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27 Jul, 2019 12:51

Ban on Israeli flags during football game in France was ‘absurd and dangerous for democracy’

Ban on Israeli flags during football game in France was ‘absurd and dangerous for democracy’

French police risked creating a dangerous precedent when they tried to ban Israeli football fans from flying their country’s flag out of fear of anti-Semitic incidents, a Jewish community adviser and security analyst told RT.

French authorities created “an absurd situation” when they briefly banned Israeli flags during a football game earlier this week, Olivier Rafowicz told RT.

We’re talking about France, not some place in the Middle East, where there is a war [going on].

The controversy over the flag use arose on Thursday, when around 600 Israeli fans arrived in Strasbourg, a French city near the German border, to support Maccabi Haifa, which faced the local team, Strasbourg Racing Club. Police told the guests they were not permitted to fly Israeli flags downtown, citing safety concerns. There were reports that “politicized” fans with anti-Semitic views planned to “stage fights,” police said, explaining their decision.

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The authorities did not mention any specific incidents that may have led to the ban, but three supporters of the Israeli team were attacked by several locals the day before, escaping unharmed.

The ban immediately prompted backlash from the Jewish community in France and officials in Tel Aviv. Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev slammed the situation as “unbelievable” and urged the local authorities to “let the fans cheer their team like in all sports venues and competitions.” The country’s envoy to France, Aliza Bin Noun, blasted the decision, saying the authorities have banned the Israeli flag but allow protests calling for the boycott of Israel.

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Officials initially tried to defend their policy but ultimately revoked the ban just hours before the game, which ended with a 3-1 loss for the Israeli team. If the ban stayed, it would have created a dangerous precedent, Rafowicz stressed.

He pointed out that Strasbourg is a symbolic place since it hosts several important European institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights and the European Parliament.

You have to be open and protect any flag [of any country] in the world, when you have a sports game in your city. If you don’t do it, it shows that you’re afraid… of Islamic radicalism.

“It’s very dangerous for democracy and freedom,” Rafowicz said.

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