BERLIN (JTA) – Police in Berlin have apologized to German fans of the Ingolstadt Soccer Club for making them roll up the Israeli flag they were displaying during a match in the city.
Almog Cohen, an Israeli who plays for Ingolstadt, reportedly tweeted in Hebrew after Sunday’s incident in the game against Union Berlin that a stadium marshal told the fans “no Jew-flags” were allowed.
“I apologize to all those affected” by the decision, Berlin’s police president, Klaus Kandt, said in a statement to Spiegel Online magazine.
The Bild Zeitung newspaper said the police were concerned with the flag’s political implications, given the large Palestinian community in Berlin – by some estimates about 30,000 people, including those with German citizenship.
Kandt said that police should rather be concerned with protecting freedom of opinion.
A team spokesperson said they would not interfere with police decisions, since they would then bear responsibility should problems ensue.
Berlin’s interior minister, Frank Henkel, currently visiting Israel, told the Bild that he was sure the police meant well but that they had made the wrong decision.
“This is not the first time that an Israeli flag has been removed for supposed security reasons,” Sacha Stawski, the founder of Germany’s pro-Israel media watchdog Honestly Concerned, told JTA.
In January 2009, police removed Israeli flags from an apartment window overlooking a massive anti-Israel demonstration in Duisburg. The police chief later apologized, saying that the officers only wanted to prevent the anti-Israel demonstrators from rampaging in response to seeing the Israeli flags.
“In my mind, nobody should ever come up with the idea of removing an Israeli flag in order not to incite a certain group of the population,” Stawski said.