French authorities rescind ban on Israeli flag during Strasbourg soccer game
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French authorities rescind ban on Israeli flag during Strasbourg soccer game

After protests, officials lift restrictions on Maccabi Haifa fans which they said were due to risk of anti-Semitic incidents; game ends with 3-1 loss for Israeli team

Maccabi Haifa fans celebrate a goal during the UEFA Europa League preliminary round football match between Strasbourg and Maccabi Haifa at the Meinau stadium in Strasbourg on July 25, 2019 (Screen grab via sport1.co.il)
Maccabi Haifa fans celebrate a goal during the UEFA Europa League preliminary round football match between Strasbourg and Maccabi Haifa at the Meinau stadium in Strasbourg on July 25, 2019 (Screen grab via sport1.co.il)

JTA — Following protests, authorities in eastern France rescinded a ban they had issued forbidding soccer fans from Israel to come to the center of Strasbourg and fly their country’s flag.

The prohibitions, which are unusual and provoked vociferous criticism, came in a four-page order Thursday from the head of the Bas-Rhin district office prior to Thursday’s game in a Strasbourg stadium between Maccabi Haifa and the Strasbourg Racing Club.

Hours before the game, the office said it was lifting the ban.

The decree, which cited the risk of anti-Semitic incidents, followed an incident on Wednesday night in which three Israeli soccer fans in town for the game got into an altercation with locals that turned violent. The Israelis escaped without serious injury.

Maccabi Haifa’s Ukrainian midfielder Maxim Plakushchenko (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League preliminary round football match between Strasbourg and Maccabi Haifa at the Meinau stadium in Strasbourg, on July 25, 2019. (PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

Aliza Binoun, Israel’s ambassador to France, complained to the French government over the ban, she said on Twitter. Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev called it “unbelievable.”

The office then said the ban on flags only applied to the stadium.

On July 11, an Algerian team’s victory in a major game in France resulted in riots across French cities that ended with hundreds of arrests on violent offenses, including injuries to several police officers. Algerian flags were not banned during that game.

Critics of the original ban, including the lawmaker Meyer Habib, decried it as hypocritical and discriminatory.

The Europa League game ended without incident, with a 3-1 loss for Maccabi Haifa.

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