It is easy to discount football hooliganism as a marginal issue. Call it an irrelevance ... Excitement of the moment...Over enthusiasm ... Machismo.
Not so with racism. Racism must be condemned everywhere and every time it occurs -- even in a sports arena and especially when it is turned into a shout out chanted in unison by hundreds of onlookers and is disguised as a public message. In any sport, even in soccer matches, racism is totally unacceptable.
It is a basic rule of civilized society. When thugs, even football hooligans, shout anti-Semitic epithets it is our duty to condemn the slurs as base and unacceptable.
So why are we hearing no outcry from Poland after anti-Semitic slurs were shouted out during a soccer game? What happened to civilized Poland? Where is the condemnation? Where are the prosecutors and the judges? Where are the punishments? Why has Poland permitted the most vile chants to be shouted and then shouted again and brushed them off as irrelevant?
In fact, Poland has a set of laws prohibiting racism. Those laws include a prohibition against the dissemination of racial slurs. And yet, Poland and official Polish prosecutors decided to justify the racism in their midst.
When the home team in Poznan, Poland, started shouting: "Go Jews, Get out, Go to Auschwitz" the local prosecutor determined that those shouts, that sentiment, was not an anti-Semitic slur. Even when the slogans continued with the added verse: "send you to the gas chamber," the prosecutor did not think that it was racist. His rationale was baffling. The prosecutor reasoned that the shouts were levied against the other team Widzew, Lodz and that since there were no Jews on the other teams or, for that matter, anywhere in the stadium it was not a racist act.
That response is unacceptable. Football hooligans must be held accountable. The clubs know that and they banish spectators who violate the rules. If the prosecution does not get it then the home team should take a stand.
This incident in Poznan would not be so noteworthy if were an isolated occurrence. It is not. It is part of a developing trend.
In the city of Lublin, the home of Tomasz Pietrasiewicz was recently vandalized. Bricks with swastikas were thrown through his windows. Tomasz is not Jewish but he is deeply involved with Jews and publicly advocates for and teaches about the rich Jewish history of Lublin. Here, too, the local prosecutor chose not to file racist charges against the hoodlums because Pietrasiewicz is not a Jew.
And in Bialystok people spreading leaflets with swastikas were not prosecuted. To add insult to injury, the prosecutor added that the swastika is an ancient Hindu symbol -- not just the sign of the Nazis.
If this were not so sad, it would be funny. Do intelligent people actually believe that anti-Semitism exists only in the presence of Jews? Do they really believe that in the world today there is even one person who sees any other realistic symbolism for the swastika other than Nazism? The Nazis themselves were unaware of the Hindu derivation.
The New York Times recently covered a case of a public school in upper New York State, about 90 miles from New York City, where Jew students were being harassed. The principal, a Jew himself, responded that these are not real Jews because there is no synagogue nearby, and no real Jew would come to this community. The logic is sad and dizzying.
To think that anti-Semitism and racism cannot exist in the absence of Jews is simply wrong. Hatred has nothing to do with the objects of the hatred. Hatred has to do with the haters.
Racists hate. They teach, shout, disseminate and wallow in their hatred. The hatred is the root of the problem -- not the Jews or blacks or Asians at whom the venom is spewed. Trying to find a reason for the hatred and explaining the racism serves only to justify the racism.
Anti-Semitism cannot be ignored. No form of racism should be ignored. And no form of racism should go unpunished.