THE ENGLAND TEAM IS TO VISIT AUSCHWITZ

It seems incredible to me that the FA are thinking of setting up “safe zones” for English fans in order to protect blacks and Asians. Why was this not thought through at the time the Championships were awarded to Poland and Ukraine?

One argument could be that by shining the spotlight on these countries it will help the forces of light confront those of race hatred and darkness.

I am moved that the England team will visit Auschwitz. Whatever the “sins” of the current Israeli government, whatever the terrible things that have happened in Bosnia, Rwanda and now in Syria – remembering the Holocaust is remembering all the atrocities systematically committed by humans against each other and an acknowledgement of the darkest parts of our own psyche.

The Panorama documentary was terrifying to me as a human and as a Jew. A savage reminder that this is one of the many places in the world where I may be hated just because of the accident of my birth. At this time, amidst the Jubilee celebrations and my own demonstration of Republicanism I rejoice that this can still happen in relative safety. I rejoice in the good humour with which the crowds dressed in Union Jacks and the republican demonstrators were able to chide each other as we all stood there in the rain, each celebrating their own cause.

The history of anti-Semitism in Poland is well known and sadly continues though it is against the law. In Ukraine, see Michel Goldfarb in the Observer this week – “the problems seem to run even deeper”. He describes, how in the absence of effective politics “the racist mentality is taking hold among the younger generation”. The mix is powerful, explosive, based on a cultural anger and the possibility of defining yourself “against”. Until a society is able to grow and define its own internal structures without this need, until a society has the confidence and self- belief to find its values internally then sadly this will continue.

The legacy of the 2nd World War the Holocaust and the Cold War continues and is easy to find in Poland and the Ukraine. I welcome a society such as our own where the actions of John Terry, Suarez and others on the football field are held up to the spotlight of publicity.  I celebrate the consensus that these actions are unacceptable and admissible in an open and confident society.  Rio Ferdinand may be justified in his opinion that the reason for his absence from the England team is not just about football. He is able to state his case without fear and to get a lot of support from all over the country.

So as the Jubilee passes with a thankful sigh (in my case), though I could not resist the concert particularly Tom Jones’ brilliant Spanish version of Delilah, let us appreciate a society that has to some degree come to terms with itself in terms of accepting not only that difference exists but that it is important for our common moral and spiritual health.  Difference is not to be “tolerated” it is to be embraced.

Let the England football team’s visit to Auschwitz symbolise the values we bring to the European Championships – even in the midst of austerity and the sheer confusion around the team itself.  It is possible to be proud of our country without a monarchy, without xenophobia, to be OK in our own skin without needing to define ourselves against anyone else.

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