By Marcus Dysch
May 22, 2012
During Saturday night’s Champions League final some of you will, I expect, have noticed two Israeli flags displayed in the stands.
I spotted them in the first half – hanging at pitch level just near the halfway line – and then thought little more about it. Every now and again when they flashed across the screen they caught my eye, but they were really rather secondary to the remarkable match unfolding before my eyes.
But while I and more than 10 million other Brits were watching Chelsea win London’s first ever European Cup, others were busy enquiring as to why the flags were there.
The logical explanation was that a couple of fans (I think they were in among the Bayern fans rather than at the Chelsea end, although they could of course have been neutrals) were Israeli and had taken their flags along just as fans from other countries, not least England and Germany, had done.
But for the hate-ridden antisemites out there this was an opportunity not to be missed.
At the time I saw only one tweet about the flags – a reference from a moron in Preston of all places about the “Dirty Israel Flag!” he could see. I should have known it was only the tip of the iceberg.
Since Saturday I have seen blogs collating dozens and dozens of tweets going far further. Across the globe, supposed football fans were busying themselves with the foulest, most abusive posts they could dream up.
I’m not going to link directly to the offenders, but I’ll include their Twitter handles. Should you want to report them to Twitter, or even (for those tweeting in Britain) the police, then that is of course up to you.
At the lower end of the scale there was, from Sweden, the fairly basic:
@amenayounes: those israeli flags are effing disturbing
And from London:
@official_habib: kk those Israeli flags are starting to get annoying PUT THEM AWAY AND LET ME ENJOY THE MATCH no Zionism in football
“Official Habib” could of course have turned the TV off, but that didn’t seem to occur to him.
For others, such frustrations were insufficient to display their disgust at seeing a sovereign nation’s flag randomly displayed at a football match.
@ZSTehami: Israeli flags at the final. No. Just no. It's the equivalent of waving a piece of used toilet tissue with a ketchup stain on it.
“one boy vs zionism” tweeted to all six of his followers:
@1boyvsZionism: watching the #ChampionsLeague final today I wanted to puke everytime the camera panned across and those scumbags waved the israeli flags
In Sheffield, the connection between the final taking place in Germany and “the Jews” quickly came to the fore:
@ToastAndBanana: Hardly surprising there's Israeli flags either. The Jews blackmail Germany cos of what they did and will do it for ages.
There are plenty more I could reproduce, but I’m sure you get the hang of it.
Even for those not moved to go as far as Holocaust revisionism and outright antisemitism, the curiosity was too much to bear.
@dadmob: Can somebody explain the Israeli flags in the crowd at the Champions League Final?
@McCarthyMor: What's with the Israeli flags on the half way line? Strange.
@MabzE7: Why are there people waving Israeli flags?
Others questioned whether the fans had been despatched by Israel on a PR mission, or whether they were there simply to mock the Germans, or even whether they had mistaken the game for this weekend’s Eurovision Song Contest.
Sports fans are no strangers to comedy, singalongs and, dare I say it, banter. Terraces around the world are littered with examples of cheeky good humour. But what we see here is something else.
The range of tweets may have opened with moronic and amusing, but moved on to dangerous, incendiary, and through to plainly racist.
The current trend for Twitter to act as an accelerant, stirring up hatred of all degrees, is a serious worry. Since I wrote in the JC in January about the dangers of the social networking site, there have been a number of serious cases of hatred, threats and offence, with a student jailed for his racist tweet about footballer Fabrice Muamba, and another internet “troll” awaiting sentence for threatening MP Louise Mensch’s children.
Let us be clear – the people who posted messages about the flags are not interested in discussion or debate, they are not interested in politics or arguments over the future of settlements or claims of apartheid. They are driven by hate. Plain and simple.
They see a flag at a football match and immediately their minds turn to “evil Jews” and their desire to rid the world of them.
The majority of these people each have only a handful of followers, thankfully. They are tweeting to their friends, but in a place where they intend, ultimately, for the world to see. Alone they pose no danger. They are what was once the green-ink brigade. Deluded and desperate.
But on Saturday night there were dozens of them spreading their poison. If they picked a quieter time on Twitter – not during a major football match being watched by hundreds of millions of people – and added a hashtag, then what? How long before we see #deathtoIsrael as a top trending topic? Will Twitter finally act when #killthejews spreads across Britain?
We are on a dangerous, slippery slope. The high-profile convictions I mentioned earlier may act as a sufficient warning to many people, but what about those so ridden with hatred that all rational thought escapes them?
I fear one day soon we may just find out.