We must be united against Anelka

By Anthony Clavane, January 2, 2014
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As the London Jewish Museum's "Four Four Jew" exhibition, and my own book, "Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here", has shown, there is a great deal to celebrate about our community’s long involvement in football.

In fact, apart from a few isolated incidents, in recent years antisemitism in the game has been a non-issue.

But we must guard against this kind of bigotry being imported into England. There is a danger Nicolas Anelka’s quenelle celebration will be adopted as a badge of defiance by xenophobes.

Even normally-wise authorities, like Arsene Wenger, are inisisting there has been an over-reaction to the gesture. “Nobody knows in France what it means,” claims the Arsenal boss. “Some make it an anti-system movement and some make it antisemitic.”

Those "making it antisemitic" might have a point, Arsene, given it was invented by a French comedian, Dieudonne, renowned for his Jew-hatred and has been repeated by people outside shuls, the Western Wall and even Auschwitz.

And what is this “system” or “establishment” the comedian opposes? Why, one controlled by “Jewish interests” of course.

In the past, this sort of thing has been swept under the carpet. And not just by the footballing authorities. In 1935, when England played Germany at White Hart Lane, the swastika flew above Tottenham's ground - virtually a second home to many north London Jews - and the visiting team made Nazi salutes. And yet Jewish leaders discouraged protests against a “friendly” blatantly used by Hitler as a propaganda exercise.

In the 1960s, Jewish player Mark Lazarus was racially taunted at football stadiums and no action was taken (or even called for).

I was at the game where Anelka made the quenelle. I condemned it in a national newspaper and on the BBC. Some Jewish people warned me against making the striker a cause celebre; if only the media had ignored his moronic gesture, both he and his moronic mate would not have been given the oxygen of publicity. Heads down, low profile, don’t cause a fuss. If you ignore these things, they go away.

But the days of keeping schtum are, thankfully, over. As one Jewish West Brom fan tweeted: “I know most people would tell me to just forget about the incident and show my support for the club, but that’s not so easy to do.”

Her club eventually admitted the quenelle had “caused offence in some quarters”. They, Mr Wenger and the FA should accept it has caused great offence in many quarters. “Whatever decision the FA takes,” one football correspondent wrote, “it will find itself in opposition to a forceful lobby that says it is mistaken.”

But this is a clear-cut issue. The FA has a policy of zero tolerance towards racism.

And I can’t recall other ethnic groups objecting to racist insults being described as “forceful lobbies”.

Does Your Rabbi Know You're Here is published by Quercus

Last updated: 12:57pm, January 2 2014