Anti-Semitic remarks hurled at non-Jews, are still anti-Semitic remarks hurled, on or off the playing pitch. Dr.Manfred Gerstenfeld reports on anti-Semitic behaviour in Dutch football that the Tundra Tabloids reported on last Sept.
BAN’s lawyer observed that the two parties agree that chants such as
“horrible cancer Jews” and “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” are not permitted.
He added that a witness had declared that also other antisemitic
chants were sung during the entire game.2 They were aimed at fanatic Ajax
fans who call themselves “The Jews.”
In his decision, the judge wrote that the chants sung during the game
are considered antisemitic, hurtful, and thus inadmissible. The judge added
that he did not believe the claim by ADO management that they had not
heard the songs, as there were 150 special guards in the stadium who were
in contact with a “command room.” The judge decided that if during a
future home game there were antisemitic chants in which the word “Jews”
1. Stichting Bestrijding Antisemitisme.
2. Kemal Rijken, “Welles-nietes tussen BAN en ADO,” NIW, August 5, 2011.
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102 JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF ANTISEMITISM [ VOL. 3:101
was mentioned, ADO’s management would have to take measures to end
these chants and prevent new ones from being sung. If necessary, this
would include stopping the game.3
A HISTORY OF ANTISEMITISM
The number of antisemitic incidents in the Netherlands has multiplied
greatly since 2000. The singing of antisemitic songs on soccer fields, however,
began long before. Hate chants in Dutch stadiums have been sung as
far back as the 1970s. One of these was “Hi, ha, penis of a dog.” Gradually,
the chants became more hateful and were heard more often against several
teams.4 For instance, Feyenoord supporters are called “cockroaches.” Yet,
as has been remarked, cockroaches are not offended by name calling, while
Jews are insulted by antisemitic hate songs.
In its 1999-2000 Annual Report, Tel Aviv University’s Stephen Roth
Institute of Antisemitism and Racism noted:
Antisemitic slurs have long become the norm at football matches in the
Netherlands. Hissing, slogans and chants such as “Hamas, Hamas, Jews
to the gas” are often heard during games. The spokesperson of the CIV
(Center for Information on Football Vandalism) warned that “In football
arenas, things are accepted which would not be tolerated elsewhere.”
Even though the authorities, the judiciary and politicians agree that hissing
and antisemitic chanting constitute unacceptable behavior, the law is
not being enforced and games are not stopped.5
Among the early major perpetrators were the thousands of Rotterdam
Feyenoord fans who sang from their stands in games against Ajax: “Gas the
Jews.”6 The Ajax supporters in turn often sang “Bomb Rotterdam” as a
reminder of the lethal German bombardment of the town, which led to the
Netherlands’ rapid surrender to the invading German army in May 1940.
Already in 1999, the public prosecutor had investigated possible punishable
acts committed by then-Feyenoord player Ulrich van Gobbel. After his
3. LJN: BR4406, Voorzieningenrechter Rechtbank’s-Gravenhage, 398200/KG
ZA 11-812, August 9, 2011.
4. Jaap Bloembergen, “Hatelijke leuzen op de tribunes niet uit te roeien,” NRC
Handelsblad, October 7, 2003.
5. 1999-2000 Annual Report, Stephen Roth Institute on Antisemitism and
Racism, Tel Aviv University, 2000. See also www.tau.ac.il/Antisemitism/asw99-
6. Simon Kuper, “Ajax, de joden, Nederland,” Hard Gras 22 (Amsterdam)
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team won the national championship, he shouted “Whoever doesn’t jump is
a Jew” eight times from the balcony of the city hall to the public below.7
The public prosecutor decided to dismiss the complaint. The prosecution
considered that what Van Gobbel said was “improper and unwise” but
not discriminatory; its spokesman explained that, taking into account the
context in which the remarks were made, there was no criminal act. The
prosecution also took into account that Van Gobbel had apologized. Jorien
van den Herik, the then chairman of Feyenoord, said that he greatly regretted
Van Gobbel’s behavior.8
HATRED IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM
The Royal Dutch Soccer Association (KNVB)9 reported that in the
season 2001-2002 there were 11 games with antisemitic chants shouted.
Many examples of soccer antisemitism were listed in a report by the Center
for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), the leading Dutch
organization in combating antisemitism. The report mentions that the Feyenoord
management wanted to remain silent about the antisemitic chants
from the club. In November 2002, twenty Feyenoord supporters shouted at
a suspect during a court session of the attempted murder of one of their
friends, “Cancer Jew, you will be killed.”10
In 2002, the CIDI complained about the shouting of “Hamas, Hamas,
Jews to the gas” on an “open day” of Feyenoord. The then deputy mayor of
Rotterdam, M. W. van Sluis, replied: “I received your letter of 1 August and
I share your worries about the shouting of slogans. It is totally unacceptable
that such slogans are being shouted at whatever moment and in whatever
context.” Van Sluis mentioned that because there were no policemen present
at the gathering, no direct action had been possible, adding that he
would pass the information to the public prosecution and the mayor of Rotterdam
would discuss the issue with Feyenoord and the KNVB.”11
In 2003, during a game between ADO and PSV from Eindhoven, the
fans of the latter shouted “Cancer Jew” at the referee. The internal prosecu-
7. “Het openbaar ministerie in Rotterdam onderzoekt mogelijke strafbare
uitlatingen van Feyenoord-speler Ulrich van Gobbel,” Trouw, April 30, 1999.
8. Jaaroverzicht antisemitisme in Nederland 1999, CIDI.
9. Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbal Bond.
10. Hadassa Hirschfeld, “Antisemitische incidenten in Nederland. Overzicht
over het jaar 2002 en de periode 1 januari–5 mei 2003,” CIDI.
11. “Rotterdam belooft CIDI maatregelen tegen voetbalantisemitisme,” CIDI,
August 14, 2002.
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tor of the KNVB decided not to follow up on the matter.12 In 2004, Feyenoord
supporters brought Palestinian flags to an Ajax game. Thereafter, in
the semifinal of the Amstelcup between Ajax and Feyenoord in April 2004,
when Israeli or Palestinian flags were banned, Feyenoord fans came to the
stadium with flags of the Arab-European League, a radical Arab
THE FUTILITY OF COMPLAINT
After several failures to stop the hate chants, CIDI Director Ronny
Naftaniel said in 2004 that it was futile to lodge complaints with the authorities.
He mentioned that he had even appealed to the court against the public
prosecutor in the Netherlands concerning extreme expressions of discrimination,
which the prosecution did not want to deal with. Naftaniel said, “If
it were useful, I would put forward a complaint, but if we have to bring
proof after the fact, that is not possible . . . are we the people who have to
clean up the dirt which the police and the justice authorities leave lying
In the KNVB, doubts were expressed about the effectiveness of any
measures to be taken in the soccer stadiums. The manager of its competition,
Bert van Oostveen, said that all the talk about stopping games didn’t
mean anything. “In the end they [the referees] will let the game go on.”15
On many occasions, authorities did nothing; some actually opposed
taking action. In 2004. Peter de Jonge, the mayor of Heerenveen, who represented
the Dutch municipalities in the Commission on Soccer Vandalism,
said that it would be “a reward to the hooligans” if a game were stopped
because of 100 or 200 fans.16 He thus mentioned a substantially lower number
of offenders than there frequently are and suggested that the problem
should be ignored. This further illustrates how Dutch authorities indirectly
assisted in the development of racism and lawlessness in the country for a
12. Hadassa Hirschfeld, “Antisemitische incidenten in Nederland. Overzicht
over het jaar 2003 en de periode 1 januari–5 mei 2004,” CIDI.
14. Milco Aarts, “Hooligan baas in stadion,” Telegraaf, September 18, 2004.
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A RARE INTERVENTION
One of the rare occasions when the authorities took action was in April
2002. Supporters of FC Utrecht shouted, in the Amsterdam Arena train station,
such chants as “Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas” and “Send them to
the [concentration] camp.” The then Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen issued
an emergency order, and 670 fans were sent back by train.17
In 2004, the Amsterdam Commission for Complaints against the
Police decided that the police had used “excessive force” in executing the
mayor’s orders. Mayor Cohen replied that he could agree with most of the
commission’s conclusions, adding that in some cases, the police had reacted
to the fans’ violence.18
In 2003, the same commission had concluded that the police had used
unnecessary force against the fans of Feyenoord at a game against Ajax. In
2004, eight of the complainants received financial compensation from the
ATTEMPTS AT REGULATION
The history of hate slogans in Dutch soccer stadiums in the new century
includes frequent complaints, official hesitations, and the announcement
of measures, which were then often carried out halfheartedly. At the
end of 2004, a referee temporarily halted the game between the professional
clubs VVV and Heracles because there were chants of “Hi, ha, penis of a
dog.” A week later, there was a long debate at the General Assembly of the
professional soccer clubs about which songs were permissible. A former
referee suggested that no action should be taken against “Hi, ha, penis of a
dog,” stating that in the soccer world, this is considered a title of honor.20
In January 2005, a special advisory committee of the professional soccer
league prepared a list of chants to be forbidden. This list was accepted
by the KNVB. It prohibited all references to prostitutes, illnesses, and genitals.
Furthermore, insulting remarks about race, belief, or group of the population
were also forbidden, which means that jungle sounds, bleating of
sheep sounds, hissing, firework noises, and the expression “fucker of goats”
17. “Supporters na roepen leuzen teruggestuurd,” Volkskrant, April 22, 2002.
18. “Amsterdamse politie op de vingers getikt,” Volkskrant, September 25,
20. “Hi-ha-hondenlul is een eretitel,” AD, December 7, 2004.
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106 JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF ANTISEMITISM [ VOL. 3:101
were prohibited. This list expanded upon one published a year earlier,
which had been accepted by the public authorities.21
In September 2004, when ADO played Ajax, the varied chants were so
persistent that the trainer of the Amsterdam club, Ronald Koeman,
threatened to remove his players from the field if this happened again.22
The media mentioned that besides what they termed “the usual antisemitic
curses,” there was repeated singing of: “Sylvie is the prostitute of Amsterdam,”
a reference to the then-girlfriend—and now wife—of Ajax’s international
player, Rafael van der Vaart.23
After that game, the Dutch soccer authorities announced new measures.
At ADO’s next match, the referee told the press that he had been
informed in writing by the KNVB that in the event of lengthy and insulting
chanting, the match should be ended. He had received written instructions
that references to “sexual organs, serious illnesses and Jews would not be
tolerated.” There was singing from time to time about the opponent Vitesse:
“They are the homos, yes, yes, the homos of Vitesse,” but the referee said
he had not heard it. Also, when ADO supporters felt the referee had made a
mistake, they sang another of their classic chants: “Hi, ha, dog’s penis.”
The media was of the opinion that “in general, the fans had behaved within
the borders of what is presently considered acceptable in stadiums.”24
Around that time, CIDI Deputy Director Hadassa Hirschfeld wrote to
Wim Deetman, the mayor of The Hague, expressing her disappointment
that the police failed to act against the continual singing of antisemitic
chants, which included “Jews have to be gassed.”25
Theo de Roos, a well-known professor of criminal law, commented
that many of the usual chants are punishable according to two articles of
Dutch law. “The first says that nobody may incite somebody else to hate,
and the second forbids the racist insulting of a group of the population. ‘All
Jews should be gassed’ is undoubtedly punishable.”26
21. “Lijst met verboden spreekkoren,” Telegraaf, January 21, 2005.
22. Erik van der Walle, “Niemand durfde ooit een wedstrijd te staken,” NRC
Handelsblad, September 14, 2004.
23. Jaco Alberts, “ADO-supporters vinden zichzelf nu ‘lief,’ ” NRC Handelsblad,
September 18, 2004.
25. “CIDI ‘diep teleurgesteld’ in politie en gemeente,” Haagsche Courant, September
26. Milco Aarts, “Hooligan baas in stadion.”
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A STOPPED GAME
On October 18, 2004, a match between ADO and PSV was stopped by
referee Ren´e Temmink. Before it started, ADO fans had already thrown
objects onto buses filled with PSV fans. The speaker warned the public
before and during the game, but ADO fans regularly sang hate chants,
including “Temmink is the whore of PSV” and “Hamas, Hamas, Temmink
to the gas.” When Temmink stopped the game, he had intended to continue
it after a cooling-off period. Riots started, however, and Mayor Deetman
then canceled the game altogether.27
Once soccer fans had seen that in the professional leagues hate songs
went unpunished, this seeped down to the lower leagues, where at most it
was mentioned in the local papers. One example, which was even reported
in the national media, happened in a low amateur league in the northeastern
part of the Netherlands. In 2004, Lionel Huizing, a football player—who
has a black mother and a white father—from De Weide, a small club in
Hoogeveen, was insulted during the entire game by the players of another
club, Klazienaveen. The referee stopped the game for a short time in order
to explain to the Klazienaveen captain that this was misconduct, but when
the game resumed, the insults did not abate.28
A CULTURE CHANGE
Until recently, few effective and consistent measures were enacted to
counter antisemitic hate songs. Tolerating antisemitic chants in the stadiums
for so long was one manifestation of the Dutch gedoogcultuur—a culture of
looking away from transgressions. This also breeds tolerance for intolerance.
Partly due to this longstanding culture, it took many years before the
KNVB was willing to take action against racist and antisemitic outbursts.
Nowadays, this culture has become largely defunct.
By 2011, the public mood was finally ready for a zero-tolerance
approach toward expressions of antisemitism in the stadiums. Thus, publicity
suddenly focused on hate chants at a celebration of ADO supporters
after its victory against Ajax. There, the fans, including ADO players Lex
Immers and Charlton Vicento, sang with much gusto: “We go chasing
Jews.” Once again, their target was not actual Jews but the players and fans
of Ajax. “Hamas Hamas, Jews to the gas” was also sung; this chant had
27. Robert Misset, “Staking na wangedrag ADO-fans,” Volkskrant, October 18,
2004; “Duel ADO-PSV gestaakt na spreekkoren,” NRC-Handelsblad, October 18,
28. “Voetballer doet aangifte van discriminatie,” Volkskrant, October 4, 2004.
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already been prohibited by the Supreme Court in 2009.29 The trainer of
ADO, John van den Brom, and his assistant, Maurice Steijn, were present at
the party. It was filmed by some of those who attended.
Reactions differed greatly from those during earlier years. The board
of ADO fined Immers heavily. The player offered his apologies, and said:
“I had been totally carried away by the euphoria after this special victory. I
hadn’t been aware at that moment of the insulting nature toward a whole
group of the population. I mixed up a nickname for a group with that of a
segment of the population. I regret this. What I did was not permissible and
I of course accept the fine which I received.”30
Van den Brom apologized to Ajax. He said: “We are role models. This
was a very expensive learning experience for us. If you make a mistake,
you have to sit on the blisters. I would have preferred to turn the clock back
on this incident.”31 The KNVB decided not to invite Vicento for the young
Dutch national team who would play a friendly game against young
Parliamentarian Richard de Mos of the Freedom Party, who is also a
member of the Municipal Council in The Hague, condemned the antisemitic
chants, submitting parliamentary questions asking for measures against
antisemitic slogans in professional soccer.33 Thereafter, De Mos, an ADO
fan himself, received death threats from supporters of the club.
Andre Rouvoet, the leader of the Christian Union party at the time,
asked Minister of the Interior Piet Hein Donner how he intended to deal
with the misconduct of ADO. Rouvoet said: “If influential people allow this
to happen, they legitimize it. This illustrates that antisemitism is not only a
problem stemming from Moroccan Muslim youngsters, but it is also unfortunately
a broader societal problem. This type of reprehensible event at and
around the sport fields is unacceptable. The Hague Alderman Karsten
Klein, for instance, should quickly enter into discussions with ADO on how
the club will assume its responsibility.”34
29. Arne Hankel, “Ook Hoge Raad vindt Hamas-leus beledigend,” Elsevier,
September 15, 2009.
30. “Geschrokken Immers: Jodenjacht leek mij onschuldig,” AD, March 21,
31. “Voorzitter Ajax: Stop met Joden als geuzennaam,” AD, March 23, 2011.
32. “ADO-feestje kost Vicento plek in Jong Oranje,” AD, March 21, 2011.
33. “Kamerlid PVV met dood bedreigd door fans ADO,” AD, March 23, 2011.
34. “Rouvoet wil Donner horen over ADO-wangedrag,” AD, March 21, 2011.
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CIDI asked the director of the KNVB, Ronny Naftaniel, to suspend
Immers and Van de Brom. Naftaniel replied: “Even though we know that
the slogans are against Ajax, it is reprehensible that this should happen on
the back of the Jews. In the past, such insulting slogans had been tolerated
quietly in the stadium. Now one also hears them in the streets. That is even
more reprehensible as incidents are on the increase against synagogues and
so are threats and violence against recognizable Jews in the street.”35
A HARMFUL NICKNAME
Uri Coronel, who is Jewish, was the chairman of Ajax in March 2011,
but has since resigned. He called on the club’s fans to refrain from using the
nickname “Jews” and said, “Our fans are not responsible for people who
use such horrible language. Apparently, however, by their songs, they provoke
these reactions. They thus should stop [calling themselves Jews].”36
Coronel added that he had even heard members of the business club of
FC Utrecht singing that they “went to chase Jews.” He observed that he had
once entered the Feyenoord stadium between a double lineup of youngsters
who made the “Heil Hitler” salute; “One cannot even describe this experience,”
In 2005, there were complaints in a meeting of the Members Council
of Ajax about the nickname “Jews” because it provoked antisemitic reactions.
The board was requested to take action against its use. The thenchairman
John Jaakke asked Coronel to talk to the supporters; to them,
Coronel said that this way of presenting Ajax “as a Jewish club is painful
and relates to the Holocaust . . . If Ajax abandons the ‘Jews’ nickname and
related issues one can also ask others to behave differently.” Before a game
with the German club Bayern M¨unchen, a banner with the text “Jews take
revenge for 1945” was removed.38 Coronel’s meeting with the supporters
produced no results.
Coronel’s observations on this issue go back many years. Already in
2000, he was quoted as saying: “I have seen things that, if they were filmed,
could be compared to Hitler’s Germany at the beginning of the 1930s . . .
you arrive by bus at Feyenoord or at The Hague; hundreds of people with
hatred in their eyes call out ‘Jews,’ they hiss [as an indication of the gas in
Auschwitz] and make the [Nazi] salute.”39
35. “CIDI eist bij KNVB schorsing Van den Brom,” AD, March 21, 2011.
36. “Voorzitter Ajax: Stop met Joden als geuzennaam,” AD, March 23, 2011.
38. Jop van Kempen, “Ajax wil van ‘Joden-gedoe’ af,” Parool, January 8, 2005.
39. Simon Kuper, “Ajax, de joden, Nederland,” 141.
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In 2005, Coronel told this author:
If we were to forbid these Stars of David, we would get riots in return. In
general, the authorities are already happy when there are no fights after
soccer games. There have been threats to end games, but they didn’t go
very far. We have, however, slept too long.
I think this nickname [“the Jews”] started in the 1980s. There was
no logical reason for it. Ajax had the image of a Jewish club which was
not based on anything. If 50,000 people come to a soccer game and
among them are 500 Jews, that is a lot for us, in particular if we more or
less sit on the same tribune, but basically Ajax has never had many Jewish
members and hardly any Jewish players. We had in the 1960s and
early 1970s two players who had Jewish fathers and were both on the
Dutch national team, Sjaak Swart and Benny Muller. Swart, however,
always denied that he was Jewish. There were also some board members
who were of Jewish origin. Before the war there had been a Jewish Ajax
player, Eddie Hamel, who was on the national team. He died in a concentration
We should have objected from the beginning to the nickname, but
we didn’t realize it. Thereafter the hooligans from some other teams,
mainly Feyenoord, ADO and FC. Utrecht started to sing antisemitic hate
songs. Our hard-core fans, perhaps 1000 among our 40,000 regular supporters,
then started to say you cannot take away our “identity.” This is of
course nonsense. Gradually more and more Israeli flags and Stars of
David appeared in the stadium. At a certain moment, some fans started
putting tattoos of the Star of David on their hands.
After the murder of media maker Theo van Van Gogh in 2004 and
the increasing antisemitism from Muslims, there were more and more
voices asking for the nickname to be abandoned. It didn’t help much even
though the number of flags diminished.
Then the international publicity about this issue started for instance
in The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, and Le Figaro
in France. Thereafter we got complaints from Israel that we were
ashamed of our Jewish image. When Ajax and supporters with it visited
there, people loved it and thought that it was a sign of solidarity with
Israel. That didn’t help us because now our fans started saying, “What do
you want? People in Israel love it that we call ourselves Jews!”40
After the ADO court case, Coronel summed up his current position:
It is annoying that Ajax supporters call themselves Jews, but it does not
touch me very much. We should realize that when about thirty years ago
Israeli flags appeared on the tribunes, the Jewish community was proud
and not annoyed. It became unacceptable due to the reaction of some of
40. Uri Coronel, personal communication to author.
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our opponents. Yet it makes little sense to force Ajax supporters to give
up their nickname. First of all it will not succeed and secondly we should
concentrate on fighting against what it apparently provokes and not on
the use of the nicknames.41
A MAYOR’S OPINION
In May 2011, Eberhard van der Laan (Labor), the mayor of Amsterdam,
criticized the fans’ use of the nickname “Jews” in an interview. He
said that this nickname could result in people coming out against Jews and
that this should be prevented. Van der Laan added that he didn’t have any
illusions about a quick response: “It is a matter of change in behavior,
which may take ten years. That does not mean that we shouldn’t start working
on it immediately.”42
Robert Flos, head of the Liberal Party (VVD) faction in the Amsterdam
Municipal Council, said that Van der Laan should discuss the use of
the nickname with the Ajax fan club. Flos mentioned that in Amsterdam, an
atmosphere is slowly developing that is very polarizing, noting that
“homophobia and antisemitism are on the rise.” He also thought that the
problems related to the nickname of “Jew” could take five to ten years
before they were solved.43
Two months earlier, Van der Laan expressed his anger about a T-shirt
that had been designed by a small group of Ajax supporters for the club’s
cup final against Feyenoord. The shirt, which was offered for sale on a fan
site, had a picture of Rotterdam being bombarded with Stars of David. It
had as text “Aboutaleb, the Jews are coming.” Rotterdam’s mayor, Ahmed
Aboutaleb (Labor), is a Moroccan-born Muslim.44
In September 2011, however, the BAN Foundation wanted to cash in
on its success in the court case against ADO, and brought a rapid court
cause claim against Amsterdam Mayor Van der Laan and Ajax in order to
force them to ban the word “Jew” in slogans displayed in the soccer stadiums.
BAN mentioned chants like “We are super-Jews” or “Those who do
not jump are not Jews.” As a reaction to this, the Ajax supporters club
called on the fans to bring Israeli flags, scarves, and objects with the Star of
42. Hugo Logtenberg, “Van der Laan wil ‘Joden, Joden’ verbannen uit de
Arena,” Parool, May 13, 2011.
43. “VVD-Amsterdam wil af van term ‘Joden,’ ” NIW, May 18, 2011.
44. “Van der Laan boos over anti-Feyenoordshirt,” Parool, March 7, 2011.
“Ajaxfans verwijzen met shirt naar bombardement Rotterdam.” NRC, March 5,
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David on them to all games.45 In October 2011, however, BAN withdrew
first the court case against Van der Laan46 and thereafter also that against
TRADITION OF INSULTING MINORITIES
The antisemitic songs have been heard now for many years by hundreds
of thousands of people at Dutch football stadiums. The press has
described it as a recurring phenomenon over the years. Occasionally, efforts
were made to weaken the songs’ impact. One example of this is loud music
played during a game to drown out the chants.48
Frits Barend, a well-known Dutch TV program host, has a long-term
interest in soccer and has produced many programs about it. He mentioned
that the first groups insulted on Dutch soccer fields were black players, as
well as Moroccans.
Barend observed: “There was a Dutch international player who was
also a Moroccan—Dries Bousatta—who, when he played, songs were
chanted such as ‘Your mother has a moustache’ or ‘Your mother is a
whore.’ On the tribunes, minorities, homosexuals and referees have been
cursed terribly. In the Netherlands, these shouts at various minorities have
been tolerated for many years.”
He remarked further: “Former black Ajax goalie Stanley Menzo was
subjected to jungle noises from his opponent’s fans. I was once at a cup
final in The Hague against Ajax where they threw a banana at him in his
goal and made monkey sounds. I taped and broadcast it. After the game, the
chairman of the professional soccer section of the KNVB, Andre van der
Louw—a Labor politician—praised the public for their excellent behavior.
Van der Louw’s attitude was typical of the mindset of political leaders at
This behavior continued for years. In 2005, there were both antisemitic
and anti-black slogans heard during a home game between Ajax and FC
Utrecht. Fans shouted “Whoever doesn’t jump is a Jew,” and there were
45. “AFCA: Neem davidsster mee naar ArenA,” AT5, September 24, 2011.
46. “Toch geen kort geding VDLaan,” AT5, October 13, 2011.
47. “Stichting BAN trekt kort geding tegen Ajax in,” De Pers, October 24,
48. Willem Vissers, “Oplossing voor verbaal geweld: harde muziek,” Volkskrant,
September 13, 2004.
49. Frits Barend, personal communication to author.
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hissing sounds. When black player Ryan Babel got the ball, jungle sounds
were also heard.50
Looking back, Barend says:
Ajax never liked the use of the nickname “Jews.” One of the chairmen,
Michael van Praag, who was of Jewish origin, thought, “Don’t make a
fuss about it. If you don’t deal with it, it will go away.” I also thought for
some time: “Let’s perhaps not give too much attention to it for a year or
two perhaps the problem will indeed go away.” It of course didn’t disappear,
but then the management of Ajax didn’t want to deal with it.
The issue had already started under Van Praag’s predecessor, but at
a certain moment, Ajax really got the nickname of the Jewish club, and
the Israeli flag and the Star of David became a kind of symbol. Of course,
one can laugh when, after Ajax scored a goal, they sang the Israeli song
“Hava Nagila,” but then they went further, into “We are super-Jews and
whoever doesn’t jump isn’t a Jew.” Thereafter, you get reactions from
Feyenoord—“Whoever doesn’t jump is a Jew.”51
MANAGEMENT AT RISK
In describing management’s response to antisemitic chanting, Barend
When former Ajax trainer Louis Van Gaal’s wife died of cancer, in some
stadiums supporters chanted: “Van Gaal had a cancer prostitute.”52 Journalists
have also been threatened at times. The throwing of small objects
onto the playing field is common, along with excessive imbibing of alcohol
and the unauthorized use of fireworks in the stadium.
I sat with a colleague of mine at the tribune of honor at PSV in
Eindhoven when they played against Ajax. There, “respectable people”
with suits and ties sang “Cancer Jew” and “He’s a friend of the Jews”
when the referee made calls against the PSV team. The same also happened
Even when the club management tried to do something about these
things, they were at risk themselves. If one excluded a fan, he might
throw stones through one’s window. These hooligans are anonymous in a
bigger group while the leaders of the fan club always distanced themselves
from the violence.”53
50. Hadassa Hirschfeld, “Antisemitische incidenten in Nederland. Overzicht
over het jaar 2005 en de periode 1 januari–5 mei 2006,” CIDI, 22.
51. Frits Barend, personal communication to author.
52. Milco Aarts, “Hooligan baas in stadion,” CIDI.
53. Frits Barend, personal communication to author.
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114 JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF ANTISEMITISM [ VOL. 3:101
ATTITUDES NOW SEEPING INTO SOCIETY
The authorities’ lack of desire to deal with the recurring racism and
antisemitism in the stadiums has allowed the hate songs to gradually seep
into society at large. Once there. it is almost impossible to combat. The
antisemitic chants have spread in various directions elsewhere. At demonstrations
against Israel, for instance, the chant “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the
gas” is often sung, mainly by Muslims. There the target is real Jews.
Soccer fans also started to sing the same chants outside of the stadium.
The non-Jewish journalist Matthijs Smits relates that he was invited a number
of years ago by Jewish friends in Amsterdam for the first evening of the
Passover holiday. He entered an electric tram car full of soccer fans of PSV,
who were on their way to a game against Ajax. They chanted loudly,
“Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.” Smits said that he did not know what
would have happened if they had considered him a real Jew.54
Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, chief rabbi of the interprovincial rabbinate,
tells that he, together with a non-Jewish psychologist, once entered a train
full of Feyenoord supporters. When the fans saw them, they started to
chant: “Jews to the gas.” Jacobs said that he had the feeling that this whole
train of “ordinary Dutchmen” was against them.
“The psychologist shrunk from fear,” the rabbi remarked. “It seemed
to me that that reaction wouldn’t help very much, so I feigned that I was
indifferent to it as a sign of strength. One can consider this incident as an
act of hooliganism, yet if one of these idiots had attacked us, many more
would probably have followed him.”55
In 2006, The Hague rap group Den Haag Connection (DHC) published
a song on the Internet titled “Hague Jihad” (Haagse jihad). It included texts
such as “Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas,” “One day you’ll get the
Hague Jihad on your roof,” and “Cancer Jews.”56
ANTISEMITISM ON THE PLAYING FIELD
There was also direct antisemitism against Jews on the soccer fields.
One example was in 2002, when a Jewish youth team of RKAVIC in a
lower league was physically attacked during a game by a team, mainly consisting
of Turkish and Moroccan youngsters, from SC Ori¨ent in the northern
54. Matthijs Smits, personal communication to author.
55. Binyomin Jacobs, “Rabbijn in een polariserende samenleving.” Interview in
Manfred Gerstenfeld, Het Verval (Amsterdam; Van Praag 2009), 175-176.
56. Meir Villegas Henriguez, “Antisemitische incidenten in Nederland.
Overzicht over het jaar 2006 en de periode 1 januari–5 mei 2007, ” CIDI, 22-23.
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part of Amsterdam; thereafter, they were harassed in the locker rooms.
When these SC Ori¨ent youngsters also made the Hitler salute, the team was
expelled from the competition.57
On International Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27, 2008, a text
message appeared on the video screen at the Vitesse stadium during a game
against Ajax. It read, “Hoezee, hoezee, Long live Zyklon B,” referring to
the gas used in extermination camps during the Holocaust.58 A Vitesse
spokesperson later expressed the club’s regrets and said that fans can send
SMS texts for the video screen. She explained that before being posted,
they are checked, but that this particular one had slipped through.59
During that same year, in a professional-league game against RBC
from Roosendaal, the Belgian player Daniel Guijo-Velasco of Helmond
Sport made the “Heil Hitler” salute. He was suspended by the KNVB for
five games.60 Velasco apologized the next day.61
The many years of unchecked verbal abuse have also occasionally led
to physical violence. In April 2004, a number of Feyenoord supporters were
wounded after a junior-team game against Ajax. Some of the attackers had
their faces covered.
In 2004, supporters of the top-league club FC Twente published data
on the Internet about their trip to Groningen for a game against the local
club, illustrated with a picture of a transport of Jews during the Holocaust.
It is one among many incidents during that year reported by CIDI.62
In 2005, three fans of Club Cambuur from Leeuwarden were removed
from the stadium in Emmen after they made a “Heil Hitler” salute and yelled
out racist remarks. They also shouted the Nazi slogan “Sieg Heil” several
57. Hadassa Hirschfeld, “Overzicht antisemitische incidenten Nederland 2001
en voorlopig overzicht 2002, CIDI.” See also Marc Kruyswijk, “Steeds vaker
Hitlergroet,” AD, May 31, 2002.
58. “Antisemitism Worldwide 2008/9,” The Stephen Roth Institute for the
Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, 12.
59. “Vitesse betreurt antisemitisme tegen Ajax,” Hakehillot Nieuws, February
60. “Midfielder handed five match-ban for Nazi salute,” International Herald
Tribune, December 3, 2008.
61. “Helmond-Sport: taakstraf en schorsing na Hitlergroet,” Omroep Brabant,
November 29, 2008.
62. Hadassa Hirschfeld en Agnes van der Sluijs, “Antisemitische incidenten in
Nederland. Overzicht over het jaar 2004 en de periode 1 januari–5 mei 2005,”
63. Hadassa Hirschfeld, “Antisemitische incidenten in Nederland. Overzicht
over het jaar 2005 en de periode 1 januari–5 mei 2006,” CIDI, 22.
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116 JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF ANTISEMITISM [ VOL. 3:101
Later, the identification of a group of Ajax fans with the nickname
“Jews” also became known internationally. In 2003, supporters of the Belgian
team Club Brugge shouted in Amsterdam, “We are going to chase
Jews,” saying that ADO supporters joined in with the shouting. During subsequent
fights with Ajax fans, 100 people were arrested.64
When the top Spanish team Real Madrid came to the Netherlands for a
Champions league game in November 2010, part of a group of 200 Spanish
fans shouted “Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil” and “Juden Raus, Juden Raus.” The
fans also made the “Heil Hitler” salute. Eleven fans were arrested, each
receiving a fine of 200 Euro. The Real Madrid fan club paid the fine.65
SOCCER ANTISEMITISM ABROAD
Antisemitism in and around soccer fields manifests itself in many
ways in several countries. Already in 1999, the Swiss-based International
Federation of Football (FIFA) had condemned the racist actions of the
Romanian Soccer Federation Vice President Dumitru Dragomir. Dragomir
was the editor of a publication in which Jews were referred to as “potential
In 2007, the American Jewish Committee published an overview of
antisemitism related to soccer in a number of countries.
67 One extreme case
resulted in a death. After a match between Paris Saint-Germain and Hapoel
Tel Aviv in Paris in November 2006, “a fan of both clubs was chased by
about 150 Paris Saint-Germain supporters. An undercover police officer
who tried to help him was himself attacked and subjected to racial slurs
about his black skin color. When the use of tear gas proved insufficient to
stop the attackers, the policeman pulled his gun and fired a shot, accidentally
killing a Paris Saint-Germain fan and wounding another.”
68 One among many cases of antisemitism in soccer stadiums in 2011
was when top UK team Chelsea played in Malaysia. There were antisemitic
64. Hadassa Hirschfeld, “Antisemitische incidenten in Nederland. Overzicht
over het jaar 2003 en de periode 1 januari–5 mei 2004,” CIDI.
65. “Real Madrid betaalt boetes antisemitische hooligans,” Parool, 18 May
66. “World Soccer Federation Assures ADL Antisemitism Is Unacceptable;
FIFA Seeks to Distance the Sport from a Romanian Racist,” Anti-Defamation
League, August 16, 1999.
67. Yves Pallade, Christoph Villinger, and Deidre Berger, “Antisemitism and
Racism in European Soccer,” AJC Berlin Office/Ramer Center for German-Jewish
Relations, May 2007.
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chants shouted at its Israeli player Jossi Benayoun.69 Chelsea protested and
afterward Malaysia apologized.70 The subject of soccer antisemitism in
various countries is widespread enough to warrant an updated study.
Elements of incidents similar to those in the Netherlands occur elsewhere
in Europe. For instance, after antisemitic insults were made against
their club, mostly non-Jewish fans of the London-based Tottenham Hotspur
called themselves Yiddos, which has led to demands that this be stopped.71
In Poland, soccer hooligans often shout: “Jews to the gas,” ”Kill the Jewish
whores,” or “Hit the Jew on their trap.” Soccer clubs have long ignored this,
explaining it as “Polish folklore.” In the summer of 2011, Polish Prime
Minister Donald Tusk said that to stop this was of prime importance for
him.72 Nowhere, however, does a multifaceted situation exist identical to
the Dutch one concerning Ajax.
AN IMPORTANT ISSUE
Antisemitism in the Dutch soccer world is ubiquitous and has had
many negative consequences. Hate songs, which were once confined to specific
areas—mainly stadiums and their environment—have now permeated
the Dutch public domain. The phenomenon also exemplifies how discriminatory
attacks directed at Jews intermingle or are followed by aggression
against other groups. The text “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” expresses
eloquently how anti-Israelism and antisemitism go together.
The official reactions to the phenomenon expose how weak the Dutch
justice system has been in implementing existing legislation for a long time.
Society is also often more concerned about the police’s behavior than that
of the hooligans or criminals. Both of these topics are outside the scope of
The history of the antisemitic chants at the Dutch soccer fields also
opens up a window onto Dutch society at large and its long culture of tolerance
for the intolerable. The brutal murder of Theo van Gogh in 2004 by
Mohammed Bouyeri, a radical Muslim, was a warning sign to Dutch society
at large and also a turning point; yet, it has taken many more years to
begin dealing with the problem on the soccer fields.
69. Dominic Fiffield, “Chelsea object to ‘antisemitic’ abuse of Yossi Benayoun
in Malaysia,” Guardian, July 28, 2011.
70. “Malaysian FA apologises to Chelsea’s Yossi Benayoun after abuse claim,”
Guardian, July 29, 2011.
71. Ivor Baddiel, “ ‘Alarming’ level of antisemitism in football must be tackled,”
The Telegraph, April 14, 2011.
72. “Antisemitismus als Folklore,” TAZ, September 5, 2011.
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For a long time, few understood how an issue unrelated to real Jews
mutated into many ugly and antisemitic directions. Even now, some Jews
write articles claiming that the hate chants have nothing to do with
antisemitism—as if that were the crux of the problem.73 Such people lack
the ability to see an issue in its full context.
The history of antisemitism on Dutch soccer fields shows how Jews
are very often drawn into problematic situations against their will. They
must always be far more on guard against potential risks than the average
Dutchman. Simultaneously, the issue illustrates once again how problems
involving Jews offer a prism view onto Dutch society.
It is evident that a more detailed analysis of antisemitism and racism
on Dutch soccer fields would be important for many reasons. This is so
even if a significant percentage of the hate-mongers are marginal individuals
*Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public
Affairs. His background is in chemistry, economics, environmental studies, and
Jewish studies. He has been an international business strategist for forty years; his
clients have included the boards of several of the world’s largest multinational corporations,
as well as governments. Gerstenfeld has published twenty books, including
the Italian bestseller Revaluing Italy. His recent book, in Dutch—The Decay:
Jews in a Rudderless Netherlands—has sparked a major public and parliamentary
debate in that country, and has had an international impact as well. The research for
this essay was made possible through the support of the Stichting Collectieve
Marorgelden Israel (SCMI).
73. Martijn Kleijwegt, “Wangedrag supporters is geen antisemitisme,” Volkskrant,
March 25, 2011.