The Last Word: It's time for this madness to end

Now is the time for it to stop before it goes too far.

Betar crush 298 (photo credit: AP)
Betar crush 298
(photo credit: AP)
You might have thought that a full scale attack on the offices of the Israel Football Association, including an arson attempt and grafitti threatening the life of IFA chairman Avi Luzon apparently signed by Betar Jerusalem fans, may have made Arkadi Gaydamak see sense. Over the last few weeks the Russian oligarch and Betar owner has used every opportunity possible to blame the association for provoking his club's fans, rather than accepting the wrongdoings of the supporters themselves. Each time the IFA rightly has stood up to Betar and moved to punish the club, Gaydamak and Betar chairman Eli Arazi have protested their innocence. From the dangerous crush caused by Betar fans at Teddy Stadium at the end of last season when they refused to listen to police instructions not to try and enter the field of play, to the offensive boos screamed during a moments silence for Yitzhak Rabin and the even more offensive anti-Muslim chants by the supporters of the yellow and black at Bnei Sakhnin fans, the IFA had every right to hold the club responsible. Gaydamak, Arazi and the rest of the Betar management should have stood shoulder and shoulder with the IFA and unequivocally condemned the supporters for their unacceptable behavior. But instead, every single time, they appealed the IFA punishment. The appeals sent a clear message to the trouble-making Betar fans - that they had done nothing wrong. When the IFA banned supporters from Betar's home game against Sakhnin as a punishment for the fans chanting curses against the prophet Muhammad Arazi was so vocal in his opposition he began shouting at the assocation's judges in their court and stormed out. True, the club's defense was that it was not responsible for the actions of its fans at a neutral stadium (the National Stadium in Ramat Gan in this case), but that was not the point. The last thing we wanted to see was Gaydamak making a fool of himself on the terraces at Teddy last weekend chanting "Yerushaliyim milhama". Of course there is no definite proof that it was Betar fans who carried out Tuesday night's attack, but it seems more than likely. Surely it was time for Gaydamak to say enough is enough. And at the start of his press conference on Thursday he started off like he was going to, before pouring more blame on the IFA for "amplifying" the situation. The rivalry between the IFA and Betar is not only childish it is becoming dangerous. Who knows what could be the next incident if a public reconciliation is not reached. Now is the time for it to stop before it goes too far.