Twitter users in Spain posted 17,500 messages of anti-Semitic abuse after Israeli basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Real Madrid on Sunday night to win the Euroleague Championship, reports the Jerusalem Post.
Jewish groups in the Catalonia region filed a legal complaint over the messages, which flooded the Twitter network after Maccabi’s 98-86 overtime win.
Angry Spanish supporters of Real Madrid created an expletive anti-Semitic hashtag in their messages after the match, which briefly became one of the most popular keywords on Twitter in Spain.
“Now I understand Hitler and his hate for the Jews” said one angry Tweet. “They should all be killed in an oven” read another post.
Ruben Noboa of the Jewish group “Israel in Catalonia” said he launched the lawsuit after seeing references in some messages to death camps, mass murder of Jews and the Holocaust. “When we saw reactions to Maccabi’s victory such as ‘Jews to the oven’ or ‘Jews to the showers,’ we decided to lodge this judicial complaint,” he said.
Eleven other Jewish associations have joined the lawsuit, which has presented copies of anti-Semitic tweets to state prosecutors. The associations singled out five people who were identified by their real names on Twitter, accusing them of “incitement to hatred and discrimination” – a crime punishable by up to three years in jail in Spain.
The majority of the messages were anonymous.
Spain has a very small Jewish community, as Spain expelled its Jews in the late 15th century. “Hardly anyone here knows any Jews, but the cliches and stereotypes persist and are also fed by Catholicism,” said Noboa.
A recent extensive analysis of global anti-Semitism by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that Spain was the third-most anti-Semitic country in Europe, after Greece and France.
Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz last week launched a crackdown on “defense of crime or incitement to hatred” on the web, in response to online messages that glorified the murder of a ruling party politician, Isabel Carrasco. Police have arrested at least three people for insulting Carrasco on online services such as Twitter.
The Jewish associations behind Tuesday’s lawsuit called on the interior ministry to take a similar line against the anti-Semitic abuse over the basketball match.
Anti-Israel responses to the Tel Aviv team’s victory also arose at London and Milan street celebrations, as fans of Maccabi were confronted by provocateurs trying to unfurl Palestinian flags. In each case, the Israel-supporting celebrants responded by chanting pro-Israel slogans and singing Israel’s national anthem. The protesters, heavily outnumbered, retreated.