CST Blog

Antisemitic football chant ruled illegal in Holland

17 September 2009


The Dutch Supreme Court has upheld a ruling that the chant "Hamas, Hamas, gas all the Jews" is offensive to Jews, even when used as a football chant against rival fans:

In 2006, a supporter of Hague football club ADO was arrested for chanting the phrase in the street. He was charged with using language offensive to a particular group, and sentenced to 80 hours community service.

The supporter appealed against the verdict, claiming he had not deliberately intended to offend Jews. In his defence it was argued that “The chant is frequently used by football supporters and forms a part of the culture of supporters, who do not intend to offend Jewish people, but to provoke other supporters.”

However, the Supreme Court rejected this argument and upheld the original verdict.

Football fans will use whatever they can to insult and provoke rival fans, and, up to a point, this is accepted as a legitimate part of football fan culture. However, where this involves racist or antisemitic chanting, the law in Britain and elsewhere has recognised that it crosses the line and becomes unacceptable. In Holland, Ajax are widely known as a 'Jewish' team and even fly Israeli flags at their matches, which attracts antisemitic chanting from rival fans, as the report from Radio Netherlands Worldwide explains:

In Dutch football culture, the Amsterdam team Ajax and their supporters are commonly referred to as ‘Jews’. Prior to the Second World War, Amsterdam had a large Jewish population, and Ajax had many Jewish fans. Supporters of other teams referred to Ajax supporters as ‘Jews’ as a term of abuse, but the Amsterdam fans went on to adopt the term as a badge of honour.

This has led to the phenomenon that the Israeli flag is commonly used by fans as a team symbol, and often feature’s prominently in the stands at Ajax matches – although it is not in fact intended to have any political reference to Israel. In response, fans from other teams in particular Feyenoord have taken to displaying the Palestinian flag in the stadium.

In March the Israel Information and Documentation Centre based in the Netherlands urged Ajax supporters to stop using the Jewish identity as a badge of honour. At the time a spokesperson for the organisation told a local Rotterdam newspaper “it is not easy, because it is so deep-seated”.

In Britain, Tottenham Hotspur are known as the 'Jewish' club, and have adopted that identity; and just as in Holland, it attracts antisemitic chanting from rival fans. Last year, for example, a Manchester City fan was convicted of racially aggravated harassment for singing songs about the Holocaust during a game against Spurs; he was banned for life by City. In 2007, West Ham fans were filmed in large numbers singing "I'd rather be a Paki than a Jew" during a match against Spurs; the person who filmed the singing and put it on youtube was later convicted of indecent and racial chanting at a football match, and received a community service order.

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