A leading adviser to the Football Association, and the head of a body representing European Jews, have attacked West Bromwich Albion football club for its response to Nicolas Anelka’s quenelle gesture.
Alex Goldberg, who set up the FA’s commission on antisemitism, told the JC that the club’s behaviour since the incident had been “foolish and weak”.
Dr Moshe Kantor, president of European Jewish Congress, said he expected the club and the player to apologise “as a first step to resolve the issue”.
The row over Anelka came after the player made the quenelle gesture — a Nazi-style salute — as part of a goal celebration during his club’s match against West Ham on Saturday.
After the game, Anelka claimed the gesture was a tribute to his friend, the antisemitic French comedian, Dieudonné. West Bromwich Albion caretaker manager Keith Downing refused to condemn his player’s action and described criticism as “absolute rubbish”.
Following widespread criticism, the club issued a statement on Monday but it conceded only that the gesture had caused offence “in some quarters” and said Anelka had agreed not to make it again.
Anelka was then selected to play in the club’s match against Newcastle on Wednesday.
The FA has said it is conducting an investigation, with a maximum 10-match ban among the punishments at its disposal.
Mr Goldberg said: “It was hugely disappointing when the club made such a weak and generic statement.
“On Saturday they looked foolish and on Monday they just looked weak. They simply haven’t come out strong enough. Why can’t they apologise now they know what the quenelle is all about?”
Dr Kantor called on Anelka to be banned. “Merely inverting the Nazi salute should not allow antisemites to display hate with impunity,” he said.
The Jewish Leadership Council’s interim chief executive, Simon Johnson, who is a former director of corporate affairs at the FA, warned: “We shouldn’t create a witch-hunt atmosphere. We should let the FA pursue their investigation.”
The Community Security Trust, which monitors antisemitism, said it expected the FA to “follow a zero-tolerance approach.We are not impressed by Anelka’s lack of a meaningful response or apology. On that basis he should be punished to the fullest extent possible.”
The Board of Deputies called on the FA to “take appropriate action”.
Manchester City player Samir Nasri and French basketball player Tony Parker have both posted photos of themselves making the salute on social media.