Twitter users in Spain posted 17,500 messages of anti-Semitic abuse after Israeli basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Real Madrid at the weekend, Jewish associations said Tuesday.
Twelve Jewish groups in the northeastern Catalonia region lodged a legal complaint over the messages, which they said flooded onto the Twitter network after Maccabi’s narrow win in the Euroleague final on Sunday.
Angry Spanish supporters created an expletive anti-Semitic hashtag in their messages after the match, which briefly became one of the most popular keywords on Twitter in Spain.
Ruben Noboa of the Jewish group Israel in Catalonia said he launched the lawsuit after seeing references in some messages to death camps and the mass murder of Jews in the Holocaust.
“When we saw reactions to Maccabi’s victory such as ‘Jews to the oven’ or ‘Jews to the showers’, we decided to lodge this judicial complaint,” Noboa told AFP.
Eleven other Jewish associations have joined in his lawsuit, in which he presented copies of anti-Semitic tweets to state prosecutors, he said.
The associations singled out five people who were identified by their real names on Twitter, accusing them of “incitement to hatred and discrimination” — a crime punishable by up to three years’ jail in Spain.
A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League, an international campaign against anti-Semitism, said Spain ranked third in Europe for prejudice against Jews, after Greece and France.
Jews have been scarce in Spain since their large communities were mostly expelled by Roman Catholic authorities in the late 15th century.
“Hardly anyone here knows any Jews, but the cliches and stereotypes persist and are also fed by Catholicism,” said Noboa.
Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz last week launched a crackdown on “defence of crime or incitement to hatred” on the web, in response to online messages that glorified the murder of a ruling party politician, Isabel Carrasco.
Police have arrested at least three people for insulting Carrasco on online services such as Twitter.
The Jewish associations behind Tuesday’s lawsuit called on the interior ministry to take a similar line against the anti-Semitic abuse over the basketball match.