ROME (JTA) – An Italian judge sparked anger by ruling that soccer fans chanting a slogan featuring the word “Jews” was not hate speech.
In a letter to Italy’s Justice Minister Andrea Orlando, the president of the Rome Jewish community, Ruth Dureghello called the ruling earlier this month “undoubtedly an alarming precedent for justice” in Italy that “in essence legitimizes the use of the adjective Jew in a derogatory and racist form and in any case a tool of derision during sporting events.”
The president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Noemi Di Segni, issued a separate protest to soccer authorities. Orlando was quoted by news media as saying he would look into the matter. The case dates back to March 2013, when two fans of the Lazio soccer team were caught on camera during a match between Lazio and Catania chanting “giallorosso ebreo,” Italian for “yellow-red Jew” – apparently directed against the Catania team as Lazio’s opponents in that match.
The chant refers to Lazio’s arch-rival, the Roma team, whose team colors are yellow and red. In his ruling Judge Ezio Damizia acquitted the pair of incitement and racial hatred, stating that the term “giallorosso ebreo” was aimed simply at “ridiculing the opposing team” and fell within the scope of the long “sporting rivalry” between Lazio and Roma.
Militant Lazio fans are notorious for anti-Semitic and racist behavior. Just weeks before the March 2013 chanting incident, European soccer authorities sanctioned Lazio for earlier anti-Semitic behaviour by fans with a suspended one-game stadium ban.