Forget the Palestinian Mandela, where is the Israeli Branch Rickey?

Israel/Palestine
on 8 Comments

Jodi Rudoren continues to follow the story of the racism surrounding Beitar Jerusalem’s decision to sign two Muslim soccer players. Be sure to watch the video that accompanies the story. The latest twist is that Beitar offices have been attacked by arsonists:

In anticipation of the Muslim players’ arrival, some fans unfurled a banner at the team’s Jan. 26 game saying “Beitar Pure Forever.” Some critics said the banner was reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s expulsion of Jews from sport, and it led to nationwide soul-searching.

Four fans were indicted on Thursday for incitement. Beitar headquarters were set on fire at 5 a.m. Friday, according to the police, destroying the team’s trophies, commemorative jerseys of former stars, championship flags, photographs and books. “All the history of Beitar Jerusalem,” said the team spokesman, Asaf Shaked. “It’s not damage by money, it’s damage by emotion.”

The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, also condemned the violence on Friday, likening the perpetrators to the mafia. Limor Livnat, Israel’s minister of culture and sport, said she would attend Sunday’s game to show support for the team’s management.

Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said a special investigative team was looking into the arson, which he said “gushed through the offices,” and that the police would not only send hundreds of extra officers to Sunday’s game, but seek to arrest troublemakers beforehand.

Eli Abarbanel, a senior state prosecutor and Beitar fan, said on Israel Radio Friday that the soccer struggle reflected “a broad phenomenon of racism in all of Israeli society,” citing expressions of “joy” on social media after a recent bus accident that killed 20 Palestinian children.

Beitar’s manager Itzik Kornfein strives to play the role of Branch Rickey, who nearly 70 years ago signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers making him the first African American player in professional baseball (Robinson faced similar racist intimidation to the Beitar players today). In a quote that I find shocking in 2013, Kornfein has to make the case for “integration”:

Itzik Kornfein, Beitar’s manager, also said that the dispute had “gone beyond sports” and had “ramifications for Israeli society and for how we look to the world.” Speaking to Israel Radio, Mr. Kornfein vowed not to back down from his decision to integrate the team, saying, “I don’t compromise on the matter of racism” and predicting that “after violence of this kind, people will come to their senses.”

Israeli racism reminiscent of 1940s America. Here’s some history:

And just because I can’t help it, here’s more on Lester Rodney, a fascinating sports reporter.

8 Responses

  1. a blah chick
    February 8, 2013, 2:14 pm

    I hope those Chechen players are payed up on their life insurance.

    It would be nice to think that this could be a catalyst for change in Israeli society but I don’t think that will happen until there is widespread condemnation of racism in that country. At the time that Robinson was entering the major leagues the US army was desegregating as was the civil service. Betar could be 50% Arab but that won’t mean anything when the Prime Minister can openly advocate the expulsion of said players. I cannot think of a single Jewish politician who has suffered as a result of racist statements.

    • sardelapasti
      February 8, 2013, 6:13 pm

      Blah chick – “Betar could be 50% Arab”
      Betar is Wladimir Jabotinsky’s openly and officially and even once brown-shirted N*zi creation, what are you talking about? Blood purity is the cornerstone of their very existence. Their soccer manager may have forgotten it and believed that it’s only about football but rest assured that he will be educated about the Chechens. If he survives.

  2. Woody Tanaka
    February 8, 2013, 2:34 pm

    “Beitar’s manager Itzik Kornfein strives to play the role of Branch Rickey, who nearly 70 years ago signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers making him the first African American player in professional baseball (Robinson faced similar racist intimidation to the Beitar players today).”

    Don’t oversell it. Kornfein deserves two cheers for his acts, not three. Kornfein didn’t sign Arab players, he signed two Chechins who happened to be Muslim. He can wear the mantle of Branch Rickey when he escorts onto the pitch two Palestinian players (poetry would dictate that one be Christian and one Muslim), because it is the Palestinians — not the Chechens — who the animals in the Beitar stands have oppressed for decades.

    But, that said, hats off to Kornfein for doing this much.

  3. DICKERSON3870
    February 8, 2013, 4:28 pm

    ● RE: In anticipation of the Muslim players’ arrival, some fans unfurled a banner at the team’s Jan. 26 game saying “Beitar Pure Forever.” . . . Four fans were indicted on Thursday for incitement. Beitar headquarters were set on fire at 5 a.m. Friday . . . ~ Jodi Rudoren

    ● 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

    ● P.S. RE: “Mussolini set up squadrons of the Revisionist Zionist youth movement, Betar, in black shirts in emulation of his own Fascist bands.” ~ from the Wikipedia excerpt above
    • SEE WIKIPEDIA [Blackshirts] – link to en.wikipedia.org
    • AND SEE THIS VIDEO – Mussolini in Color : The Blackshirts [VIDEO, 02:24] – link to youtube.com

    ● AND RE: “When Menachem Begin became chief of Betar, he preferred the brown shirts of the Hitler gangs [the Sturmabteilung(SA) - J.L.D.]” ~ Schoenman (from above)
    • SEE WIKIPEDIA [Sturmabteilung] – link to en.wikipedia.org
    • AND SEE THIS VIDEO: Rise of the Nazis, DiscoveryTV [VIDEO, 04:15] – link to youtube.com
    • AND SEE THIS VIDEO: The Night of the Long Knives [VIDEO, 04:45] – link to youtube.com
    • AND SEE THIS PHOTO: Hitler and Hermann Göring with SA stormtroopers at Nuremberg in 1928.- link to upload.wikimedia.org
    • AND SEE THIS PHOTO: The SA not only instigated street violence against Jews, Communists and Socialists, it also enforced boycotts against Jewish-owned business, such as this one in Berlin on 1 April 1933.- link to en.wikipedia.org

  4. seafoid
    February 8, 2013, 4:58 pm

    It is awful when histotical records are destroyed. Even Betar do not deserve that.

  5. sydnestel
    February 8, 2013, 5:35 pm

    Just to be clear, many other Israeli football clubs do have Arab Muslim players, including the Israeli National Team.

    This is not to say that racism is not a problem in Israel, nor that it is specifically not a problem for Israeli Arab footballers. Its is.

    But Beitar Jerusalem fans have always had a reputation of of being particularly racist right wing and thuggish. Up to now Beitar Jerusalem has never had a non-Jewish player on the team.

    So this Branch Rickey thing really doesn’t apply.

  6. sardelapasti
    February 8, 2013, 9:27 pm

    “Israeli racism reminiscent of 1940s America.”

    Was America in the 1940s officially governed by the KKK?

  7. Bumblebye
    February 8, 2013, 9:47 pm

    There was an arson attack on a vehicle parked outside my home last night – well, 3.30am. Six explosions. But within minutes the place was swarming with fire appliances and police vehicles, tho the suspect was apprehended by a retired policeman and his retired police dog, a German Shepherd, guarding a nearby site. None of that would happen in a Palestinian village in Area C, would it.
    I’m very skeptical about Beitar’s hirings. I think it’s cosmetic, smacks of lip-service to improve the image for the U21 cup finals. No cheers from me.

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