+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Racist Israeli soccer team left in the dust

 A small low-budget team from northern Israel with four Arab citizens of Israel on its team has just won the championship, while the Arab-free Israeli soccer club notorious for its racist fan base came out a loser.

By Issa Boursheh

Racism and violence are on the rise in Israel’s soccer fields. In March alone, there were four recorded violent incidents linked to Israeli soccer. The one that shocked me the most due to its nationalist nature was the rioting and the chanting of the Beitar Jerusalem Football Club (FC) fans in the Malcha Mall, which led to an attack on Arab workers.

Many respected figures have written about the phenomenon of Beitar’s racist fans, at times attributed to a “minority” of extremists. Former Minister of Education Yossi Sarid compared Beitar fans to the extreme hilltop settler youth and suggested that an international institute (like the Union of European Football Associations) should chip in and deal with this once and for all. Sarid is bothered by Beitar’s unwritten policy of excluding Arabs from their roster. Well, honestly, I don’t think any Arab player would want to sign with Beitar Jerusalem, regardless of the offer and the salary that the team might propose, should this ever happen.

I am more worried about the practice of excluding Israel’s largest minority from the workplace, which is not exclusive to Beitar Jerusalem FC. And I am more concerned about the employment market and status of education than the soccer field. Why? Because this time, it’s Beitar’s own loss! When Walid Badir, playing for Hapoel Tel Aviv lifted the championship plate on May 2010, and Hapoel Tel Aviv beat Beitar Jerusalem on Beitar’s home turf at Teddy Stadium, I realized how African Americans felt when baseball legend Jackie Robinson took the field in April 1947.

Beitar has never had a single Palestinian player in its lineups since its establishment, which takes me back to the pre-1947 United States, before Jackie Robinson first put on the LA Dodgers uniform. Today, many professional sport teams, not just in the United States, have a majority of African American players and the Hall of Fame of every possible sport has an impressively diverse list.  If any professional sport team in the United States were to decide to exclude an African American, Chinese, or any other individual based on his ethnicity, that team would most likely be treated like a leper.

In Israel 2012, Palestinian-Israelis are playing a major role in the Premier League, and the top scorer of the league is the Palestinian-Israeli Achmad Saba’a, currently contracted with Maccabi Netanya. Kiryat Shmona, the champions this season, have at least four Palestinian-Israelis on the team. The list is long and with all the controversy around singing the Israeli national anthem, between four and six Palestinian Israelis are playing on the national team. Maybe now we can “blame” Arab labor for any failures.

For now I will sit on my couch and enjoy the flourishing representation of the Arab players. I think we have more aspirations regarding our role in Israel’s society – in the economy, politics, culture and sports too. And I quote Yossi Sarid: “Kiryat Shmona is a champion, and Beitar is trailing behind at the bottom of the ranking; when was the last time they claimed the crown? This is the curse placed upon them for their race theory, and that curse has sentenced the team to average performance and below.”

Issa Boursheh is a graduate student at Tel-Aviv University and blogs at http://www.twenty2nine.com


Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. ToivoS

      Discrimination against blacks in US collegiate sports came to a sudden end when those schools that played black athletes began to dominate national rankings. This was most pronounced in the NCAA basketball tournaments.

      Maybe, just maybe, once the racist teams are exposed as true losers both on and off the field, there might be some real reform. It worked that way in the US. Nothing worse than losing a game.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Mareli

      Racists deserve to lose, whether in soccer, the marketplace, or in politics.

      Reply to Comment
    3. XYZ

      Well, the truth comes out. Just heard the report on the radio…the police went over the security camera recordings about the supposed incident at Malcha involving Arabs and Beitar fans in which the Arabs claimed they were assaulted by the fans
      IT IS A LIE. There was no attack by the fans, it was the Arabs who assaulted them.
      Any lie is useful in the war by the Israel-bashers against Israel, isn’t it?

      Reply to Comment
    4. dickerson3870

      RE:”Many respected figures have written about the phenomenon of Beitar’s racist fans…” ~ Issa Boursheh

      MY COMMENT: I am reminded of the old adage that “the fruit does not fall far from the tree”!

      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…

      Reply to Comment
    5. XYZ

      Churchill also liked and praised Mussolini. So did Lenin.
      Of course, Yossi Sarid’s MERETZ party’s component MAPAM adored mass-murderer Josef Stalin, but the Progressives/Left prefers to ignore that stain on them. A few of themarmed themselves hoping that the USSR would invade Israel and then these MAPAM people would join them in “liberating Israel from capitalism”.

      Reply to Comment
    6. daniel

      So much for Israeli “apartheid”.
      Finding hooligans among soccer fans, including dumb racists, is nothing new, nor unique to Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    7. XYZ

      Are Arab fans who scream “Death to the Jews” racists? Or are they too “primitive” to be that?

      Reply to Comment
    8. ToivoS

      xyz saying Lenin supported Mussolini is totally nuts. Lenin died in 1924, Mussolini first established the fascist state in 1925. WTF are you talking about? Does spewing lies over and over again make them true? Actually in totalitarian states it does seem that way, at least in the short term.

      xyz it sounds like you must be Israeli. That is how they do it.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Beholder

      “What a waste that we lost Mussolini. He is a first-rate man who would have led our party to power in Italy.”
      Vladimir Lenin, addressed to a delegation of Italian socialists in Moscow after Mussolini’s March on Rome in 1922, as quoted in “Third World Ideology and Western Reality” (1986) by Carlos Rangel, p. 15

      Yeah, that’s how we do it.
      Secret Zionist rule #1 – avoid being an idiot.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Beholder

      My sincerest congratulations to the team.
      Really well done.

      Reply to Comment