Earlier this week, I posted about the amazing debut of Jewish Aussie Rules Football Player Harry Sheezel, who wowed all and sundry with his almost best-on-ground performance. On the basis of that performance, he earned the Rising Star nomination and a two-year contract extension.
But there has been an incident that has soured things somewhat.
The AFL has been accused of discrimination after it was reportedly prepared to confiscate an Israeli flag at Saturday’s match between North Melbourne and the West Coast Eagles at Marvel Stadium.
The flag was prominently displayed throughout the match in North Melbourne’s supporter section and had been brought in support of the club’s star debutant and Jewish man Harry Sheezel.
Various reports on Wednesday, which have not been refuted by the AFL, said certain supporters objected to the presence of the Israeli flag at the game, and the league’s security lead said it should have been confiscated or the person in possession of the flag asked to leave the ground.
Later on Wednesday, however, the AFL insisted that this advice was incorrect and said it had “no issue” with the flag.
Speaking to Melbourne radio station 3AW on Wednesday, Gary, the father of the person who brought the flag to the ground, said it was “not surprising from the AFL”.
Sheezel himself told AFL 360 shortly after his dream debut, for which he was awarded the league’s Rising Star nomination, that he appreciated the support he received.
“As the game went on I kind of heard the chants and I saw a few flags and Cheezel packets around the ground,” he said.
“It just made me feel so supported and loved.”
Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said the AFL’s stance “feels like discrimination and double standards”.
“Either you have a consistent enforcement policy concerning all national flags that demonstrates coherency and fairness or you don’t,” Dr Abramovich said.
“This case does feel like discrimination and double standards especially when you consider that there were no objections or statements by (AFL chief executive) Gillon McLachlan when last year Magpies fans celebrated in front of Collingwood forward Mason Cox by waving a US flag,” he said.
“If indeed it is the case that the AFL’s official policy is to ban the Israeli flag from being unfurled during footy matches, then the organisation has a lot of explaining to do, including have they banned national flags on previous occasions, and if so, when?”
“Or is there something about the Israeli flag that the AFL finds offensive and worthy of exclusion?”
On Wednesday, the AFL said the correspondence to a fan who took issue with the flag was wrong.
“For clarity, the AFL has no issue with the flag and signs supporting North Melbourne’s Harry Sheezel on the weekend,” the league said in a statement.
“Correspondence sent to a patron that had an issue with the flag being displayed was an incorrect interpretation of our conditions of match day entry policy and we apologise for any confusion.
“An AFL match day is a place for everyone. We want fans to celebrate their clubs and players, and if that includes displaying national flags that amplify any of their team’s player heritage, then the AFL is fully supportive.”
I should point out that national flags have been seen at AFL matches before – like when Irish player Zach Tuohy was carried off the MCG with the Portlaoise flag, and when fans waved a US flag for US-born player Mason Cox. I do not recall anyone complaining about them.
I suspect those who took issue with the flag would not take issue with the constant display of palestinian flags at football games around the world, including the recent World Cup. And in those cases, it has been purely political and has nothing to do with the heritage of any particular player.
Meanwhile, the fact these Jewish fans brought an Israeli flag to show support for their fellow Jew is a further indication as to how Zionism is integral to Judaism. For every time the antisemites bring one anti-Zionist Jew as “proof” that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism, I can bring 99 Jews who think otherwise.
Hat tip: Mark