Official Football's Shame

Simon McKeon writes about official football's lack of solidarity with Israel.

Official Football's Shame

In a powerful act of protest against UEFA's denial of a moment of quiet reflection to honour the victims of Hamas's terrorist attacks in Israel on October 7, the Poland and Israel football teams defiantly observed an unofficial minute's silence immediately after kick-off, during their European Under-21 qualifier match in Lodz on Friday night.

UEFA's refusal to formally acknowledge Hamas's murder of over 1200 Israelis and the taking of more than 200 hostages into Gaza, was reflected by the English Football Association and most UK football clubs' near silence on condemning the terrorist attacks on October 7.  The FA rejected calls to light up the Wembley arches in the colours of the Israeli flag at the England versus Australia match on October 13, whilst many football clubs released "both sides" type statements. For example, Queens Park Rangers tweeted:

This, and many similar statements from other clubs, contains no condemnation of Hamas's slaughter. The tweet led one QPR supporter, El Tel, to respond:

El Tel is correct to point out that the football authorities and clubs are not usually shy at preaching their political messages to football fans. Barely a match day goes by when football fans are not subjected to some social message or other by their clubs. You may remember February's The Green Football Weekend campaign, which encouraged football clubs to come together in the fight against climate change. Or when the Wembley arch was lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag in an act of solidarity after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2022. And who could forget football's collective response to the murder of George Floyd in the United States in May 2020 when players started to take the knee before kick-off in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

So why, when it comes to the butchery of over 1200 innocent men, women, children and babies, the taking of 200 hostages (now languishing in underground tunnels in Gaza), and the massive increase in anti-Semitic attacks at home and abroad, have the football authorities refused to support Israel, and Jewish football fans?

Like the Green Brigade--the ultras group of Celtic supporters, who wave their Palestinian flags at Celtic Park on match days--the football authorities have taken sides in the political and culture war. In today's milieu of identity politics, Israeli Jews are seen as the beneficiaries of 'white privilege'; as Daniel Ben-Ami writes in Why The World Has Turned Against Israel:

From this perspective, the Jewish state becomes a force for evil, a dangerous ethno-state, while Palestinians take the role of oppressed people of colour.

This is why it has proved so difficult for the FA and football clubs to acknowledge the pogrom against Israel on October 7. They cannot countenance that 'white' Jews can be the victims of 'brown' Arab terrorists. Like other UK sports and cultural institutions, football is constrained by its Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) outlook that stipulates that only people of colour can be the victims of racism. Jews on the other hand are seen as the perpetrators of racism and not the victims of racist attacks.

Football authorities and clubs cannot be relied upon to support Israel in its fight for civilisation against barbarism or to defeat anti-Semitism at home. We should take inspiration from the young Polish and Israeli footballers who took it upon themselves to hold a moment's silence in defiance of UEFA by organising  ourselves to stand by Israel and fight against anti-Semitism.