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Israel’s ultra-racist Beitar Jerusalem football team in uproar over hiring of Muslim players from Chechyna

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Israel’s ultra-racist Beitar Jerusalem football team in uproar over hiring of Muslim players from Chechyna

by Ali Abunimah (Electronic Intifada)

Eli Cohen, the manager of Israel’s notoriously racist Beitar Jerusalem football team, has tried to calm fans angered by a decision to recruit two players from the Russian Premier League side FC Terek Grozny which is based in the capital of the Muslim-majority region of Chechyna.

But while ostensibly refuting the fans racism, Cohen simply compounded it by developing a hierarchy of Muslims against which bigotry is acceptable. European Muslims are OK, Arab Muslims – such as Palestinian citizens of Israel who already play for many other Israeli teams including the national squad – are out.

Cohen told Israel’s Ynet:

I don’t understand the fans who don’t want to see a Muslim play with Beitar. There’s a billion Muslims in the world and we need to know how to live with them. There’s a difference, and it makes a difference, between a European Muslim and an Arab Muslim and the fans here have a problem with Arabs living in the Middle East. I understand the difficulty of the subject and I hope that with the help of the Board what is needed will be done.

Cohen spoke after Beitar lost a match to Bnei Yehuda during which Beitar fans chanted racist slogans, according to Ynet. Bnei Yehuda player Sari Falah, on loan from Maccabi Haifa, is a Palestinian citizen of Israel who has previously spoken about racism on the pitch.

Beitar’s bigotry even reported by ESPN

Beitar Jerusalem was the subject of a recent ESPN documentary you can watch online, because it is so notorious for its fans’ open hatred of Arabs.

Last year a mob of Beitar Jerusalem fans rampaged through the Malha shopping mall in Jerusalem chanting “Death to the Arabs” and randomly attacking Arab workers.

Israel awarded UEFA contests despite unchecked racism

But it is not just Beitar Jerusalem. The racism in Israeli football is so rife that last year even Haaretz called for action, noting:

Only in Israeli soccer can a club block Arabs from joining its ranks, and harsh violence is treated solely as a disciplinary infraction, to be handled by the Israel Football Association’s internal court. The anarchy and lack of police enforcement have turned Israeli soccer into a source of violence, racism and hatred, and has even started to attract dubious characters, who at times manage the teams.

Israel gets to break the rules, again

In other countries, teams have faced international sanctions for racist incitement by fans, and the issue of racism in football was recently brought to the fore when players from AC Milan walked off a game in Italy due to abuse of black players. Although players have criticized bodies like UEFA and FIFA for not taking racism seriously enough, the issue has gotten more attention.

In December, for example, European football governing body UEFA boss Michel Platini criticized sanctions against Serbia for racism by fans as too lenient.

Yet Israeli football has escaped all scrutiny, and despite the rampant racism and violence, UEFA has awarded Israel the honor of hosting this year’s Under 21 tournament.

Recently, top world footballers condemned UEFA’s decision to award the tournament to Israel in light of Israel’s violence against Palestinian athletes and other human rights abuses.

The unchecked racist violence in Israel’s domestic leagues is another reason why Israel doesn’t deserve to host any international tournaments. But Israel, like in so many other things, is allowed to flout all the rules that everyone else must obey.

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  • Just_Stopping_By

    I was referring to Abunimah’s article which explains that when there is an opportunity for a serious discussion on the question of rectifying the wrong done to Arab Jews, the ADL has shut it down, seemingly reversing their long held stance on the importance of the subject.

    Not really. Let me give you a counter-example.

    Consider some pro-Palestinian groups’ interest in rectifying the wrongs done to Palestinians. Now suppose someone comes up with a plan to resettle Palestinian refugees somewhere they don’t want to live, just like few Mizrachi Israeli Jews want to go back to their or their parents’ prior country of residence. I wouldn’t be surprised if those groups looking for justice for Palestinians don’t see too much of interest in such a plan, and indeed they have actively opposed such plans in the past. (And we don’t even have to get into how various parties have explicitly called for Arab states not to grant citizenship to Palestinians so that they don’t have as much of an option to resettle even if they want to.)

    Basically, the EI claim is that if you don’t support one particular plan, you obviously don’t support a general concept. Under that measure, no doubt every side in the I/P dispute that says that it supports peace generally could be accused of shutting down discussion because there was some particular plan that it objected to.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    Oh jeez, my reasonable response to your comment is now a manifestation of a “sort of tribal football-fan approach?”

    I guess you’re the only reasonable non-partisan (or non-tribal) neutral, if as you admit “very Pro-Zionist” commenter here. You’re entitled to your Pro-Zionist views and we’re entitled to highlight when we perceive your comments are influenced or colored by it. I don’t think JSB’s “understanding” of your comment means anything in this instance, others view it exactly as I did, clearly people who “liked” it did. So that’s neither here nor there.

    The instance of a minority of Malaysian fans allegedly abusing Jewish players isn’t exactly a parallel to the sort of violent racism in Israeli domestic leagues or Beitar Jerusalem. I agree that Israel is not so unique in manifesting such issues, but the original article highlights that Israel is unique in getting away with breaking rules, receiving a tournament in a way other nations would not, in fact if the rules were applied evenly they would be sanctioned for such things, take the Serbia example.

    UEFA is at fault here, for not being consistent across the board.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    The way I worded it likely led to you misreading it. It’s true there is no way the ADL would want any Israeli Jews to leave Israel, that would go against their staunch pro-Zionist stance.

    I was referring to Abunimah’s article which explains that when there is an opportunity for a serious discussion on the question of rectifying the wrong done to Arab Jews, the ADL has shut it down, seemingly reversing their long held stance on the importance of the subject.

    I may have read her comment wrong, as I didn’t know it was addressed to anyone specifically, it seemed out of place if viewed as a general response to EI article.

  • mindy1

    Ahehehe

  • Leftwing_Muslim_Alliance

    Thats because you guys have american football. Please dont compare that circus with real football played by the rest of the world ;-)
    Sir David

  • http://www.loonwatch.com/ Ilisha

    If an offer were made to Egyptian Jews, I think it should be left up to them, not to Abe Foxman. :)

  • Just_Stopping_By

    What does this mean exactly? I suppose it could mean return, compensation, or an option to choose?

    Trust me, for the ADL it means and has always meant compensation. The ADL is quite pro-Zionist and it has never pushed for making it easier for Jews to leave Israel. If anything, its position has strongly been that whoever left and/or was expelled from their homes from 1947 and afterwards should stay where they are now.

    Agree or disagree with the ADL (and one can certainly have a reasoned disagreement), I doubt that you would find any actual statements from that group supporting the electronicintifada interpretation of the its supposed changed position.

  • http://www.loonwatch.com/ Ilisha

    Can you show me anything that says that the ADL supported Arab Jews returning to Egypt?

    The ADL has said peace with the Palestinians, “must also address the narrative and outstanding claims of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced to flee Arab lands…”

    What does this mean exactly? I suppose it could mean return, compensation, or an option to choose? When the Jews were actually invited to return to Egypt, Foxman apparently rejected the notion.

    In shock reversal, Abe Foxman’s ADL speaks out against rights for Arab Jews
    http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/shock-reversal-abe-foxmans-adl-speaks-out-against-rights-arab-jewsM

  • Just_Stopping_By

    “I did hear something about calls for Arab Jews to return to their homes in Egypt and to receive compensation which is something the ADL supported for years until the idea was raised recently, at which point they did an about face.”

    I think you may be mistaken or perhaps I am misreading you. Can you show me anything that says that the ADL supported Arab Jews returning to Egypt? With regard to the receiving compensation part, the ADL still supports that, so that would not be an about-face either.

    In any event, I still think you misread Sarka’s comment. That aside, I agree with you that condemnation of bigotry should be even across events in all countries, sports clubs, etc.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    Take it is easy Sarka. There was nothing frantic about it, it was pretty easy to connect the dots.

    Your response was a stand alone comment, not in reply to anyone hence I wasn’t aware it was addressed to any one commenter specifically, though now I presume you were addressing Nur Alia.

    It appeared to me that you were bringing in some red herrings into the discussion. Racism and discrimination is wrong anywhere, I’m glad we agree on that, no one denies that it exists around the globe when it comes to soccer fans and leagues. Context and nuance in a complex discussion are certainly welcome.

    The question is why are some sanctioned and criticized while others escape criticism and sanctions?

    In any case Ali Abunimah’s point about Israel getting to break the rules is still very much valid. He gives the example of Serbia which was sanctioned for racism, the UEFA director said such a sanction was “too lenient,” yet UEFA will now award Israel with a tournament even with similar displays of racism.

    On top of that why should Israel, which also has a history of unchecked racist violence in its domestic leagues host an international tournament.

    World footballers have come out against it, it’s not just voices in the wilderness.

    In other countries, teams have faced international sanctions for racist incitement by fans, and the issue of racism in football was recently brought to the fore when players from AC Milan walked off a game in Italy due to abuse of black players.

    Although players have criticized bodies like UEFA and FIFA for not taking racism seriously enough, the issue has gotten more attention.

    In December, for example, European football governing body UEFA boss Michel Platini criticized sanctions against Serbia for racism by fans as too lenient.

    Yet Israeli football has escaped all scrutiny, and despite the rampant racism and violence, UEFA has awarded Israel the honor of hosting this year’s Under 21 tournament.

    Recently, top world footballers condemned UEFA’s decision to award the tournament to Israel in light of Israel’s violence against Palestinian athletes and other human rights abuses.

    The unchecked racist violence in Israel’s domestic leagues is another reason why Israel doesn’t deserve to host any international tournaments. But Israel, like in so many other things, is allowed to flout all the rules that everyone else must obey.

    Lastly, how do we know Arab nations wouldn’t be open to Jewish players, perhaps not Israeli players, considering the general boycott of most things
    Israel. I did hear something about calls for Arab Jews to return to their homes in Egypt and to receive compensation which is something the ADL supported for years until the idea was raised recently, at which point they did an about face. If people can call on Arab Jews to return home and receive compensation, I’m sure you can find support for them to join in a club or two. No doubt there will be some psycho racists and bigots who would hate for such a thing to occur.

    http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/shock-reversal-abe-foxmans-adl-speaks-out-against-rights-arab-jews

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Garibaldi:

    I think you are misreading Sarka. He/she used the words notorious (“widely and unfavorably known” per dictionary.com) and dreadful to describe the fans’ behavior. I see no justification of the fans’ actions in Sarka’s comment, and I join in condemning those racist fan responses. I also condemn the “explanation” that some Muslims are more acceptable than others.

    What Sarka has provided is some background and some information that racism amongst soccer/football fans is seen around the world. He/she makes an interesting point that even the most notorious of the Israeli teams is adding Muslim players (much to its fans’ dismay), while teams in other countries have more exclusionary policies and similarly bigoted fans. To be clear, no team and no fans should be praised just because they are “less racist” than others, but it is also wrong to suggest that one team is uniquely racist when such a phenomenon is widespread. (Sarka: “So here in soccer there is no generally accepted ‘rule’ to which Israel is an exception.”)

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    Your comment essentially boils down to Israeli Jewish racism against Arabs is OK because there are Arabs and Muslims who have expressed racism at soccer matches. Or implicitly it’s all explainable by the fact that they are “Sephardic” and hence it’s really the Arabs fault the Jewish fans/coach are racist because they “kicked” the Sephardim/Mizrahim out, though this narrative leaves out Israeli operations targeting Jews in Arab lands.

  • Sarka

    Beitar Jerusalem is notorious – there have been dreadful incidents, and there is evidence of involvement by a banned far-right political group. ,

    one expert says:
    “”Beitar’s matches often resemble a Middle Eastern
    battlefield. It’s mostly Sephardic fans of Middle Eastern and North African
    origin, revel in their status as the bad boys of Israeli soccer. Their dislike
    of Ashkenazi Jews of East European extraction rivals their disdain for
    Palestinians.”

    In fairness, though, Beitar Jerusalem is a rarity in Israeli soccer, where Arab Israelis play in major teams.

    On sectarianism in MENA football, also see this rather sad article on problems of Copts in Egyptian soccer:

    http://footballspeak.com/post/2012/08/21/Egypt-Olympics.aspx

    And I’m afraid that the likelihood of a Jewish player being hired to play football for a side in a Muslim country is slight. It’s partly – of course – that there are hardly any Jews left in them for footballers to come from – there are two Jewish footballers in Turkish teams but they are Israelis not local Jews. Your “say Malaysian” example is completely theoretical – there have been no cases of discrimination against Jewish footballers being immediately subject to sanctions and pressure, because there have been no cases of Jewish footballers. So here in soccer there is no generally accepted “rule” to which Israel is an exception.

    On Malaysian football fans and Jews, I can find nothing except this sad report from July 2011

    “|KUALA LUMPUR: The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has
    apologised to English Premier League side Chelsea after anti-Semitic
    abuse was allegedly directed at Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun during
    a friendly last week.

    In a statement released yesterday, the FAM did not confirm the abuse took place at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on July 21 but said that if it did, it was only from a small minority of the 80,000 supporters in attendance.”

    By the way, the Malaysia’s race/ethnicity/sectarian problems are big – just not about Jews mostly….instead about Indians – who are mostly not Muslim and who bitterly complain of discrimination including systematic segregation and exclusion from sports facilities and teams, including in soccer.
    :

  • Nur Alia binti Ahmad

    Another feather in the cap of the world.

    The key to ending the conflict between the Palistinians and the Israelis is to take apart the ‘excetionalism’ Israel and Israelis tend to enjoy to abiding by the same rules as everyone else, and Israelis demand of everyone else.

    Say…a football team in Malaysia barred a Jewish footballer from playing on a Malay team. The footballer would have ‘megaphoned’ this through the communication grapevine, and the next day, the pressure would have been to sanction the team. To be clear here, it is ALWAYS wrong to discriminate.

    The rest of us are learning to ‘megaphone’ our disappointment that Israel and Israelis are getting exceptions to rules as well. The more we express these views, and get them out into the public discourse…about anything, including something seeming trivial such as this…a pattern will come to light, and the dialouge will begin.

    It isnt bombs and guns that will solve the conflict, it is information. The paper tiger Israel has used it for more than 60 years to create a perception that they should be treated special. It is time now that they are forced by the truth to abide by the rules we all have to.

  • mindy1

    True-I also never got why we call it soccer, and everyone else calls it football :P

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tarig-Musa/741915510 Tarig Musa

    First of all it’s football, you know a game where you use your feet to play not your hands :)! And second, just like in every walk of life its the extreme minority who give a bad name to the rest. The vast majority of fans go to games to enjoy the atmosphere, support their team and have a bit of competitive banter with the opposition fans, and then be either extremely happy for the rest of the week if we win or pissed off if we lose, especially when we beat the rags or the murderers (I’ll leave that for the footy fans to understand)! Unfortunately you always have a few idiots whenever there is a large gathering of people, its standard!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tighe-McCandless/100000513101987 Tighe McCandless

    “There’s a difference…between a European Muslim and an Arab Muslim…”

    Could’ve sworn I’ve heard that one before, or something similar to it. Hrm. Oh, yes.

    “There’s a difference between black people and n*****s.”

    Different verse, same as the first.

  • mindy1

    Why are soccer fans so nuts :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tarig-Musa/741915510 Tarig Musa

    i recently tried to bring this fact up on a website called teamtalk when all the commotion was being raised regarding the racist chants that English players were subjected to in serbia. The website is owned by bskyb, ie rupert murdoch, and guess what, it wasn’t published! I wonder why!

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