Dutch station apologizes for accusing soccer fans of anti-Semitism

Public broadcaster report of Utrecht fans chanting anti-Jewish slogans was missing context, since supporters of other teams also use anti-Semitic sayings

Illustrative photo of FC Utrecht fans (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Geüpload door Luctor/CC BY-SA 3.0)
Illustrative photo of FC Utrecht fans (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Geüpload door Luctor/CC BY-SA 3.0)

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch main public broadcaster apologized to supporters of a local soccer team for omitting context from reports on the singing of anti-Semitic chants by some fans of the team.

The unusual apology earlier this month by NOS was over its coverage of the January 14 match game in Utrecht between the FC Utrecht team and the Ajax club from Amsterdam. The report highlighted chants by fans of “The Jews are going to the slaughter” and “whoever doesn’t jump is a Jew.”

In reporting about the chants by Utrecht fans, the broadcaster failed to mention that fans from other teams often chant similar phrases, and some claim the chants are not anti-Semitic, NOS spokeswoman Anja van Ginhoven told the Algemeen Dagblad daily following complaints.

“It was selective outrage on our part, a blunder,” she said.

Anti-Jewish chants are common in the Netherlands in matches involving Ajax, which is associated with Jews because of the Dutch capital’s rich Jewish heritage.

Some Ajax fans self-identify as Jews and wave Israeli flags, though the team’s bosses discourage such behavior. Fans of rival teams, in turn, adopt anti-Jewish slogans and chants – including about gas chambers and SS murdering Jews – to taunt them.

“We didn’t handle it well,” van Ginhoven said about the NOS coverage of the January 14 match. “We exaggerated and we failed to set it in context. We should not have cut that text and presented it verbatim. If you cover this topic, you have to say that Utrecht supporters used the same chants that Ajax fans proudly use.”

However, Ajax fans, including ones who self-identify as “Jews,” do not chant about killing Jews.

Other European teams associated with Jews include London’s Tottenham Hotspur. Last week, a video of Manchester City fans headed to their team’s match with Tottenham showed them singing anti-Semitic chants – including “you’re getting gassed in the morning” – on a stadium-bound train.

NOS is often accused by pro-Israel activists of anti-Israel bias and journalistic omissions of context in reporting about the Jewish state.

In 2015, NOS defended its editing of a 52-second video depicting an Arab woman being shot by Israeli troops after brandishing a knife at a soldier. NOS trimmed the video to 13 seconds, dispensing with footage that showed the knife. The full video also showed the woman alive despite being shot, whereas the NOS clip ended beforehand. NOS did not indicate its clip was edited.

Amid complaints, Marcel Gelauff, the chief editor at NOS News, defended his network’s coverage of the incident, telling JTA that it was not aiming to provide “a clear and detailed picture” of what transpired, but rather “an impression of a few events.”

On January 20, Christians for Israel, a Zionist international group based in the Netherlands, wrote an open letter to the management of Utrecht FC urging “greater sensitivity” in light of “the bloody history” of Jews in the Netherlands, even if the chantgs were not directed at actual Jews.

“You needn’t explain these chants are not intended as personal insults. We get it,” wrote the organization’s director, Roger van Oordt, and its chairman, Dick Schutte.

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