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154 soccer fans were arrested Saturday for singing antisemitic chants

Swedish Rasmus Elm of AZ Alkmaar, right, blocks Ajax player Toby Alderweireld’s shot on goal during the replay of the soccer match Ajax against AZ Alkmaar at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012. Antisemitism is on the rise across Europe, experts say. | Peter Dejong, Associated Press

More than 150 soccer fans were arrested Saturday in Amsterdam for singing antisemitic chants together as they made their way to a game, according to The New York Times.

The fans continued singing even after they were told to stop, the article said, noting that they were ultimately charged with “insulting a group of people because of their race, religion or conviction,” among other crimes.

The incident occurred ahead of a match between AZ Alkmaar and Ajax, both of which are part of the top tier of soccer clubs in the Netherlands.

Ajax is associated with Jewish culture because it has roots “in a historically Jewish area of ​​the city,” The New York Times reported.

“Although Ajax does not currently have Jewish players, and it was not founded as a Jewish club, emblems of Jewish identity have long been associated with the Amsterdam team. … Die-hard fans — even those who aren’t Jewish — wear Star of David necklaces in support of the club,” the article said.

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AZ Alkmaar issued a statement Saturday condemning its own fans’ behavior.

“The club strongly condemns inflammatory behavior and discrimination and emphatically distances itself from those who made themselves guilty of it,” AZ Alkmaar said.

Antisemitism is becoming more common

One Dutch expert on antisemitism told The New York Times that Saturday’s incident is part of a broader wave of anti-Jewish sentiment sweeping across The Netherlands.

“People’s awareness continues to decline,” said Naomi Mestrum, the director of the Center for Information and Documentation Israel in the Netherlands. “I’m especially worried about a lack of historical awareness and the seriousness of antisemitism.”

Recent research has shown that antisemitic remarks and behaviors have become fairly common in the country, including in schools.

“According to a recent survey, 40% of Dutch school teachers report witnessing at least one antisemitic incident in the past year,” Mosaic magazine reported earlier this year.

Antisemitism in Europe

The Netherlands is not the only country in Europe dealing with a surge in antisemitism. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom highlighted a widespread rise in religion-related violence and discrimination on the continent in its latest report, as the Deseret News reported last week.

“We’ve seen social intolerance that’s causing some religious communities to leave some European countries,” said Imam Mohamed Magid, a member of the commission, during a May 1 event tied to the new report.

In the Netherlands, officials have committed to combating anti-Jewish violence.

“In December 2022, the Dutch government announced a plan to combat antisemitism in the Netherlands to show that the country takes the problem seriously,” The New York Times reported.

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