US/World News

France rescinds ban on Israeli flag during soccer match

(JTA) — Following protests, authorities in eastern France rescinded a ban they had issued forbidding soccer fans from Israel to come to the center of Strasbourg and fly their country’s flag. The prohibitions, which are unusual and provoked vociferous criticism, came in a four-page order July 25 from the head of the Bas-Rhin district office prior to that day’s match in a Strasbourg stadium between Maccabi Haifa and the Strasbourg Racing Club. Hours before the match, the office said it is lifting the ban. The decree, which cited the risk of antisemitic incidents, followed an incident on the previous night in which three Israeli soccer fans in town for the match got into an altercation with locals that turned violent. The Israelis escaped without serious injury.

Aliza Binoun, Israel’s ambassador to France, complained to the French government over the ban, she said on Twitter. Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev called it “unbelievable.” The office then said the ban on flags only applied to the stadium.

On July 11, an Algerian team’s victory in a major match in France resulted in riots across French cities that ended with hundreds of arrests on violent offenses, including injuries to several police officers. Algerian flags were not banned during that match.

Critics of the original ban, including the lawmaker Meyer Habib, decried it as hypocritical and discriminatory. The Europa League match ended without incident, with a 3-1 loss for Maccabi Haifa.

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