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Israel's sports minister posts video with genocidal chants by fans

At the end of a Facebook video encouraging sportsmanlike conduct by fans from one of Israel’s most notoriously racist soccer clubs, those surrounding Miri Regev break out into chants of ‘burn your village,’ directed at the opposing team — from an Arab city in Israel.

It’s not every day that a senior government minister, who a week earlier was Israel’s acting prime minister for several days, publishes a video of herself smiling as she is embraced by people letting out genocidal chants. Then again, this is the same minister who a few years ago called African asylum seekers in Israel “a cancer,” only to apologize a few days later — to cancer patients.

Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev on Monday attended a soccer game between Beitar Jerusalem, a team known for its and its fans’ anti-Arab racism, and Bnei Sakhnin, an Arab squad from northern Israel. At the end of a short message encouraging and praising a sportsmanlike atmosphere at the game, the fans gathered around her break out into chants of “burn down your village” (alternatively translated as “May your village be burned”). She continues smiling and says nothing.

One must ask why a senior government minister who is no stranger to social media decided not to edit out the final seconds of the video. It would be hard to blame her for the reactions of people around her, some of whom clearly were looking to provoke on camera. But the decision to publish genocidal chants is troubling.

In contrast to Regev’s video and non-condemnation, Beitar Jerusalem’s management wasted no time denouncing the chants and announcing steps it plans to take to combat racism at games, including shutting down an entire section of its stands used by notoriously racist fans. (The club’s quick reaction can be explained by a suspended sentence it faces from the league for past racist incidents. Other chants at the stadium that night reportedly included: “I hate all Arabs” and “Muhammad is dead.”)

Racism in soccer is certainly not a phenomenon unique to Israel. And to their credit, after years in which racist chants translated into actual violence (a year and a half ago Israeli police conducted a six-month undercover investigation into the club’s most notoriously racist and violent fan group, La Familia, which resulted in 47 arrests and 19 indictments), authorities do appear to be doing slightly more to combat racism in soccer stadiums.

Furthermore, racism among sports fans is more about latent and overt racism within society itself than the sport: it’s safe to say that just because fans feel empowered to express racism in certain consequence-free situations doesn’t mean that they don’t harbor the same racist sentiments elsewhere, even if they are smart enough not to chant about them at work or in line at the supermarket.

However, for the culture and sports minister to not address, challenge, or condemn genocidal chants of “burn your village” from sports fans standing right next to her, published in a video on her own Facebook under the guise of encouraging good sportsmanship, feels far more sinister — almost like a wink of approval.

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    1. Ben

      “sportsmanlike conduct…burn your village”

      This has all the cynical incoherence of “the settlements are not an obstacle to peace.”

      “La Familia”—it’s the perfect name for them. And while they’re at it they might as well rename “the settlement enterprise” “La Cosa Nostra.”

      Do you think Italian Mafiosi think any less reverently and ruthlessly of their own “enterprise”? Do you think Mafiosi are any less narcissistic or crude than Signora Regev? Do you think Mafia leaders hand out favors and influence to the common people less than Signora Regev? Do you think that Mafia leaders do not resort to crude violence as much as do Signora Regev and her mob? Do you think Mafiosi are any less contemptuous of the law?

      If you do, you do not know how Mafias operate. These people are mobsters. The occupation is organized crime.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Anti Fascist

      These fascists will once be punished.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Al

      “Muhammad is dead.”

      Well he is, isn’t he?

      Reply to Comment
    4. A Person

      Not comfortable viewing. Clearly, though, the words this lady spoke were in (muted) opposition to racism. However, she is clearly in a state of willful blindness of the extent to which her political base are racists. Beitar Yerhushalaim are a national disgrace – time to close the stadium.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Carmen

      No truer picture of the zionist state ever published, with the smiling jackass miri regev as their cheerleader.

      Reply to Comment