The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: To “Equate”

Football Association, British football, British soccer, Martin Glenn, Football news, soccer news, European news, sports news, Israel news, Israeli news

Wembley Stadium, London, UK © Andrew Barker

March 07, 2018 15:21 EDT

A European soccer official has come under fire for using the terms “Star of David” and “swastika” in the same sentence.

The CEO of British soccer’s governing body, Martin Glenn, has learned that he must be careful when compiling lists because of the universal law of political correctness. Glenn has apologized for making the following pronouncement: “‘We have re-written Law 4 of the game so that things like a poppy are OK,’ Glenn told reporters. ‘But things that are going to be highly divisive, and that could be strong religious symbols, it could be the Star of David, it could be the hammer and sickle, it could be a swastika, anything like (former Zimbabwe president) Robert Mugabe on your shirt, these are the things we don’t want.’”

Most publications reporting this story have a title similar to USA Today’s: “Soccer executive apologizes for equating Star of David with swastika”

Here is today’s 3D definition:


Cite a word that a certain group of people feels defensive about in the same sentence with words that may have a generally negative connotation

Contextual note

Glenn appears to have opened himself to criticism when he made a point of defending the English poppy symbol, commemorating fallen British soldiers, while excluding a list of other symbols deemed to be political or religious. Had he mentioned the Christian cross instead of the Star of David, he might have escaped criticism, but the Jewish Leadership Council took offense at the mention of the symbol on Israel’s flag, which they apparently consider neither political nor religious.

Another article provides a bit more context when it explains, “Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was charged for wearing yellow ribbon in support of Catalan politicians who were jailed or went into exile after a secession bid in October.”

Glenn defended his policy of banning political badges: “All we are doing is even-handedly applying the laws of the game. Poppies are not political symbols. That yellow ribbon is. Where do you draw the line?”

Political correctness more often than not draws the line in illogical places. The idea that citing two items in a list “equates” them violates elementary logic. In the statement, “the US, Russia, France, the UK, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea possess nuclear weapons” no one could claim that Israel is being “equated” with North Korea, despite the fact that Israel denies what everyone knows — that it actually possesses nuclear weapons. These otherwise dissimilar nations have one common trait: the bomb.

Historical note

Complaining that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic has become a modern tradition. Recently The Independent reported the dismay of British academics. “In an open letter, professors at dozens of UK universities flagged concerns about the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the current government.” Specifically, the academics insisted that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.”

Concerning Glenn’s list, it appears that some members of the Jewish community object even to the perception that Israel and its flag represent anything that can be called political. The very idea of mentioning the symbol in a list of other political symbols they find intolerable. And yet no one can reasonably deny that Israel is a powerful political and military nation whose actions are often controversial and whose recent history is riddled with policies and attitudes that have proved costly not only to the Palestinian people who are under Israel’s control, but also to Europe and the West, to the extent that so long as the Palestinian question remains unresolved, it is a factor of instability in the entire region.

It has, furthermore, led to ongoing conflict and uncontrolled migration of refugee populations and the rise of populism in the West. This is not the fault of Israel, of course, but part of it can be attributed to the worry in the West — especially in the US — of being accused of antisemitism at the slightest hint of criticizing Israel’s politics.

On the other hand, the rhetorical ploy of mentioning the Nazi swastika and the Star of David in the same list was bound to raise the hackles of those who defend Israel and are quick to detect anti-Semitism in the most obscure places.

Other critics of Glenn have rightly pointed out that his specific defense of the British poppy has a political undertone, which he ignores and denies.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Andrew Barker /

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