How to stop Israeli soccer racism

People should go to the games with their cellphones, video cameras and other gadgets, film the fans who are hurling filth and abuse and display it to the world.

FC BETAR Jerusalem’s fans (photo credit: Illustrative photo: Ariel Jerozolimski)
FC BETAR Jerusalem’s fans
(photo credit: Illustrative photo: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Here’s a suggestion on how to stop racism at Israeli soccer games – the chanting of “death to the Arabs,” the hooting of monkey sounds at black players, all that stuff: Film it and show it to the world.
People should go to the games with their cellphones, video cameras and other gadgets, film the fans who are screaming the abuse, put it on YouTube, Facebook and the other social media with English translation, and believe me, it will stop. These creatures will be shaming Israel before the world, and they will stop of their own accord, and if they don’t, the powers-that-be in this country will do whatever’s necessary to silence them.
The idea occurred to me while reading Wednesday’s Yediot Aharonot, which had a two-page spread headlined: “Raised for racism – Next generation of hate: Six-year-old boys sing ‘death to the Arabs.’” The story was about the three short films now on Facebook that showed what the fans were doing at the Betar Jerusalem practice – just at the practice! – on Sunday. There were nearly 1,000 fans at Beit Dagan field, the little boys sitting on the shoulders of the men, learning the words of the team’s traditional fight songs: “I hate all the Arabs...,” “May the Arabs die...,” “Arabs are sons-of-bitches...,” and so on.
The films were recorded and put on Facebook by a 16-year-old Betar fan, who didn’t seem to realize there was anything to be ashamed of. The kid was named in the story; it’d be interesting to know if “La Familia,” the Kach-style gang of hardcore Betar fanatics, will give him a medal or a beating. Maybe he’ll get both.
THE BETAR management, of course, was shocked and dismayed, outraged and appalled. “The team condemns all acts of violence and racism. We are repelled by this incident and are certain that it does not represent Betar fans at large,” read the statement. “Over the last two years we’ve been fighting the phenomenon of racism, and we will continue to do so in the coming season.”
Isn’t that wonderful? I’ve got another idea – Shakira’s in town for the President’s Conference, she loves soccer; why not take her to the next Betar practice? Why not bring her over to meet the guys in La Familia; they can teach her some new songs.
Betar Jerusalem, “the nation’s team,” has an unwritten but ironclad rule against hiring Arab players. It’s enforced by the team’s more hot-headed fans.
In late 2009, team captain Aviram Baruchiyan made the mistake of saying publicly that he’d welcome an Arab player to the squad. La Familia was not amused. The guys summoned him for an audience. At the end, Baruchiyan said: “The most painful thing is that I unfortunately hurt Betar’s fans, and I understood that I hurt them very much... It’s important for me to stress that I’m not the one who decides on these things, but if at the moment the fans don’t want it, there won’t be an Arab player at Betar.”
I’ve sat in the Betar stands and heard hundreds or thousands of fans sing out their hearts against the Arabs. I’ve sat in the Maccabi Tel Aviv stands and seen a whole section of fans erupt in monkey sounds – “Hoo, hoo, hoo!! Hoo, hoo, hoo!!” – after a black player scored a goal.
This has been going on for decades. It doesn’t stop. Teams are occasionally penalized, fans are occasionally fined, there are all sorts of do-gooder projects – but this horror show keeps being played out all over the country, and especially in Jerusalem, week after week.
It’s time to show it to the world. So get your cameras out, go to your computers and shame Israel into cleaning up this filth once and for all.
It happens in other countries, too, you say? So let the people in those countries get their cameras out if nothing else works. In Israel, nothing else has worked, so it’s time for the shame game.
The writer blogs at Israel Reconsidered (