It’s hard to say which is worse – the behavior of racist fans, or the tacit approval they get from Israeli sports officials and media.
I like to think that if you discount for the century of fighting with Arabs, Israel is still plenty racist, but no more than most societies. I remind myself that even the absolute worst display of Israeli racism – the chanting of monkey noises (“hoo-hoo-hoo!! hoo-hoo-hoo!!”) and the throwing of bananas at black players during soccer games – has been going on in Europe, too, and probably elsewhere. But what happened this week to Nigerian-born Israeli player Toto Tamuz shows a level of callousness to blatant, raw racism that I wonder how many countries could match.
On Monday, Tamuz scored the go-ahead goal against Beitar Jerusalem in the capital’s Teddy Stadium, and right afterward looked out at the crowd and put his index finger up to his lips to shush them. Immediately the referee penalized him for unsportsmanlike conduct: “provoking the crowd.” Since this was Tamuz’s second penalty of the game, he was automatically disqualified. His team, Hapoel Tel Aviv, went on to lose, 3-2.
It was only after a day of sports reporters and commentators praising the Beitar crowd for firing up the atmosphere with their mad-dog spirit that it became known why Tamuz tried to shush the crowd in the first place. He told Yediot Aharonot:
Another black Hapoel player, Eric Djemba Djemba from Cameroon, told the newspaper:
From the media coverage I saw (which was not by any means comprehensive), these remarks were treated as “their side of the story,” but the “objective” story was mainly about a hugely exciting soccer game in which there probably was a bad call by the ref, along the lines of: you shouldn’t throw a player out of the game for “shushing” the crowd, but then those are the breaks …
What’s shocking about all this is that everyone in Israel knows that what Tamuz and Djemba Djemba described is what happens at any given game in which black players are on the field, especially if they score a goal. I witnessed it myself at a game in Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium in 2006, one of the very few Israeli soccer games I’ve been to. When an opposing black player would get the ball, a few Maccabi Tel Aviv fans several rows up from me would...Read More