Rattling the Cage: Baseless hatred

Why isn't there a taboo in Israel, like there is in America, against spewing filth about black people?

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
Jesse Jackson may have apologized long ago for his "Hymies in Hymietown" remark, but black anti-Semitism, I'm deeply depressed to say, continues to be a serious problem in America. This week it was reported that a cable TV baseball announcer, Mal Dandridge, said of Keith Miller, the Cincinnati Reds' Jewish third baseman, "The way he looks, they should give him a carry-on bag for his nose and put him on a plane to Israel." Miller, who has frequently been taunted with anti-Semitic slurs by some black fans around the league and who has been the target of rough criticism for his play by All-Sports Channel announcer Dandridge, made a throat-slitting gesture to the camera Sunday during a pre-season game. Speaking to an Internet reporter afterward, Dandridge, who is black, said he believed Miller's gesture was meant for him, and then he made his anti-Semitic remark. Later Dandridge maintained that he had been reacting to a "death threat" from Miller, and added that "whoever misunderstood me and interpreted my remarks as being anti-Semitic, proves himself to be an anti-Semite." Yet despite making such a blatantly Judeophobic comment, Dandridge is still announcing games for the All-Sports Channel. ENRAGING, isn't it? Well, don't be enraged, because it's not true. I made the whole story up. Such a thing couldn't happen in America. Jewish baseball players (who are rare, but who do exist) aren't subjected to anti-Semitic taunts from the stands; it's completely unthinkable. And if any American announcer ever did say such a thing about a Jewish player, there would be an instant uproar and the announcer would be fired, denounced, and his career would be over. I made up that story to give a bit of perspective to a true story that happened this week in Israel. It appeared on the front page of Tuesday's Ma'ariv. Shlomo Scharf, a former top Israeli soccer coach now doing commentary for Channel 10 and the Sports Channel, said this to an Internet reporter about Hapoel Tel Aviv's Ibazito Ogabuna, a black African player: "The way he looks, they should put him in a cage and send him back to Nigeria." Ma'ariv reported that Scharf, who had been riding Ogabuna for his performance this season, made the comment after a recent game in which the player made a throat-slitting gesture to the camera after scoring a goal. With Hapoel Tel Aviv accusing Scharf of racism, Ma'ariv asked Scharf about his comment, and he replied: "My remarks were made in reaction to the rude, threatening gesture Ogabuna made, which was aimed at me. As far as I'm concerned, that's considered a death threat... Whoever misunderstood me and interpreted my remarks as being racist, proves himself to be a racist." Nevertheless, Scharf is still a commentator on soccer games for Channel 10, the Sports Channel and Yediot Aharonot. (The Ma'ariv story didn't mention whether Ogabuna has suffered racist taunts from Israeli fans, but it can be assumed that he has because foreign black players have regularly been hearing monkey chants from the stands - "Hoo-hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo-hoo" - since they first started playing here over a decade ago.) IN AMERICA, Scharf would already be persona non grata. In the past, football commentator Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder was banished from TV, and Al Campanis lost his 20-year job as Dodgers general manager for making bigoted remarks about blacks that were much less crude and ugly than the one Scharf made about Ogabuna. But when Israel routinely tolerates soccer fans yelling monkey noises at black players it's no wonder that it will tolerate a soccer announcer saying a black player should be put in a cage and sent back to Africa. This week's incident with Scharf isn't anything new, either. In 2001 Israel's then-premier basketball coach, the beloved Pini Gershon, gave a lecture on leadership to a hall full of IDF officers, during which he spun out his racial theory about blacks: "There are two shades of blacks. There's the light-skin, who are a lot smarter than the dark blacks - those are really dummies," he said. "The dark ones are like slaves; whatever you tell them to do, they'll do without thinking about it. They usually come from the streets." The lecture was videotaped by a reporter, and because Gershon and his basketball team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, were the gods of Israeli sports, it got a lot of attention for a few days, with the media and various politicians weighing in against Gershon, and Gershon being called before the Knesset Sports and Culture Committee to explain. He joked a little, he got a little teary-eyed, he invoked his mother. The Knesset committee gently admonished but forgave this Israeli culture hero, and Gershon lost exactly zero popularity for his nauseatingly racist remarks to dozens of IDF officers (who were seen on the videotape laughing, with none of them uttering a word of protest). He stayed on at Maccabi Tel Aviv, they won another European Cup, Gershon even got his own TV show - the general attitude here was "no harm, no foul." Why isn't there a taboo in Israel, like there is in America, against spewing filth about black people? Because, unlike America, Israel never developed a bad conscience about bigotry, the reason being that Israel is too caught up in being the victim of a form of bigotry - anti-Semitism - and in making sure everyone else has a bad conscience about that. WITH ITS self-image as the eternal victim of racism, Israel considers itself immune to being racist; the anti-Arab racism that absolutely saturates this country is yawned at by all but the despised "bleeding hearts" as understandable, as a natural reaction to Arab terror, war and hatred. We go easy on ourselves because of anti-Semitism, we go easy on ourselves because of Arab violence, and we end up with a society where cretins can scream monkey noises at black athletes, where household names like Pini Gershon and Shlomo Scharf can talk about blacks as dummies, as slaves, as animals in a cage - and it's accepted. You can do that sort of thing here. Nobody will stop you, nothing bad will happen to you at all. While there's no American Jewish baseball player getting taunted by anti-Semitic fans or slurred by an anti-Semitic announcer, black or white - what if there was? Knowing what goes on in Israel, how righteously indignant could we Jews really get?