated the game of football with them. However, we also expect that consistent action will be taken against antisemitism in the stadium so that this can continue. We are behind football without discrimination!”

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