‘NYT’ covers Beitar Jerusalem fans campaign against Muslim players and says racism may threaten Israeli-hosted tournament

Israel’s racism has made its way to the New York Times via soccer, the same sport that led to the dismantling of South Africa’s Apartheid regime. Jodi Rudoren reports, Some Fear a Soccer Team’s Racist Fans Hold a Mirror Up to Israel:

The angry, defiant exchanges that punctuated Tuesday night’s unusually tense game here came amid intense protests by Beitar Jerusalem supporters over the team owner’s plans to recruit two Muslim players from Chechnya. Some young men had unfurled a banner at the previous game declaring “Beitar pure forever,” which reminded many here of Nazi Germany’s purging of Jews from athletics in 1933 and prompted statewide discussion about racism on and off the field.

“People in Israel usually try to locate Beitar Jerusalem as some kind of the more extreme fringe; this is a way to overcome the embarrassment,” said Moshe Zimmermann, a historian at Hebrew University who specializes in sports. “The fact is that the Israeli society on the whole is getting more racist, or at least more ethnocentric, and this is an expression.”

Reaction to the purity banner, perhaps the most controversial in a series of Beitar outbursts, was swift. One of the fans who made the sign was arrested and banned from games for the season. Fifty more were barred from Tuesday’s match, along with banners of all kinds, and the team was fined about $13,500, amid concerns that the episode could threaten Israel’s scheduled hosting of a European Under 21 soccer tournament in June.

Israel will be hosting the European Football Federation (UEFA) 2013 Under-21 Football Championship finals between the 5–18 June 2013. Palestinian sports groups responded immediately after that decision was made in June 2011 urging UEFA President Michel Platini not to “reward Israel for its violent repression of Palestinian rights.” Platini has come under mounting international pressure to strip Israel of hosting rights ever since.

Federation of International Football  (FIFA) president condemned Israel’s imprisonment of Palestinian soccer players on June 12, 2012. Six days later on June 18th Israel agreed to release Palestinian soccer star and hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak from prison on July 10, 2012.

UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention Against Apartheid in Sports in 1985. Like no other institution in South Africa it was soccer that led to the dismantling of the regime and defeated Apartheid. Dave Zirin, The Nation:

BDS activist Laura Durkay said to me…..“The next step should be to move from symbolic statements to actions to boycott and isolate Israel in the sports world, according to the guidelines for cultural boycott set out by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee.”

Petitioning UEFA President Michel Platini: Remove UEFA 2013 European Under-21 Championship from Israel. Sign here.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 39 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. seafoid says:

    Sport is based on fairness and respect.
    Israel isn’t.

    Sports boycotts are a no-brainer.

  2. Avi_G. says:

    Reaction to the purity banner, perhaps the most controversial in a series of Beitar outbursts, was swift. One of the fans who made the sign was arrested and banned from games for the season. Fifty more were barred from Tuesday’s match, along with banners of all kinds, and the team was fined about $13,500, amid concerns that the episode could threaten Israel’s scheduled hosting of a European Under 21 soccer tournament in June.

    The reason Israeli authorities reacted “swiftly” was due to the importance of the upcoming tournament from an economic and cultural perspective. Israel feared isolation and/or bad PR knowing full well the popularity of soccer and the importance of tourism.

    It should be clear that this “swift” action had nothing to do with Israeli authorities cracking down on racism and bigotry, as though they disapprove of said bigotry. That was not the case here.

    More importantly, however, this incident demonstrates how BDS can bring about changes in Israel’s criminal and immoral policies toward Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.

    • It should be clear that this “swift” action had nothing to do with Israeli authorities cracking down on racism and bigotry, as though they disapprove of said bigotry. That was not the case here.

      yeah, that was my take on it avi albeit there may have been some slight wish to stifle the bigotry in earnest, the timing is auspicious. this has been going on a long long time and this team is notorious. while i applaud rudoren for the frankness of the article, her only mention or reference to the upcoming tournament was that one line.

      between now and june there’s a real opportunity to apply pressure on UEFA and spread the understanding of israel’s apartheid.

      btw, i hope everyone opens and reads the last 4 paragraphs of the article. i would have published them if it weren’t for fair use. they’re gold.

      • Bumblebye says:

        Please – if people haven’t already done so, sign the petition I linked to downthread to cancel the Israel finals and move them elsewhere!

  3. Ellen says:

    “pure forever” Wow, that is very creepy. Same language as you-know-who, with “Reinheit” laws. Unfortunately it reflects the sentiment of too many.

    Repulsive as the banner was, I wonder if the arrest of the fan was legal under free speech laws?

  4. hophmi says:

    Soccer fans chanting racist slogans? I guess this has only ever happened in Israel.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    Tell me: What’s been the reaction to Jewish players on soccer teams in other Middle Eastern countries?

    In any event, it seems that Beitar Jerusalem is not listening to their fans. Or that the chanting of their fans is going unnoticed and unaddressed in Israel.

    Ehud Olmert, for instance, has announced that he will not attend any Beitar games until the hooligans are removed:

    “One of the finest days of Israeli sports was the day Bnei Sakhnin won the State Cup final. It was very moving to see Jewish and Arab players dancing with the Israeli flag, proud of winning the State Cup…

    “The fact that the Arabs are part of the State of Israel and are citizens with equal rights is irrelevant. Even if they were not citizens, these despicable expressions of racism cannot be tolerated, regardless of the fact that we live with Arabs and respect their heritage and religion. Arabs are welcome everywhere, including in the stands of Teddy Stadium and on the pitch, wearing the uniform of the team I thought I supported. ”

    link to ynetnews.com

    • hops, thanks for the link. i’m sure we’re going to be hearing a lot more where that came from between now and june. a lot is at stake.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      “Soccer fans chanting racist slogans? I guess this has only ever happened in Israel.”

      Who said it did? Or are you saying that it only proper to point out Jews being racist if one also points to others doing it too?

      “Tell me: What’s been the reaction to Jewish players on soccer teams in other Middle Eastern countries?”

      Write a piece on it and we’ll find out. And if they are bigoted against the Jews as Jews, then I’m sure most here will condemn that bigotry as we do the israeli Jews here. (Of course, based on precedent, you will most likely screw it up out of inability to distinguish between those who oppose israel and those who oppose Jews, so I wouldn’t expect much out of the piece…)

      “‘regardless of the fact that we live with Arabs and respect their heritage and religion”"

      Honestly, hoppy, do you ACTUALLY believe this horseshit?? What do you call the “Judaization” of the Galillee, the ethnic cleansing of Arab East Jerusalem, the repeated calls by israelis in and out of the government to eject the Palestinians from the body politic??

      “‘Arabs are welcome everywhere’”

      Except in the segregated Jewish communiites and, if you’re a male Muslim between 15 and 35, to Friday prayers at the holiest site in your country.

    • Mooser says:

      “Soccer fans chanting racist slogans? I guess this has only ever happened in Israel.”

      Why is it happening at all in Israel? Do you Zionist (and you don’t know how I grudge you those first four letters, I’ve got much better quadraliterals for you) punks and hoodlums ever get tired of embarrassing the entire Jewish world? No, let me guess, anything you can do to make Jews look worse pays off for you.
      This how you repay the world which gave you a state, right where you wanted it, to the disadvantage of others? Oh yeah, see preceding sentence. I guess I forgot.

    • eljay says:

      Just yesterday, in response to my rhetorical musing about why Zio-supremacists always look to compare Israel to worse/worst offenders when it comes to defending the “Jewish State”, hophmeee said “I compare Israel to America”.

      And then this post:
      >> Soccer fans chanting racist slogans? I guess this has only ever happened in Israel.
      >> Tell me: What’s been the reaction to Jewish players on soccer teams in other Middle Eastern countries?

      Too funny. :-)

    • Boston says:

      Hophmi.

      What’s your take on Israel sterilizing Ethiopian Jewesses..

      I guess it’s okay because it has happened in places other than Israel?

      Nazi Germany comes to mind

    • Mike_Konrad says:

      Ehud Olmert, for instance, has announced that he will not attend any Beitar games until the hooligans are removed:

      Now there is a real threat!

      • Mooser says:

        “Now there is a real threat!”

        Mike_Konrad, if you are trying to tell us that racism is intrinsic to Israel, and politicians are unwilling to stand against it, we already know that. But I’m glad to see you do, to.

    • Blank State says:

      Gosh Hophni….

      Uh…they do more than chant. They actually have been known to throw plastic bananas on the field, while screaming like monkeys, when there is a black player on the field. Now, Hophni, I issue a not so friendly little challenge to ya…..

      Hows about you mosey around in the internet and find us a comparably despicable display of racism by ANY OTHER soccer team anywhere in the world.

      My bet??? You can’t.

      And, uh, how long has Israeli society, and the Israeli athletic governing body, put up with these jackass ugly bigots??? Do you think such overtly racist acts such as these plastic bananas being thrown on the field would be tolerated BY ANY OTHER NATION IN THE WORLD????

      You should choose the defenses you launch far more carefully, Hophni. You reveal yourself too clearly by some of the stands you take. It ain’t pretty.

      • Mooser says:

        “You reveal yourself too clearly by some of the stands you take. It ain’t pretty.”

        It’s like talking to somebody out of the 18th or 19th Century, isn’t it.

        But Zionists are desperate to deny the changes in the relationship of people’s (including “the Jews”) and pretend we are still in the 18th Century. I’ll have more to say about this, soon. But since very few people ever closely examine the circumstances under which they live, they just live their lives, and since Zionists, and the Jewish religious establishment they have suborned (I frickin hope so, but the truth is probably that they jumped right into their arms, and said “Kiss me, my demon lover”) has a great deal invested in obscuring the truth about Jews from them.
        What is incredible, if we’re are suppose to be so frickin smart, that we didn’t see right through it.
        But the truth is, when they start arresting Zionists in the US who have broken laws, I very much doubt, no matter what the social consequences, that they will arrest me for Hophmi’s infractions (just as an example) because I am also Jewish.
        So I’m not invested at all in the Zionist’s crimes, not contracted with them, and neither is any other Jew who has not committed them. But wow, do they want to avoid that point! “If Zionism fails, we all go down to the boxcars together” says Hophmi, and his ilk (you know what I think of ilk!) ‘so you better help us out, or it’ll be bad for all of us.”
        But what Hophmi (or his nasty pet ilk) wants to obscure is that unlike former times in other places, there is ,legally, no “the Jews” in the US. Oh, there are lots of Jews, but not any “the Jews”. I would no more expect to suffer for the Zionist’s crimes than I would expect to go to jail because a Jewish guy robbed a bank somewhere. Of course, if Hostage says different, I guess maybe I am too optimistic.
        But since such an effort has been made by interested people to confuse this issue, by mis-using the history of persecution the Jews have been subject to, and since people tend to accept what is implied if the don’t look for themselves, I think we have a mess.
        Anyway, I’ll have more to say (try and stop me!) when I think it out.
        My God on a Pogo stick, you would think that people who have been persecuted so much would make a fetish of knowing what their relationship with the State and with other citizens is, as far as their religion goes!
        But I’m just musing, really, I haven’t found the way to properly explicate or name the phobia the Zionists take advantage of. Oh, I understand why it is there, but you would think….no, that would require real tribal unity, so forget it.

        • Mooser says:

          I do not know if Hophmi has committed any actual infractions, I simply used his name as an example. Nasty, sure, but why not? And everybody already knows what I think of eagles (fish-stealing alopeciac! Stole my spot as national animal!) and ilk. Multi-tined slackers.

    • Cliff says:

      the context in which Israeli racists are racist is different from other soccer hooligans.

      israeli racism is part and parcel to Zionism and the institutional racism in israeli society and the policy of occupation, apartheid, colonialism

      that makes it different

      but hoppy is always having a fit when israel is reported on for being israel

  5. a blah chick says:

    ESPN did segment on Betar back in November. Overall it was pretty good, I just have a few quibbles.

    1. There was no discussions about Betar’s political origins in the Revisionist youth movement which was quite fascist.

    2. The rowdies also object to Black players as well, I believe they like to make monkey noises when they come on the field. I cannot recall that this was mentioned in the show.

    3. The fans’ attitudes was mainly blamed on the ongoing I/P struggle, the bad feelings that Arab terror has spawned in Israeli society and allowed to fester.

    My main problem with the show as that it presented the rowdies as extremists when their views are, in fact, far more mainstream than is healthy.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      “3. The fans’ attitudes was mainly blamed on the ongoing I/P struggle, the bad feelings that Arab terror has spawned in Israeli society and allowed to fester.”

      For pete’s sakes, the two players that these racist fans are reacting against aren’t Arabs, they’re Chechens. This is anti-Muslim bigotry, pure and simple, and has nothing to do with the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.

  6. hophmi says:

    “Write a piece on it and we’ll find out.”

    No need! There aren’t any Jews on Arab teams because Arab states got rid of their Jews years ago. Arab and Muslim states don’t like Jewish athletes. Shahar Pe’er wasn’t allowed to play tennis in Dubai a few years ago. Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi faced widespread criticism in Pakistan and expulsion from the Pakistani Tennis Federation for sharing the court with a Jewish player for doubles.

    • tree says:

      Ha! You somehow forgot to mention that both Shahar Pe’er and Amir Haddad (the player that teamed with Qureshi ) were Israelis, and the basis for the controversies was their Israeliness, not their Jewishness. If you can name a non-Israeli Jewish athlete who was banned from playing in an Arab or Muslim state solely on his Jewishness you may have a point, but I think we are going to be waiting a long time for you to come up with a name because it hasn’t happened.

      Was Zola Budd prevented from competing against African athletes when she was a citizen of South Africa because she was white? Or was it because she represented the apartheid state of South Africa?

      • tree says:

        One of the most famous American Jewish Olympic athletes of all time, Mark Spitz, just recently spoke at the Doha Goals Forum (in December 2012) in Doha, Qatar. I’m not aware of any Jewish American athlete, who is not also a citizen of Israel, who has been banned from playing in Muslim or Arab States because of his or her Jewishness, nor do I know of any Muslim or Arab athlete who has refused to play any Jewish American because of his/her Jewishness.

        • Mooser says:

          “I’m not aware of any Jewish American athlete, who is not also a citizen of Israel, who has been banned from playing in Muslim or Arab States because of his or her Jewishness”

          Hophmi, as Max Smart: “Never banned a Jew, huh? Well, would you believe…they called them names! No? How about, they went back in the locker and talked bad about his defense work? What about a dirty look? Well, it could have happened!”

          My goodness, Hophmi, whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing, and whoever it is you do it for, I hope they pay you well, and you have good health insurance. I know your job would kill me.

        • Mooser says:

          “One of the most famous American Jewish Olympic athletes of all time, Mark Spitz”

          Oy Mark Spitz! Be still, my heart. Wait a minute, not that still. Okay, just a slight arythmia. It’ll pass. Anyway, what myriad host of deflowerings (on cruddy, cruddy, couches, perhaps?) may have been made more bearable by staring up at that shaved chest with those five Gold Medals? That poster was everywhere.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      “No need!”

      Actually, there is a need. How are we to know what the situation is, if one doesn’t look. How do we know there aren’t Jewish players? And if there isn’t, how do we know that Jewish players have rejected offers to play for Arab teams?

      “There aren’t any Jews on Arab teams”

      False. For example, Bnei Sakhnin F.C., an Arab club, includes Idan Weitzman and until a few days ago, Shimon Harush. (Both are Jewish.)
      And, of course, Maccabi Umm al-Fahm F.C., a team owned by Mohammad Mahameed (who I’ll take a stab at and assume he’s not Jewish), includes players named Ron Ben Nahum and Dor Halevi, (who I guess we can assume are.)

      “Arab and Muslim states don’t like Jewish athletes. Shahar Pe’er wasn’t allowed to play tennis in Dubai a few years ago. Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi faced widespread criticism in Pakistan and expulsion from the Pakistani Tennis Federation for sharing the court with a Jewish player for doubles.”

      It’s interesting, that I specifically noted that “you will most likely screw it up out of inability to distinguish between those who oppose israel and those who oppose Jews” and what do you do?? You point to two Israelis who were rejected because they’re Israelis supposedly to show an aversion to Jewish athletes. You’re too predictable.

  7. W.Jones says:

    “Beitar pure forever”. One of the H-bara talking points is that Arab countries are worse. Perhaps in some ways. But can you imagine an Egyptian group with a sign “Egypt pure forever”. Maybe if they were talking about exported Egyptian spring water.

    “Israel will be hosting the European Football Federation (UEFA) 2013 Under-21 Football Championship finals”
    What, they are not even in Europe! Can Syria, Azerbaijan, or Lebanon host them next? At least they are closer to Europe.

    Do I even have to check? OK, Azerbaijan – Yes, Syria and Lebanon – No.

  8. RE: Some young men had unfurled a banner at the previous game declaring “Beitar pure forever,” which reminded many here of Nazi Germany’s purging of Jews from athletics in 1933 . . . ~ Annie Robbins

    MY COMMENT: No one should surprised by this if they are familiar with the origins of Beitar.

    ● FROM WIKIPEDIA [Betar]:

    (EXCERPT) The Betar Movement (בית”ר, also spelled Beitar) is a Revisionist Zionist youth movement founded in 1923 in Riga, Latvia, by Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky. Betar has been traditionally linked to the original Herut and then Likud political parties of Israel, and was closely affiliated with the pre-Israel Revisionist Zionist splinter group Irgun Zevai Leumi. It was one of many right-wing movements and youth groups arising at that time out of a worldwide emergence of fascism.[1] Some of the most prominent politicians of Israel were Betarim in their youth, most notably Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, the latter of whom idolized Jabotinsky.[2]. . .
    . . . The group initially praised Mussolini for his anti-communism and fascist principles, leading it to adopt the black uniform shirt of Italian fascism for a short period. Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia, however, was seen as “cowardly” by Betar and led them to break with him shortly after.[8]. . .

    SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

    ● ALSO SEE: “The Hidden History of Zionism”, Chapter 6, by Ralph Schoenman

    [EXCERPT] . . . Mussolini set up squadrons of the Revisionist Zionist youth movement, Betar, in black shirts in emulation of his own Fascist bands.
    When Menachem Begin became chief of Betar, he preferred the brown shirts of the Hitler gangs, a uniform Begin and Betar members wore to all meetings and rallies – at which they greeted each other and opened and closed meetings with the fascist salute. . .

    SOURCE – link to marxists.de

  9. European football authorities are engaged in serious campaigns against racism in football, particularly those which have occurred in former eastern bloc countries. That is why there is a real risk that more of this will put pressure on them to resite the tournament elsewhere – somewhere in Europe would seem like a good idea for a European tournament. This is, as Avi says, what the authorities are worried about, not not about the casual racism which is endemic in Israeli society (and as the article states, is incited and encouraged from the highest levels of government). The fact that israel is in European football is a historic anomaly, and one which should be ended. It is about time Israel learnt to live in the region it occupies, and play its tournaments there, otherwise the Palestinian FA should also apply for European status. They would at least be treated far more fairly than they are now, with all the obstructions they face from their crushing occupier who pretends that they are ‘European’, and who look down on the status of Middle Eastern people, which they themselves are, though they find it hard to admit, such is their arrogance.

    • Absolutely.

      Given that for several years UEFA and FIFA have been organising high-profile (and often extremely patronising) anti-racism campaigns, it’s utterly ridiculous that they are even thinking about staging a tournament in Israel. Quite apart from the fact that, despite Israel’s ever expanding borders, it’s not even IN Europe! Having said that, in one sense I’m quite happy Israel plays in Europe rather than its logical group, West Asia. That’s because Israeli football is nowhere near good enough to compete at European level, and Israel hardly ever makes the finals of the World Cup or the Euros. If they were playing the likes of Jordan or Saudi Arabia, they might have a chance of qualifying. Then again, they might not.

  10. Bumblebye says:

    There is just no way Israel should be able to keep the U21.
    Ffs, they murder kids playing footie if they aren’t of the chosen!
    Not to mention their vile treatment of black players.

    Anyhow, first a piece on Mahmoud Sarsak – the photo on top is a cracker, the article is lengthy and highly detailed:
    link to freegazascotland.wordpress.com

    And now the website that wants the removal of the U21 finals from Israel:
    link to redcardapartheid.weebly.com
    with links to the petition to remove the games.

  11. HarryLaw says:

    Here in the UK we have had our share of bigotry and sectarianism, games between Glasgow Celtic and Rangers generated a war like atmosphere with the Protestant Orangemen Rangers supporters and the Irish Republican Celtic supporters threatening to bring “the troubles” in Ulster onto the mainland, Mo Johnston happened to be the first Catholic footballer to join Rangers in 1989, happily many steps have been taken by management at both clubs together with legislative action, plus the political easing of tensions in Northern Ireland has also calmed the situation.