A footballing thought experiment

A footballing thought experiment:

  1. This is prompted by Alvaro Morata’s request for Chelsea fans to stop chanting the “Y-Word” https://twitter.com/AlvaroMorata/status/906579973443608576
  2. (The full wording of the chant is available here: https://twitter.com/BenXin16/status/906602917918109696)
  3. Some point out that the term can be an indicator of more than just “football banter”. https://twitter.com/craig4589/status/906606002778370049
  4. A point also made effectively made in this short video by @kickitout https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIvJC1_hKt8
  5. Inevitably, some have pointed out that Spurs fans chant the same thing…



  1. …and so argue that Chelsea fans should not be reproached for doing so. https://twitter.com/Murphy90_/status/906853400255528960


  1. Some say the term is used as a form of abuse against Spurs fans only, not against Jews… https://twitter.com/jaspermather26/status/906601677528223744


  1. …although Jewish fans of other clubs point out their dislike of the term. https://twitter.com/lu1820/status/906581267155701767



  1. However, some Spurs fans remain proud to refer to themselves as “Yid Army” https://twitter.com/stephenpollard/status/833353372786896896


  1. They argue they are reclaiming the word from opposing fans who initially chanted the term at them, and/or that it’s just a bit of fun.


  1. I don’t buy that: it normalises a racist term. @DavidHirsh explains why here: https://leftfootforward.org/2013/09/spurs-yid-antisemitism/


  1. Now for a comparable situation from history. Not a perfect analogy, but some parallels.


  1. Back in the ‘80s, John Barnes became the first black player to sign for Liverpool from another club.


  1. At derby matches, Everton fans chanted “N-rpool” and proudly asserted, “Everton are white!” https://megabackup.com/g/vvgt


  1. It is hard to imagine cruder or uglier racism.
  2. Such vile language is still used today as part of a broader racist discourse: https://megabackup.com/g/148v8


  1. Imagine Liverpool fans, purporting to show solidarity with Barnes, had adopted the “N-rpool” term for themselves or had started chanting “N-r army.”


  1. Would black Liverpool fans have initiated or welcomed this? (Doubtful)


  1. Would racist fans of other clubs have justified themselves by saying, “It’s what they call themselves”? (Probably)


  1. Would those racist fans have said to the black fans of their own clubs, “You’re following the wrong team, go and support that lot”? (Probably)


  1. Would black fans of other clubs not have pleaded Liverpool fans to stop using that term? (Almost certainly)


  1. No serious antiracist would think twice about denouncing the use of such language, either then or now. https://twitter.com/anfieldhq/status/575680093076484097


  1. I’m sure you can see where I’m heading. The time has come for fans of all clubs, including Spurs, to stop using the Y-Word.


  1. Some may object: “But the 80s was v different, we’ve come a long way since then.”


  1. They prove my point. Use of racist language about other ethnic minorities at football matches (and elsewhere) is now frowned upon.


  1. The use of racist language about Jews now needs to be treated in the same way. No matter who uses it and what their intentions are.


  1. @AlvaroMorata is to be commended for his appeal to Chelsea fans to stop using the Y-Word.


  1. Spurs fans need to stop using it too. Perhaps we now need a Spurs player to say the same thing as Morata. (End)






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Non-religious people against abortion

This post is prompted by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s recent comments about abortion and the inevitable, outraged response from many quarters. It is widely assumed that opponents of abortion are, as in Rees-Mogg’s case, motivated by religious belief. Whilst that is often the case, this post lists both well-known and lesser-known non-religious people who oppose(d) abortion to one extent or another.* I may update it from time to time.

  1. George Orwell in Keep the Aspidistra Flying 
  2. Christopher Hitchens, in debate with Frank Turek, recognises that an unborn child is a human being (0:07), considers that the occupant of the womb is a “candidate member of society” (2:08), says that the concept of an “unborn child” is a real one (1:44), says that it cannot only be the responsibility of the woman to decide upon the child’s future (2:12), says that the “unborn entity has a right on its side” and “that every effort” should normally be made to preserve him/her (4:40).
  3. “Pro-life feminist” Bex, who cites first-wave feminists in support of her position.
  4. This man (ignore the quirks on the website).
  5. Another “pro-life feminist” (ditto)
  6. This man (ditto)
  7. One of my Twitter followers.

PS According to the British Social Attitudes survey, in 2012 34% of the UK population rejected the proposition that law should allow an abortion when the woman decides on her own she does not wish to have the child. Given the declining levels of religious belief/observance in British life, it seems unlikely that all who rejected this proposition did so for religious reasons. The statistic also, of course, suggests that there is more support for Rees-Mogg’s general position on abortion (if not his specific position concerning rape) than some of his critics appear to believe.

*By “opposing abortion”, I mean this in general terms only, i.e. I include those who oppose abortion on principle but may (like Christopher Hitchens) make exceptions e.g. where the mother’s life is seriously endangered or (in contrast to Jacob Rees-Mogg) in the case of rape or incest.

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Chris Williamson: accusations of antisemitism are “proxy wars and bullshit”

This is now available on the Engage site.


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The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved”. Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross”. Londoners have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz began in 1940 and tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance”. The last time the British issued “A Bloody Nuisance” warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

Also, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide”. The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

It’s not only the English and French who are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans also increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose”.

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual, and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

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“A chilling spectre at the table of justice”

From the introduction to Deborah Lipstadt’s book “History on Trial”:
‘[Following Deborah Lipstadt’s victory in the libel trial brought against her by David Irving,] most commentary in Britain was enthusiastic. But two professional historians dissented. Donald Cameron Watt wrote a column for the Evening Standard, published the afternoon of the judgment, that was headlined ‘History needs David Irving’. Watt said, ‘Show me one historian who has not broken into a cold sweat at the thought of undergoing similar treatment’ – similar to the trial’s exposure of Irving’s lies. The next morning in The Daily Telegraph, Sir John Keegan, an eminent military historian, said Judge Gray had “decided that an all consuming knowledge of a vast body of material does not excuse faults in interpreting it.”
Watt and Keegan wrote as if Deborah Lipstadt had initiated this trial. But it was David Irving who sued her, who forced her either to swallow his lies or spend five years of her life proving him to be what he was, a racist faker. How can we explain the reaction of Watt and Keegan? Was it fostered by resentment of an outsider, someone who was not a member of the club, who was Jewish, a woman?
Whatever informed their perverse response, it was a chilling spectre at the table of justice.’
(From Anthony Lewis’ introduction to Deborah Lipstadt’s book, History on Trial [Harper Perennial, 2006], p. xv. Some minor edits have been made.)
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In the comments, “MehtaKultur” draws attention to a note produced by David Blunkett in the 2004 case of R v Kalayci, which claimed that the “wings” distinction was based on the UK government’s dealings with the IRA. Whilst the government had proscribed the Provisional IRA, it had not proscribed Sinn Féin for fear of undermining the Northern Ireland peace process. However, this has little to do with the reality of a foreign organisation such as Hizballah, which itself denies the “wings” distinction in strident terms.


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Closing the loophole: time to clip Hizballah’s “wings”

This is a guest post by James Mendelsohn

On 18 June, just 15 days after the terror attacks in central London, the flag of Hizballah was paraded through central London at the annual Al-Quds Day March, without police intervention. This post argues for an urgent change in the law.

Introducing Hizballah*

Hizballah, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia group, was established in the early 1980s, with the initial aim of driving foreign forces out of Lebanon. Its bombing of French and American bases in Beirut in 1983 claimed 299 lives. It is best known for its hostility towards Israel, culminating in the ruinous 2006 war. More recently, Hizballah has supported President Assad in Syria.

Hizballah’s chosen salute and militaristic emblem require little commentary. Nor do the ominous 2002 words of its leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Nor does its track record of terrorist and criminal activity across the globe. However, Hizballah has also participated in elections in Lebanon since 1992. It won 10 seats in 2009 and holds government positions. It also provides social welfare. Consequently, Hizballah is not completely “proscribed” under current UK law.

“Proscription” and its consequences

Under section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (“the Act”), “terrorism” has a three-part definition. It comprises of: the “use or threat of action” involving (among other things) “serious violence”; “for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause”; which is “designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation”. This can include action undertaken overseas and/or which is designed to influence the government of countries other than the UK.

Under Section 3, an organisation is proscribed if it is listed in Schedule 2 – either as originally drafted, or as subsequently amended.

Section 13(1) makes it an offence for a person, in a public place, to wear an item of clothing, or to wear, carry or display an “article” (which clearly includes a flag) “in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation” (emphasis added).

On a plain reading of these provisions, Hizballah is clearly “proscribable”. Equally, it seems it should be an arrestable offence to display the Hizballah flag in public. The latter is not the case, however, because UK legislation distinguishes between Hizballah’s (supposed) “military” and “political” “wings”.

Hizballah’s “wings” – the current distinction

Hizballah was not included within the original Schedule 2, which comprised solely of organisations linked to Northern Ireland. The “Hizballah External Security Organisation” was added in 2001. In 2008, this wording was replaced by a reference to “[t]he military wing of Hizballah, including the Jihad Council and all units reporting to it (including the Hizballah External Security Organisation).” The other “wings” of Hizballah – its MPs, government ministers and social welfare activities – are not proscribed.

The consequences of the distinction

The consequences of this distinction were clearly seen on Al-Quds Day when, as in previous years, Hizballah flags and other articles were paraded through London. No arrests were made. Since all “wings” share the emblem, the police appear not to see its parading as constituting an offence under section 13 of the Act.

Some of the emblem-bearers – perhaps encouraged by the rally’s organisers – even affixed stickers expressing support for the political “wing”. Yet they also chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a rallying cry with clear militaristic overtones. This would appear to undermine any claim that they were supporting the political “wing” only. 

For and against the distinction

Arguments for maintaining the distinction are not persuasive. There is no consistent international approach: whilst some countries (and the EU) ban only Hizballah’s political “wing”, it is banned entirely in others, including the USA. If the reason was to facilitate UK government contact with Hizballah’s political “wing”, there was no such contact as late as 2013 (see paragraph 48.13 of this document). If the aim was to encourage Hizballah to disarm and wholly embrace democratic politics, this has clearly failed.

Most importantly, however, Hizballah itself has consistently rejected any notion of separate “wings”. An early document stated

“Our military apparatus is not separate from our overall social fabric. Each of us is a fighting soldier”.

In 2000, deputy secretary-general Sheikh Naim Qassem said:

“If the military wing were separated from the political wing, this would have repercussions, and it would reflect on the political scene. But Hezbollah has one single leadership, and its name is the Decision-Making Shura Council. It manages the political activity, the Jihad activity, the cultural and the social activities. . . . Hezbollah’s Secretary General is the head of the Shura Council and also the head of the Jihad Council, and this means that we have one leadership, with one administration.”

In 2002, Muhammad Fannish of Hizballah’s Political Bureau said that

“no differentiation is to be made between the military wing and the political wing of Hezbollah.”

In 2013, Hezbollah’s Political Affairs Official, Ammar Moussawi said

“Everyone is aware of the fact that Hezbollah is one body and one entity. Its military and political wings are unified.”

Hassan Nasrallah settled the matter beyond doubt with this 2013 statement:

“However, jokingly I will say – though I disagree on such separation or division- that I suggest that our ministers in the upcoming Lebanese government be from the military wing of Hezbollah!”

In the light of such clear statements, the distinction between the military and other “wings” maintained in UK legislation seems artificial and untenable.

Time to abolish the distinction

We end where we began. It seems unconscionable that just 15 days after the central London terror attacks, the flags of a terrorist group were paraded through nearby streets with impunity. Since the Al-Quds Day March, there have been calls from both Conservative and Labour figures (including Sadiq Khan) for the distinction to be abolished and for Hizballah to be proscribed in its entirety. It is to be hoped that the Home Secretary will now do so.

*The original Arabic term, meaning “Party of God”, can also be transliterated as “Hezbollah” or “Hizbullah”. “Hizballah” is used in UK legislation.


In the comments on the cross-post of this piece on Harry’s Place, “MehtaKultur” draws attention to a note produced by David Blunkett in the 2004 case of R v Kalayci, which claimed that the “wings” distinction was based on the UK government’s dealings with the IRA. Whilst the government had proscribed the Provisional IRA, it had not proscribed Sinn Féin for fear of undermining the Northern Ireland peace process. However, this has little to do with the reality of a foreign organisation such as Hizballah, which itself denies the “wings” distinction in strident terms.

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