Community leaders have condemned Liverpool Football Club’s decision to remove its Jewish new year greeting from its Twitter feed, after it sparked a torrent of anti-Semitic responses.
The club posted a message to their Jewish supporters on their official Twitter account on Wednesday, saying: “Liverpool FC would like to wish all our Jewish supporters around the world a happy new year. #RoshHashanah”. But the message was removed within hours after it attracted anti-Semitic responses – including some referring to Hitler – which are now being investigated by Merseyside Police.
However Mark Gardener, of the CST, believed the club should have kept their New Year greeting up. He said: “CST wishes that only the anti-Semitic tweets had been removed, rather than the entire Rosh Hashanah thread that Liverpool FC had so positively begun. The saddest and most important thing here is that a Jewish New Year greeting should have met such a wide anti-Semitic reaction.”
“There should be nothing provocative about wishing Jews a happy new year,” he said. “If people directed anti-Jewish abuse at the club it should have stood firm and not removed the greeting. They removed the tweet when they were on the receiving end of anti-Jewish abuse, but Jews cannot simply ‘remove’ their Judaism to avoid abuse. Nor should we ever have to. Non-Jews must stand in solidarity with Jews to fight this sort of hatred. Hiding from it to avoid it is never going to work.”
The Board of Deputies tweeted: “@LFC acted correctly in removing the anti-Semitic material posted on its social media site.” In another tweet, the Board added: “It is profoundly sad and disturbing that racists post abusive material in response to the club’s goodwill message for Rosh Hashanah.” It later clarified that it agreed the original greeting should not have been removed.
Since removing its message, the club tweeted yesterday: “LFC believes in the practice of religious freedom – we seek a world in which we can send good wishes to supporters without hateful responses.”
Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, contacted the club having received a number of complaints about the anti-Semitic abuse that followed the original greeting, and reported the alleged hate crimes to True Vision, the police’s online reporting facility. The decision to remove the tweet however came independently of any advice from Kick it Out.
A LFC spokesperson said: “Due to a number of offensive comments that were attached to a tweet on the official LFC twitter account, the tweet and comments have since been removed from the account.”
A spokesperson for Kick It Out said: “It is encouraging that a football club recognises these holidays and religious landmarks – Liverpool did the same for Ramadan – but extremely sad when a club does that in a proactive manner and gets these responses. Premier League clubs appeal to supporters around the world and it would have been nice for Liverpool’s Jewish supporters to see this message from their club, that’s the bigger issue. It should be welcomed that clubs are doing this is in a proactive manner.”
The case is currently being investigated by Merseyside police. A force spokesperson said: “We can confirm that officers are investigating after a number of offensive tweets were posted on the Liverpool Football Club Twitter feed last week (Thursday, 25 September). Our enquiries are ongoing and officers are working to identify those responsible for the posts.”