Racism persists at Betar Jerusalem game

Fans shout for new Muslim players to "go home" during game against Bnei Sakhnin at Teddy Stadium; some 75 fans removed.

Betar fans (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar fans
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Despite a countrywide outcry over the racism at Betar Jerusalem soccer games, most fans defiantly shouted for the new Muslim players to go home as they streamed into Sunday night’s game against the Israeli-Arab Bnei Sakhnin team in the capital’s Teddy Stadium.

The game ended in a 2-2 draw.Over the past two weeks, more than 20 fans have been arrested for attacking Betar Jerusalem’s guards, throwing rocks at players’ cars, and in the most extreme example, torching the offices at the Betar Jerusalem practice fields in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem.Some fans are furious that Betar signed two Muslim players, Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev, from the Chechen team Terek Grozny.“We don’t want Arabs, we don’t like them. For 70 years Betar has had no Arab players, Jerusalem will be pure forever!” shouted 16-year-old Nati Hajaj outside the stadium. “It’s a fundamental of the team,” he explained.“It’s absolutely terrible there are Muslim players on the team, I hope all Arabs will die,” said Avner Yericha, a 28-year-old Jerusalem resident.“I’m not racist, I just hate Arabs,” said another 16-year-old fan, who refused to give his name.Other fans cautioned that these extreme views were not representative of all Betar fans.“This is really a shame, it’s taking away from the good name of Betar,” said Reut Moshe of Kiryat Gat. “They need to arrest the fans who are doing these [violent acts], this is delegitimizing the team.”Police escorted some of the more rambunctious fans out of the stadium even before the game started.“Everyone hates you, Itzik Kornfein, your mother is a whore and you are a bastard!” the crowd chanted after they finished singing “Hatikva,” referring to the chairman of Betar Jerusalem. Some fans are furious with him for signing the two Muslim players.Fans also chanted “Death to Arkadi” Gaydamak, Betar’s owner.In a show of support for the Chechen players and Betar management, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat and the mayor of the Chechen capital of Grozny all attended the game.Kadiyev, one of the new players from Chechnya, was booed by a group of Betar fans every time he touched the ball while warming up on the field during halftime. The second player from Chechnya, Sadayev, is currently injured.Police removed more than 75 fans from both teams for incitement and yelling racist statements.Police spokesman Shmuel Ben- Ruby said that 20 Bnei Sakhnin fans were removed from the game for whistling and booing during the national anthem before the start of the game.Aside from a few scattered incidents of racist chants of “Betar pure forever!” and one “Death to Arabs” which did not spread across the stadium, the game was free from the racism that has marred many of the previous matches.The Israel Football Association ordered Betar Jerusalem to close the eastern stands of Teddy Stadium, traditionally the home of the more hardcore fans, including the fanatical La Familia group, as punishment for a banner raised on January 26 that said “Betar Pure Forever.”Instead, the team displayed enormous signs stating the team’s opposition to the recent events.“Violence and racism? Not on our fields!” the sign read, as the stands sang “Your mom is a whore! Your mom is a whore!” towards the Bnei Sakhnin stands.Outside the stadium before the game began, about 50 people from the anti-racism Bright Tag coalition held a protest under the banner “Jerusalem is Tolerant Forever.”New MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) also slammed the racist acts committed by Betar fans.“This is about 500 to 1,000 people who are destroying the atmosphere,” he said. “These actions have reached an international level – this is not good for Israeli sport, for Betar Jerusalem or the State of Israel. We need to cut down racism at the roots.”Levy, who was formerly the Jerusalem chief of police from 2000 to 2004, said he recommended to the courts that they ban fans arrested for incitement from attending the games for three years, instead of one season – which is the usual punishment.The protest was intentionally held out of sight of most Betar fans so as to avoid confrontations.Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Pepe Alalu said the violence needs to be stopped at the soccer field, because it is already spreading to other sectors of the population, citing attacks against Arab teenagers over the summer from groups of Jewish teenagers.Alalu said the Israel Football Association should send Betar away from Jerusalem as punishment and have the team play home games in Tel Aviv or Netanya. Alalu also noted that Sunday was the 30th anniversary of the murder of Peace Now activist Emil Grunzweig.“I was there 30 years ago, and we said ‘OK, there’s violence,’ but we never expected that it would kill someone,” Alalu said. “It will be the same thing here... the police are scared, the players are scared, the fans are scared, and Betar management is scared.”