The chants were condemned by director of Vitesse club Pascal van Wijk.
Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs and Vitesse Mayor Ahmed Marcouch agreed that words of condemnation were not enough but that a constructive approach of engaging and holding a dialogue with supporters was needed.
Police are investigating footage from a fan rally prior to a football game last week between two Dutch teams where fans chanted “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.”
The incident, first reported by the Dutch news outlet De Gelderlander occurred on April 14 at a rally prior to a match between the Arnhem-based Vitesse and Amsterdam-based Ajax football clubs.
The chant came from fans of Vitesse towards Ajax, whose players and supporters have long been affectionately known as “the Jews” due to the team’s large Jewish support and the history of Jews in Amsterdam. Numerous videos of the incident have been posted on social media.
The chants were condemned by Pascal van Wijk, director of the Vitesse team. “It is just deeply saddening that a small group of supporters misbehaved in such a way,” he told De Gelderlander.
Following the incident, Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, who is also Chairman of the European Jewish Association’s committee for combatting anti-semitism, got in touch with the Muslim Mayor of Arnhem, Ahmed Marcouch. Both agree to hold in the next few days a “town hall” meeting with Vitesse fans with the full support of the football club’s hierarchy.
They agreed that words of condemnation were not enough but that a constructive approach of engaging and holding a dialogue with supporters was needed.
Mayor Marcouch then contacted the Vitesse hierarchy to arrange a meeting with the supporters group.
Rabbi Jacobs said, “clearly the chants are abhorrent and disgusting. They are ignorant and a twin attack on Jews: on Israel and on the Holocaust. The natural reaction is to condemn in the strongest possible terms. We, of course, do so.
“But that on its own is not enough. We must be constructive, we must engage, we must educate so that those who chant what they think are throw-away lines in the spirit of rivalry, are fully aware of the weight of their words, of the damage and hurt that they cause.
The mayor and I, a Jew and a Muslim are fully aware of the dangers of ignorant prejudice. And we are also fully aware that boxing people in with condemnation can just entrench positions into “them and us”. This serves nobody’s interest. Our town hall meeting for which I am grateful to the Mayor for initiating, will be a frank, and we imagine difficult, exchange of views. But an entirely necessary one.”
In a letter sent to UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) President, Aleksander Ceferin, the Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Shimon Samuels, noted that “though Vitesse club manager, Pascal Van Wyk, denounced the offence as, ‘deeply saddening that a small group of supporters misbehaved in such a way,’ this was patently insufficient to prevent a recurrence.”
“Mr. President, we turn to UEFA not only for statements, but also to see that SBV Vitesse Arnhem – currently 4th in the Eredivisie – be moved to the bottom of the League, as a message that hate has no place in Soccerhe Beautiful Game’,” he wrote.