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When an Israeli soccer game looks like a Klan rally

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:

I’ve never seen such racism in my whole life. … [two other black Hapoel players] and I were the last ones on the field. When we came out of the tunnel they started throwing bananas at us. We heard curses and racist chants. … [During the game] I heard their regular song, ‘Give Toto a banana,’ and a lot of other things I’m embarrassed to mention.

Another black Hapoel player, Eric Djemba Djemba from Cameroon, told the newspaper:

When they call you ‘kushi’ ['nigger'] … and throw bananas at you, it’s not exactly pleasant. I like this country and I’m happy to be here, but this is impossible. I didn’t know things like this happened in Israel.

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 start chanting the monkey noises. (Neither I nor anyone else in the stands said a word to them. I was there with my two young sons, and I was afraid to confront them for fear of having to fight them all, which I imagine was in the minds of many other fans.) Later, when one of the black players on the visiting team scored a goal, the section reserved for several hundred hardcore Maccabi fans erupted with loud, furious, sustained chants of “hoo-hoo-hoo!! hoo-hoo-hoo!!

This sort of thing has been going on at Israeli soccer games ever since the first black players arrived from overseas almost 20 years ago. The racist chanting against opposing Arab players has been going on ever since Arabs came into the league. Everybody knows this – and everybody knows that the worst, most psychotically racist fans in the country are those of Beitar Jerusalem, and that the atmosphere in Teddy Stadium when there are Arab or black opponents on the field is something out of a Klan rally. (I’ve sat in the stands with Beitar fans; they sing “I hate all the Arabs” with as much ease and familiarity as they sing Happy Birthday to You.)

Anybody who knows anything about Israeli soccer knows that Tamuz, who used to play for Beitar Jerusalem, was telling the truth – that he was trying to silence the racial mass hysteria going on in the stands. The same exact thing happened to him about two years ago in a game against Beitar – the monkey noises, the singing of “Give Toto a banana” – only that time the Israel Football Association had the decency to penalize Beitar, even rather severely, in soccer terms. But that was the exception; the rule is to accept what’s going on, to pretend it’s not happening, and the rule was in force this week.

The story wasn’t the Beitar crowd, but rather Tamuz. When the referee made him the villain and kicked him out of the game for his shushing gesture, the question in the media was whether the referee had been too harsh, not whether such a thing could have really happened, not whether we were all living in some Stephen King story.

And it didn’t end there. When the referee threw Tamuz out, the 24-year-old made some parting remarks. Tamuz says he told the ref that the crowd was the guilty one, not him. The ref says Tamuz called him “a shame and disgrace.” For that, Tamuz had to go before an Israel Football Association judge, attorney Yisrael Shimoni, who banned him from Hapoel’s next two games and put him on probation for two more.  ”There is no connection between, on the one hand, the atmosphere in the stands and whether racist expressions were made or not, and, on the other hand, the insulting remarks to the referee,” said the judge.

Beitar Jerusalem, the pride of the Israeli right, the only team in the league that has an unwritten but ironclad ban on hiring Arab players, said the claims by Tamuz and Djemba Djemba were an “orchestrated campaign of lies.”

Hapoel Tel Aviv, the pride of the Israeli left, the only predominantly Jewish team in the league to have an Israeli Arab captain, provided the only note of decency and honor in this episode. It announced: “The team will give full backing to its players who fall victim to racist attacks from rival fans. The next time the team’s players are victimized by racist, demeaning behavior from the fans of any team – all of [Hapoel's] players and officials will leave the field immediately.”

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Hitler had a problem with black athletes, too, as I recall. Being racist societies, I suppose, we are supposed to remember Hitler’s antics, but not to see our own. His racism (and Germany’s) was bad; our racism is “natural”. And what do I mean by “our” anyway? I mean, of course, someone else’s.

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        While I wouldn’t compare any member of the Israeli right to Hitler, I would say that there is a clear neo-fascist streak in Israeli society today, which does somewhat resemble German society of, say, pre-1930′s (not Nazi Germany, but too close for comfort).

        Reply to Comment
        • Joel

          Danny writes “…I wouldn’t compare any member of the Israeli right to Hitler…”

          Why not? Have you not seen the pictures of JDL graffiti that reads “Gas the Arabs”?

          Reply to Comment
        • Jan

          Danny, I would compare these racist Israelis to the Nazis. If they could many of them would send both black Israelis and Palestinians to gas chambers.

          If President Obama is re-elected I am certain that the Israeli racists will be furious but I hope that he understands that he dealing with a country where a large percentage of the population is indeed racist and little different than the racists of apartheid South Africa.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Seanfhealy@yahoo.co.uk

      Where are uefa in this. If it happened in England of Spain there would be sanctions against the clubs involved

      Reply to Comment
    3. aristeides

      How I would like to show that video from every black pulpit in the US.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Danny

      The irony with Beitar fans is that their hatred of Arabs and Africans seems so misplaced as to suggest a kind of collective psychosis involving self-loathing and projection. After all – the majority of Beitar fans are Arab and, hence, black (or certainly non-white). I think they so hate themselves (since they must know on a subconscious level that they themselves of Arab/African heritage), and have been brainwashed to such an extent by the zionist propaganda machine, that their hatred of both is so visceral. In a certain sense, they too are victims of zionism. Of course, that doesn’t in any way excuse their behavior, and if it were up to me, I’d purge this soccer club for good.

      Reply to Comment
      • Philos

        I totally agree. I still can’t get my head around Moroccans or Ethiopians dressed up like Lithuanians. The last time I encountered an Israeli colleague who thought an appropriate and pleasant office conversation would be a racist tirade against Arabs I rolled my eyes at her and said, “Please stop. All you people look the same to us.”
        “What do you mean?”
        “You Israelis and the Arabs. You all look the same.”
        “We don’t look like Arabs!”
        “Of course you do. Big noses, bushy eyebrows, hairy arms, dark skin, short stature. C’mon! Do you really think Westerners can tell the difference?”
        That pretty much ended that conversation, and hopefully caused that lady’s head to explode later as she tried to comprehend if she had just experienced racism from half-Jewish mud-blood for the first time in her life.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          One of greatest culture shock’s I’ve had in my life was when I’ve arrived to Brussels for the first time and witnessed Morrocans in their natural habitat around Gare du Midi.

          I like your conclusions, Philos, by the way.
          The best way to display what Arabs really are is to show non-Muslim Arabs in all their grace. Paper bags provided.

          Reply to Comment
          • I have no respect for racial explanations made by an anonymous blogger who thinks crying “darkie” in a crowd will bring the coming of God. If you are going to tell me what an entire class of people are like–use your true name. But, coward, you will not.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Racial? Of course not.
            Strictly cultural.

            You wouldn’t deny, would you, that there are different behavioral patterns which are specific to different communities at different times.
            Ex. throwing shoes at opponents is wide-spread through Arab countries, however it’s quite unthinkable on the West, and so on.

            I won’t tell you about entire class of people, however I’ll bring up two important points:
            1 – There were not single Ashkenazi/Russian Jew yelling nationalistic crap at the stadium
            2 – Black people are getting grade 4 (somewhere after dogs) treatment in most (all?) Arab countries.

            You are free to disprove any of those.
            After you fail you can think what is common in those cases.

            Reply to Comment
          • “Not a single Ashkenazi/Russian yelling nationalistic crap at the stadium.” Outstanding research.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bill

            Fair enough, Trespasser, it’s OK because it’s cultural. I assume you are, by extension, willing to accept that anti-semitism in Europe is also OK. After all it’s been going on for over a thousand years and is considered by many to be cultural rather than racial!

            In the same way that Philos is a mud-blood (cool, Philos, you da man ;) there are plenty of blond-haired, blue-eyed Jews in Europe but the various despots through the ages had no problems in launching pogroms against them.

            And are you really saying that because (some) Arabs are racists, this makes it OK for Israelis to be so?

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Bill,

            I haven’t said it is ok.

            Just read carefully before you post nonsense.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bll

            “Racial? Of course not. Strictly cultural.”

            Seems to me that, by dismissing the idea that the fan’s behaviour is racist, you tacitly justify it. You at no point actually condemn the behaviour; at one point you appear to condone it, putting it down to “mob behaviour”, thereby abrogating the responsibility of the individual. But I write “nonsense”?

            I’ve read nearly everything you’ve posted in this thread and if there’s anyone who is posting nonsense, it sure ain’t me.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Bll,
            Monday
            November 5, 2012

            “Racial? Of course not. Strictly cultural.”
            Apparently I did not explained myself well.

            What I meant was that the racist behavior of fans is due to their belonging to a distinct cultural group inside which nationalist hatred is quite widespread. Note that it considers all members of mentioned cultural group disregarding their sex/age

            p.s. nonsense is that you are coming to early conclusions.

            p.p.s I yet to meet a person who does not despise at least one nationality. Some only manifest it louder.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Bll,
            p.p.p.s Great most of those who (secretly) dislike other nationalities in most cases have friend/family from the same nationalities, which means that racism is not an interpersonal phenomena but it’s rather “us” against “them” – mob-like behavior.

            Basically the problem is with definitions of “us” and “them”.
            Very same people could be defined as “nation against economic challenges” or “nation A against nation B”

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Trespasser keeps repeating a claim that there is no proof of certain settler crimes against Palestinians.

            With such a stringent standard of proof, I’m sure he wouldn’t make such a claim about Beitar fans unless he had stationed himself at the stadium entrances and polled every fan to determine racial origin.

            Otherwise one might suspect he was talking out of his ass.

            Reply to Comment
          • Philos

            You’re disgusting. I’m a “non-Muslim Arab” given that I am Jewish mud-blood of Iraqi origin. My Iraqi family wouldn’t dream of behaving like these Beitar Yerushalim fans but then again they don’t hate themselves and enjoy speaking Arabic.
            .
            My post was to point out, as others far more qualified than me have pointed out in Israel for decades, is that Zionism’s worst crime against Mizrachim was to cause them to loathe their own appearance. To point out how a warped ideology brought us to a situation whereby a “proud” Moroccan Jew (i.e., African, Arab, not white) gave a speech in which he declared that Israel is a “white man’s country.” It’s almost like the Dave Chapelle skit in which he portrays a blind KKK leader who doesn’t realize he’s black.
            .
            If Israel were truly a non-racist society then the Ethiopians would be entitled to worship Judaism according to their own practices rather than see the abolition of the Kessochs, Iraqi Jews wouldn’t be shamed into wearing their “pajamas”, and Moroccan Jews would be able to express their identity without visceral hatred of the Arabs as a necessary accompaniment to show the Zionist Sabras that they’re sufficiently integrated.

            Reply to Comment
          • What you’ve written here reminds me of an incident that happened with my friend Rousol (Iraqi refugee brought up in Jordan, holding Canadian citizenship) when we went to Khalil together. She wanted to see the old city. When we arrived at the guard post that leads into Avraham Aveinu, the soldiers spoke to her in Hebrew. They were very friendly. She had on jeans and a T-shirt, nothing to mark her out as being of Arab and Muslim descent. But when they realised who she was…my God. One of them was screaming at her right in her face, in Arabic, “You’re an Arab, you’re an Arab, you’re not allowed in here. You can go up to that store, but no further.” He carried on in the same tone (ending with ‘Get out of my sight’) and suddenly it hit me that physically he didn’t look all that much different from her. Similar dark hair and skin tone. He had mistaken her for Israeli, and I did wonder if the vehemence of his response was simply horror that such a mistake were even possible. He seemed to take her Arab-ness very personally.

            Do you speak Arabic as a first language, by the way?

            Reply to Comment
          • Mitchell Cohen

            Philos, please stop the holier than thou cr*p. I remember you ranting about how you despise the fact that soldiers who come here from other countries (mostly America, Canada, England, and other English speaking countries) who “can’t carry a conversation in Hebrew” (my guess would be that they speak Hebrew just fine, but not in a perfect accent that Philos would approve) get the same rights as you. In other words, they are not integrated enough for Sabras (i.e. Philos). The pot calling the kettle black, eh?

            Reply to Comment
          • sh

            Trespasser, what was it that shocked you so about the Gare du Midi in Brussels (should you ever find yourself there again, nearby Le Triangle and its textile merchants might help you nurse that culture shock) that wouldn’t shock you in parts of Paris or Rotterdam? To put it as nicely as possible, your claim that the natural habitat of a Moroccan is an international train station in Brussels seems eccentric. Perhaps you could do with getting out and about more.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Sh,

            I put myself wrong and you did not quite get me.
            Actually I did not knew that these are Morrocans until I’ve arrived to my friend at Annessens.

            (by the way the what really that shocked me in Gare du Midi is peeing man in cafeteria. Just pulled his thing out and started to pee)

            Anyway you’ve helped me to make my point – after Gare du Midi I’ve traveled to Gare du Nord in Paris and to Roosendaal and to some other destinations, and everywhere where I’ve witnessed Moroccans in their natural habitat – from these horrible slams in northern Paris up to two story homes in Holland.
            Albeit apparent differences there were few distinct behavioral patterns which are also similar to those of Jewish Moroccans Israel.

            Reply to Comment
          • sh

            And you’ve helped me make my point, Trespasser.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Nice. The trespasser not only defends Israeli racism, he actively manifests it.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Anne O'Nimmus

      Israel is due to host the UEFA under 21 Championship next year, yet it remains in flagrant breach of the conditions to do so. AS a member, is it not signed up to prevent and deter such hideous displays of racism? No wonder there are numerous campaigns to move the venue from Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    6. There were lots of protest during the World Cup in Argentina in 1978, let’s hope the same will happen next year in Israel. And besides, Israel is NOT part of Europe. I’m serious. Two legends, Platini and Cantona, are on the right side so it seems.

      Reply to Comment
    7. ‘[Hapoel Tel Aviv] announced: “The team will give full backing to its players who fall victim to racist attacks from rival fans. The next time the team’s players are victimized by racist, demeaning behavior from the fans of any team – all of [Hapoel's] players and officials will leave the field immediately.”’ : You have to fight back against hatred somewhere, somehow. While Hapoel Tel Aviv would surely pay economically if they so walked out, there has to be cost to resistence to make others understand how important the principle is. Socio-economic cost is why most all of us almost always do nothing (and I am not here refering to Larry’s personal anecdote).

      Reply to Comment
    8. Woody

      This is not unlike the current environment in the Ukraine and Poland when it comes to football racism. However, when the Euro 2012 was held, it became a big deal and the whole world was told about what sort of behavior occurs in these football stadiums. In the Ukraine, non-white fans get attacked. Let’s hope that this doesn’t happen in Israel – oh wait, the stands are half filled with non-whites. Let’s hope they can’t “tell” who is a non-Jew in the stands, lest they curse and beat them. Hell, as Larry’s story highlights, the targets might even be people of conscience, regardless of their race.

      Reply to Comment
    9. The Trespasser

      Philos,

      Oh, that’s fine. You don’t really have to like me. Sufficient is the lack of constructive response.

      Did I somewhere claimed that ALL Mizrahi Jews hate Arabs? Nope. I’ve only brought up two examples which you are free to disprove or claim as false.

      Until now I wasn’t aware that Israeli Arab Jews loathe their own appearance. No, really.
      Is there some support center where such Jews could come up for skin whitening procedures?

      To hear from a Moroccan Jew that it’s a country “of white man” is really funny.

      By your standards Ethiopian women must keep on wearing special head-dresses during periods.

      Denial to have Kessochs is not racial btw. It is of pure religious nature and to call it “racial” is a blatant lie.

      Tell me, did Iraqi Jews managed to express their identity without visceral hatred of the Arabs?

      There are no known multicultural societies which are 100% racism-free. You really should’ve chosen another planet.

      Reply to Comment
      • Philos

        Aristeides pegged you right; you’re talking out of your ass. Religion and race are intimately tied together in this land. Jews are a race and a religion. So to say that the black Jews way of “doing” the religion is inferior (and thus needs correcting via the Israeli Rabbinate) is intimately tied to the Israeli Rabbinate’s view that black Jews are inherently inferior.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Philos,
          Ariestiedes can’t pledge much with all respect – his expertise rather low by any standard.

          Besides, he not only fails to bring any proof that the crime was carried out by Israelis, he also could not explain why local citizens won’t stop “ongoing contamination” by removal of that car.

          As of Rabbinate – did not you that in their eyes EVERYBODY who is not Haredi is inferior?

          Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Is Trespassser back from stationing himself in from of the Beitar stadium entrances and counting the fans by ethnic origin?

            Reply to Comment
    10. SeanFHealy poses a very good question “what is UEFA doing about this” and you would be wrong to think ‘nothing’. On the contrary UEFA have rewarded Israel with the privilege of hosting the UEFA u 21 finals in Israel in June 2013. We in Red Card Israeli Apartheid (see website above) are organising across Europe to have this tournament played in another country. If UEFA refuse to relocate the tournament we will campaign to have Israel thrown out of all UEFA competitions . Join Red Card Israeli Apartheid to help us. Google website

      Reply to Comment
    11. ScotlandTheBtave

      Anne O’Nimmus you may wish to join me to give Israel the RED CARD. We are at http://redcardapartheid.weebly.com/
      and we oppose this Apartheid racism right across Europe. Or just google Red Card Israeli Racism

      Reply to Comment
    12. Please note that Trespasser, above, focuses on racial (or, kindly, “cultural”) categories to erase the actual event described by Larry. No number of “cultural” exemplars can justify in the least what Larry witnessed. We are to think of the mass of others as ugly, foul, and, on the basis of this group category, stand silent upon the harm to any other defined “similar” category. Persons do not exist for Trespasser, only corporate entities.

      And this is exactly what must be fought. His presence on this site aids in that fight.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Greg,

        Did you ever studied psychology?

        Apparently not, otherwise you would know that there are hardly any “persons” on a football game, battlefield or political rally.

        In a crowd individuals tend to think and do what they think others are expecting them to think and to do.

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          This specious thinking is undoubtedly what enables the trespasser to declare ex ano that the racist mob of Beitar Jerusalem fans includes no Ashkenazi, as it includes no persons at all. How clever!

          Reply to Comment
        • “In a crowd individuals tend to think and do what they think others are expecting them to think and to do.” : Which means, Trespasser, that this crowd was simply manifesting powerful racism in Israeli society. Which I think is Larry’s point.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Greg,
            “…this crowd was simply manifesting powerful racism in Israeli society.”

            Conveniently you are projecting racism of one culturally distinct group unto entire Israeli society.

            You see, one does not have to be of Maroccan descent to be ars.

            Oh, but you probably don’t know what ars is and what is has to do with beitar?

            I think that Larry is almost unfamiliar with arsim as you are.
            Indeed, where and why would respectable journalist meet with with the lowest of the low?

            Reply to Comment
        • FredBanana

          You’re not really going to put that comment anywhere that it can be read and embarrass you for years to come, are you, The T??

          Reply to Comment
    13. Piotr Berman

      Racist incidents do occur during soccer games in Poland, but the teams and organizations of fan seem to be fighting that. So-called “ultras” are not the most enlightened bunch, to put it mildly, but over racism seem rare enough to make news.

      The bottom lines is that if their clubs are threatened with penalties, ultras care.

      Reply to Comment
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