Monthly Archives: March 2012

Racism in German sports – the DFB response

The mention of racism can trigger irrational reactions in Germany; most Germans carry the burden of a guilt complex because of the Shoa, which makes the open-minded acknowledgement of the presence of racism in German society difficult. Yet, as in all societies, racism is an everyday phenomenon. This becomes particularly evident in the soccer arenas.

Just the other day, the Bremen state government issued what they call a Development Plan for Participation and Integration, a strategic document on diversity policies. It identifies 14 field of action in which to confront the need for promoting diversity in Bremen’s urban society in the coming four years. There is also a chapter on sports determining this field as one of the main areas for action. The text does not mention racism. Yet, it is well known that German sports are a playground for all known forms and variants of racism. There is structural racism in the shape of discrimination against people with a different cultural background. But there is also common or garden racism in the way people treat each other, as anybody will confirm who has overheard competitors defile and try to intimidate each other using racist swear words, or who has listened to a crowd making “ape noises” when a midfield player with black African roots passes the ball. Likewise, “Zigeuner”, a derogatory term for Sinti and Roma is frequently used by hooligans to infuriate and provoke opponents, notwithstanding the fact that some of the best German soccer players were Sinti (like Gerd Müller, famous Bayern Munich striker).

Only a few weeks ago, a soccer Bundesliga player hailing from Israel, Itay Shechter, was showered with antisemitic abuses by spectators. The board of FC Kaiserslautern, the club in question, has made efforts to spot the culprits and has in fact officially reported the incident to the police. Kaiserslautern chairman Stefan Kuntz declared at a press conference that such “derailments” were not to be tolerated “either now or in future” by the club’s leadership.

Dieter Graumann, presiding the Central Council of Jews in Germany, is quoted as calling the Kaiserslautern incident a shame and scandal for German soccer. He deplored that the national soccer association, DFB, has not come out with a „faster and louder“ reaction on what happened. Although the majority of Kaiserslautern fans displayed their unmistakable support for Itay Shechter, the DFB should have done more than just verbally denouncing the perpetrators as „yesterday people“ (a common euphemism for right-wingers in Germany) or, less politely, „stark staring idiots“.

In defence of the DFB, people have hinted to the fact that the soccer association has been awarding the Julius Hirsch Prize for seven years now. This award commemorates a German national team member of the thirties murdered in Auschwitz.  DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach is adamant in continuing the policy of this predecessor, Theo Zwanziger, ostracizing anti-Semitism, anti-Ciganism, racism, sexism, and homophobia in society as well as on the sportsfield. From its charity matches, the DFB’s national team contributes funds towards a foundation with the explicit aim of promoting efforts to curb racist and sexist phenomena in sports. The team management will also use the occasion of the European Cup in Poland and the Ukraine in summer to pay a visit to the Auschwitz memorial, a spokesman said.

Late in May, the German side will play Israel in what will be the final test game before the European Cup. This has been agreed between Niersbach and Ori Shilo, Secretay General of Israel’s national soccer association. The Germans have made it a point that the game was scheduled away from Sabbath to enable observant Jews to watch it.  Israel has been a member of UEFA since 1994.


State terrorism in Belarus – Solidarity with Lyubov Kovalyeva

Marieluise Beck, Member of the German Bundestag (Green Party) writes to me:

[…]

I learned about the execution of Dmitrij Konovalev and Vladislav Kovalyev in Belarus last week. Shot in the nape of the neck. Only recently, I had met Vladislav’s mother for the first time. […] For eleven months now, Vladislav’s mother, Lyubov Kovalyeva, telephone operator from Vitebsk, Belarus, has been living in a nightmare. Her son, an electrician in Minsk, had been reported to the police by neighbours for public disturbance in the course of a nightly party and had been taken to the local police station. After a night of interrogation during which Vladislav was questioned under torture, Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenka had presented him on tv as having owned up to his part in the bombing of the Minsk subway of 11 April, 2011. He is alleged to have joined his accomplice Dmitrij in killing 15 and injuring more than 100 by placing a bomb in the subway on that day. Vladislav and Dmitrij were sentenced to death. Last Friday, Lyubov Kovalyeva found a dire note from the public prosecutor in her letterbox, telling her about her son’s execution. The exact date and the place burial were not made known to the family. The executed victim is not to be the only one who suffers. The system has also punishment for his relatives in store. They are not allowed a place for dignified mourning and commemoration.

[…]

The proceedings against the two young men showed every trait of a show trial. For a long time, no attorney was found courageous enough to stand in for the defendants. The public prosecutor presented manipulated videos from surveillance cameras in the subway. […]

Immediately after the sentence, all alleged evidence was purposely destroyed.


The worrying anti-Semitic aftermath of the Toulouse murders

The brutal and merciless slaughter of a Jewish man and three Jewish children in southern France last week shone a spotlight back onto a problem many had been doing their best to downplay – the escalating anti-Semitism in Europe.

The the Toulouse shooting itself was an anti-Semitic act driven by the killer Mohammed Merah’s irrational hatred of Jews is without question. And yet, there are many coming to his posthumous defense.

Merah’s older brothers, Abdelkader Merah, is now suspected of assisting in the attack on the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school, and told French investigators that he was “very proud” of what Mohammed had done. “I regret nothing for him and approve of what he did,” said Abdelkader.

Merah’s father, Mohammed Benalel Merah, told French media that he intends to sue the French government for killing his murderous son. Mohammed Merah was eventually killed after a 32-hour standoff during which he shot and wounded several French police officers.

“France is a big country that had the means to take my son alive,” the elder Merah told the AFP. “They could have knocked him out with gas and taken him in. They preferred to kill him. …I will sue France for killing my son.”

The remarks made by Abdelkader Merah and his father will be quickly dismissed by many as being the rantings of distraught family members. Unfortunately, their sentiments are shared by many.

Most schools in France last week marked one minute of silence for the victims of the Toulouse shooting. But at the Gustave Flaubert High School in Rouen, Normandy an English teacher had her class mark a minute of silence for the deceased murderer. Many of teacher Lorraine Collin’s students reportedly walked out in protest, but some remained and were quoted as saying the Jewish victims “deserved” what happened to them.

Back in Toulouse, a large group of women held a public gathering to honor the memory of Merah. The leader of the group told participants, “What we ask today is that we stop demonizing Mohamed… We share the pain and suffering of the families because it is the same pain for us here.” It is the same argument used by the families of Palestinian terrorists, who insist that their own hardships put them on equal footing with the families of Israeli Jews killed in terrorist attacks.

Also around Toulouse, French authorities found and cleaned up graffiti reading “Viva Merah” and “F**k the kippa.”

On the Internet, a French Facebook page was set up to in “Homage to Mohamed Merah,” and received many favorable comments before being shut down at the request of the French government. Meanwhile, the Palestinian-run propaganda website Electronic Intifada accused Israel of trying to cover up alleged abuses of Palestinians by focusing so much attention on the Toulouse murders.

Some print media employed the tactic of turning the aggressor into the victim, suggesting that Merah’s actions were a natural result of social and economic hardships. Le Figaro wrote that it had “no doubt” that Merah’s killing of four innocent Jews was incited by the “Islamophobia” of so many in France. The New York Times similarly noted that in France “Muslims complain widely of feeling vilified by some political elements, on the right in particular.”

Neither newspaper explained how Merah’s emotional state, even if the result of real discrimination, could possibly justify the heartless slaughter of innocent children.

The French government has responded to all this with a firm hand, demanding that media outlets not broadcast footage Merah took of his murders, banning the entry of radical Islamists, and suspending the teacher who tried to get her class to honor the killer of innocent Jews. But it is clear that a new wave of anti-Semitism is rising, this time fueled by Europe’s exploding Muslim populations. And once those Muslim anti-Semites reinvigorate the Jew-hating European ultra-nationalists, the situation could quickly spiral out of control.

It may already be happening.

In a conference call hosted by the French Jewish publication Le P’tit Hebdo, a recent French Jewish immigrant to Israel painted a picture of modern-day Europe that looks a lot like pre-Holocaust Europe, at least as far as Jews are concerned.

“Jews are being attacked all the time,” said Liora Zachary. “Children, in the buses, in the Metro, going to school, coming from school, couples in the street – this is just an unbearable situation.”  (by Ryan Jones, March 27, 2012, (C) israel today)


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