British MP urges Europe to tackle anti-Semitism the way Israel's soccer authorities fight racism

John Mann praises Israel Football Association's actions against racism and violence.

star of david 88 (photo credit: )
star of david 88
(photo credit: )
The British MP behind a new report highlighting anti-Semitism in European soccer has named Israel as one of the best examples of how a national soccer association should publicly tackle racism. John Mann, who was in the country this week to present his report to the Global Forum for Combatting anti-Semitism, praised the Israel Football Association's collaboration with the New Israel Fund in launching the Kick it Out campaign against racism and violence. "I hope that other countries can learn from Israel," Mann told The Jerusalem Post. "The fact that there has been a very direct and honest campaign in Israel is best practice and is how anti-Semitism should be challenged in Europe." The Labour politician, however, noted that while the UK's Kick it Out campaign is still working hard against racism, it seems to miss the increase in anti-Semitism in British soccer. "Anti-Semitism is the hidden racism," Mann said. "When I read through the latest issue of Kick it Out's regular 32-page magazine I found no mention of anti-Semitism." The report noted five examples of anti-Semitic activity at British games, including Nazi salutes by supporters of Scottish giant Rangers and anti-Semitic chanting about "gassing, Hitler and Yids" at a preseason friendly between Arsenal and Barnet last July. Mann suggested that in some countries "anti-Semitism has become more acceptable" than other forms of racism and has not been given enough coverage. The report came about after Mann attended a game at Hungarian side Ferencvaros in Budapest in April 2007. "I was outside the stadium and I saw pictures grafittied on the walls outside the ground close to the subway station of a body hanging from a noose with the words Jew written next to it," he recalled. "I was shocked and decided that I must look into this." Over the last nine months Mann and activist Johnny Cohen worked hard at collating all the anti-Semitic incidents in European soccer over the last few seasons. The final document detailed some 30 examples, but Mann insisted that their research unearthed many more incidents which did not make it into the report. "The shock was just how widespread this was. There have been many incidents even this season." he said. More than 20 countries are included in the report - including Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Poland. Mann wants more countries and associations to follow Israel's example and introduce "best practice" to battle against racism and anti-Semitism. "Sometimes nothing at all is done," he noted. "Civic society needs to be challenged and institutions must stand up against this. Why shouldn't football be involved?" On his return to England, Mann said he would be sending out copies of the report to all 92 professional British soccer clubs and is planning meetings with the English Football Association while working with other parliamentarians in the UK. He also hopes to organize a meeting with UEFA chairman and former Juventus striker Michel Platini to discus the issue. "Racism is racism whatever form it takes," he concluded. "It [anti-Semitism] is not new but it is coming back on the agenda and this resurgence needs to be countered robustly."