Betar players under fire for anti-Arab chants

British politician launches campaign against State Cup winner after group of players seen chanting racist epithets.

betar jerusalem 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
betar jerusalem 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
A British politician has launched a campaign against State Cup winner Betar Jerusalem after a group of the club's players were seen chanting racist epithets. Writing in the Iranian English-language newspaper Tehran Times on Sunday, Respect party co-founder Yvonne Ridley spoke out against Betar players including striker Amit Ben-Shushan, who joined in with fans singing anti-Arab songs at a celebration at Teddy Stadium on Tuesday evening. Ben-Shushan, who plays on the Israel national team, was caught on camera chanting the words, "This is the land of Israel, Toama… I hate you Salim Toama. I hate all the Arabs," part of a popular chant sung by Betar fans. Toama is an Israeli-Arab former national team and Hapoel Tel Aviv midfielder who currently plays for Standard Liege in Belgium. In the days since the incident Ben-Shushan is reported to have telephoned Toama to apologize, claiming he did not mean what he said. Ridley, however, said she believes action should be taken against Betar. "The international governing body of football, FIFA, in accordance with its anti-racism campaign, should ban Betar and the involved players from participating in any international activities as well as impose a heavy fine," she wrote, while calling for readers to lodge a complaint with Blatter on the FIFA Web site. "This behavior is unacceptable and the Israeli football authorities, and this club in particular, should be severely penalized. If we are serious about kicking racism out of football no one should be exempt, not even the Israelis," wrote Ridley, a former Daily Express journalist who converted to Islam two years after being held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan nearly eight years ago. She currently hosts a program on the Iranian English-language television channel Press TV. Ridley moved quickly to defend herself against any criticism of anti-Semitism by noting, "by the way, the whistleblower who brought this to my attention is a European Jew who is repulsed by any form of racism regardless of its origins, so any Zionists reading this can stop crying 'anti-Semite'."