Scottish Justice Minister condemns ‘disgusting’ abuse of Israeli Celtic player

Statement followed Jewish Leadership Council regional manager Danielle Bett's intervention


EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - APRIL 21: Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP makes his Ministerial Statement on coronavirus as social distancing rules are introduced while sitting 2at the Scottish Parliament on April 21, 2020 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. The British government has extended the lockdown restrictions first introduced on March 23 that are meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Andrew Cowan - Pool/Getty Images

Scotland’s Justice Minister has issued a condemnation of the “disgusting” abuse directed at Celtic’s Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton, saying “antisemitism deserves the same contempt as Islamophobia and any other prejudice.”

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish National Party MSP for Glasgow Pollok, responded following an intervention from the Jewish Leadership Council’s Scottish region manager Danielle Bett this week.

Highlighting the JC’s report on the torrent of abuse directed at the Celtic player - including slurs that he was a  “dirty Jew” - after last Sunday’s Old Firm clash with Rangers,  Ms Bett tweeted: “Would love to see more condemnations of this from those who would usually condemn racism in football anywhere.

“I’m not interested in the teams, allegiances or football.

“This is disgusting racism which ought to be called out and shut down.”

Mr Yousaf wrote: “Agree Danielle, this is disgusting” - before calling for antisemitism to be treated with the same “contempt” as other forms of racism.

He added: “Passion about your club (or even against a rival) is all part of the game – racism, prejudice and hatred are not.”

Anas Sarwar, the Member of the Scottish Parliament  (MSP) for Glasgow, also wrote: “Well done Danielle. When it comes to prejudice and hatred there can be no picking and choosing.

“Solidarity with Nir Bitton and the Jewish community.”

Another SNP politician, Stuart McMillan, the MSP for the Greenock and Inverclyde constituency,  also expressed support for both Ms Bett and Mr Yousaf’s interventions over the abuse.

He added: “This is appalling. Racism has no place in Scotland.”

Ms Bett told the JC on Friday: “We’ve rightfully seen condemnation from leaders on cases of racism in sports and otherwise. In this instance, when an Israeli in Scotland faced vile anti-Jewish racism, there was a general sense of silence from those who’d usually condemn racism.

“I was pleased to see both Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar condemn this outright racism. They have both been consistent allies in this fight.”

Mr Bitton, who was born in Ashdod, has repeatedly spoken of his  frustration at the abuse he receives from some Celtic fans because he is an Israeli.

His wife Bar also  confirmed she had received many “awful” messages after last Sunday’s game  and shared a screen grab of one which called for her and her husband to be “hanged” while adding further abuse directed at the couple's two children.

The message read: “Here you ya cow, you and yer husband deserve tae be hung on the streets. F**k you and yer wains.”

Celtic fans displayed an “end Zionism” banner  in May 2016  during the Scottish FA Cup final in Glasgow.

Police also launched an investigation in August 2016 after another Celtic fan said gassing was “too good” for the club’s Israeli midfielder.

On Wednesday Celtic FC confirmed they had contacted police over the abuse directed at Mr Bitton after Sunday’s game – including a tweet that called him a “Jew bastard” and another which branded him a “Zionist rat”.

But in a sign of the bitter sectarianism that exists in Scottish football, particularly between Celtic and Rangers fans, the Justice Minister Mr Yousaf was criticised on social media on Thursday for not condemning alleged racist abuse directed at Celtic players from Rangers fans outside their Ibrox Stadium.

Mr Yousaf responded writing: “I am not sure I can be any clearer that all hatred – including anti-Catholicism – is a disgrace and to be condemned.”


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