Comment: Just how 'racist' is the British press's treatment of Grant?

The news that a UK law firm is reviewing coverage of Grant's appointment should set alarm bells ringing.

October 2, 2007 01:55
2 minute read.
Comment: Just how 'racist' is the British press's treatment of Grant?

avram grant 248 88 ap. (photo credit: AP [file])


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The news that a British law firm is reviewing newspaper coverage of Avraham Grant's appointment as Chesea manager for racist content should set alarm bells ringing in the United Kingdom. If such a case were to go to court, newspapers could be tried under the Religious and Racial Hatred Act 2006, which prevents incitement to racial hatred. The law was originally intended to curtail both Islamophobia and the hate-speech of hard-line Islamic clerics. However there was always a fear in British politics, most notably in the House of Lords, that the law would infringe too far on people's freedom of speech. If it is shown that a newspaper has printed articles that are genuinely racist - that is that they have claimed that Avraham Grant is an unsuitable manager because he is Jewish - then one could understand that a case should be brought against it. However, the law firm, Teacher Stern Selby, has stated that it is looking into "what may appear to be racist overtones." The gist of this seems to be that some journalists and commentators have suggested that Grant got the job because of his Israeli-Russian heritage. Imagine if Liverpool's new American owners were to suddenly sack the successful and hard working Rafael Benitez and replace him with a manager from the USA, who had had moderate success with, say, DC United and gone on to have an unsuccessful period in charge of the USA national team. Imagine it was then discovered that the new manager and the owners had a powerful friend in the football world in common. Newspapers would justifiably be suspicious that there was a certain degree of fraternalization at work. Since Avraham Grant's arrival in Britain, after a career in the backwaters of football management, he has worked under a Russian Jewish owner at Portsmouth, Alexandre Gaydamak, the son of Betar Jersualem owner Arkady Gaydamak, and then with a Russian Jew at Chelsea, Roman Abramovich. In the 13 months he has worked in the UK up until last week, he had no experience managing either club. Given the history of fraternalization that exists in both Israel and in Russia, it seems logical to at least question Grant's spectacular rise to power. In fact, an opinion piece recently published in these very pages, while never explicitly mentioning the Israeli connection, argued that "Grant's ability to befriend Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is the one and only reason he is in charge at Stamford Bridge." Of course no one can say for sure that the the shared heritage of these men is significant in this most surprising of appointments. Furthermore, it is arguable that because Chelsea are no longer a plc it is not in the public's interest to know whom they appoint. However, it seems to be stretching the meaning of the law to claim that journalists who draw this connection are inciting racial hatred. If Teacher Stern Selby takes this case to court on what has so far been published in the British press, it will indicate that, far from protecting Britain from racial discrimination, the new law could be used in such a way that journalists are afraid to point out discrimination when it is carried out by a minority group, a clear perversion of its original intent.

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