'Prove you stand against violence': Antisemitism campaigners slam 'cowardly' decision to not light up Wembley for Israel

13 October 2023, 12:30 | Updated: 13 October 2023, 12:32

The decision not to illuminate Wembley in Israel's colours has been condemned
The decision not to illuminate Wembley in Israel's colours has been condemned. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The Football Association's decision not to illuminate Wembley in the colours of Israel is "cowardly", campaigners have said.

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The stadium's arch will not be lit up in Israel's white and blue during England's game against Australia on Friday.

The sporting body has instead chosen to hold a period of silence for the victims of the violence and the players will wear arm bands.

But displays for countries not involved in the friendly will be banned.

In a letter addressed to the FA's chief executive Mark Bullingham and Premier League boss Richard Masters, the Campaign Against Antisemitism's head Gideon Falter said: "As you are aware, last weekend over 1,300 Israeli citizens were slaughtered in cold blood by an antisemitic genocidal terror group designated as a terrorist organisation by the British Government.

"It was the largest number of Jewish civilians to be murdered in one day since the Holocaust.

Read more: FA's refusal to light Wembley with Israel colours 'mind-blowing,' Lord Mann tells LBC

Wembley's arch will not be lit up in Israel's colours
Wembley's arch will not be lit up in Israel's colours. Picture: Alamy

"They were raped and gunned down in their homes. Children were murdered in front of their parents, and parents were murdered in front of their children.

"Babies were decapitated. Scores of hostages have been taken by the terror group, including infants, the elderly, a Holocaust survivor, paraded through the streets and spat on and tormented."

He added: "To decline to illuminate the stadium for fear of backlash is cowardly. It broadcasts to terrorists that their objective – to stoke terror – has succeeded.

"To prohibit the flying of Israeli flags by fans in solidarity with the victims is an abomination. To put out a pitiful statement, as the FA has done, lamenting the "devastating events" without having the integrity to name the cause – as if the deaths came about from a tragic natural disaster – is insulting."

Read more: Israel orders evacuation of 1.1m people from northern Gaza within 24 hours as Sunak urges Netanyahu to protect civilians

He told the FA to "prove" it stands for an end to death and violence, saying it is instead "sitting on its hands".

And he observed that football bodies had marked past terror attacks in other countries when the impact was less severe.

His letter came after the Premier League issued a statement that said it is "saddened by the escalating crisis" and "condemns the horrific and brutal acts of violence against innocent civilians".

It said its sympathies are with the "communities impacted" and that a "moment's silence" will take place in the next round of fixtures.

That led to accusations the league was tip-toeing around backing Israel, instead choosing to make a more neutral statement - angering those who believe Hamas's brutality deserved unequivocal and direct condemnation.

Falter said: "I do not need a response to this letter. I will simply observe Wembley Stadium tonight and I will know whether you stand with Jews or not."