Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Super Jews no longer

Holland's Ajax football club has long attracted attention because of the way its fans have branded themselves as 'Super-Jews,' although the club has few real Jewish connections. So has the reaction of its opponents, who "have adopted a string of vile counter-chants. 'Hamas, Hamas - Jews to the gas' is a regular cry... So is hissing in unison a 'joke' about gas chambers - and shouting "Trains for Auschwitz leave in five minutes."
This week, it has been widely reported that the team's management has decided to launch a campaign to stop its fans identifying themselves as Jews, because the response from the rival fans has become so harsh it is making it difficult for real Jews to attend matches (in fact, as you can see from the JReport article linked to above, this has been true for a long time, but I guess the political climate has changed).
The only good article I've seen on the subject appears in today's London Times. The club's identification as Jews, the article explains, did not evolve naturally from some long-forgotten, tenuous historical connection, as most people claim, but was a response to other teams who adopted fascist symbols after the war:
The problem, of course, is that if every club’s hooligans run around calling themselves Nazis, there isn’t much to fight about. So Ajax fans, faced with far-right opposing supporters, went to the opposite extreme, adopting Jewish symbols and referring to themselves as the “SuperJews”.
For this reason, it is unlikely that the campaign to stop the fans identifying as Jews will have much success:
For what drives these supporters to affect a Jewish identity for 90 minutes every weekend is the same thing that drives some Ultras Sur to right-wing symbols: a desire to be shockingly different.
Which, I suppose, answers a question which has been nagging at me ever since I first read of the team's campaign, namely, why, instead of stopping the fans identifying as Jewish, don't the politically correct Dutch get the opposing fans to stop shouting racial slurs? (I seem to recall there have been some attempts in Israel, for example, to stop some of the ethnic and racial slurs coming from the stands, I'm not sure how successfully. Anyone?)
At the end of the day, European football culture is a yobbish, violent culture. Ajax's adoption of a Jewish persona is neither quirky, historical nor endearing, but in a sense, malicious. I wish the campaign good luck.

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