Activism and BDS Beat 26 January 2013
Eli Cohen, the manager of Israel’s notoriously racist Beitar Jerusalem football team, has tried to calm fans angered by a decision to recruit two players from the Russian Premier League side FC Terek Grozny which is based in the capital of the Muslim-majority region of Chechyna.
But while ostensibly refuting the fans racism, Cohen simply compounded it by developing a hierarchy of Muslims against which bigotry is acceptable. European Muslims are OK, Arab Muslims – such as Palestinian citizens of Israel who already play for many other Israeli teams including the national squad – are out.
Cohen told Israel’s Ynet:
I don’t understand the fans who don’t want to see a Muslim play with Beitar. There’s a billion Muslims in the world and we need to know how to live with them. There’s a difference, and it makes a difference, between a European Muslim and an Arab Muslim and the fans here have a problem with Arabs living in the Middle East. I understand the difficulty of the subject and I hope that with the help of the Board what is needed will be done.
Cohen spoke after Beitar lost a match to Bnei Yehuda during which Beitar fans chanted racist slogans, according to Ynet. Bnei Yehuda player Sari Falah, on loan from Maccabi Haifa, is a Palestinian citizen of Israel who has previously spoken about racism on the pitch.
Beitar’s bigotry even reported by ESPN
Beitar Jerusalem was the subject of a recent ESPN documentary you can watch online, because it is so notorious for its fans’ open hatred of Arabs.
Last year a mob of Beitar Jerusalem fans rampaged through the Malha shopping mall in Jerusalem chanting “Death to the Arabs” and randomly attacking Arab workers.
Israel awarded UEFA contests despite unchecked racism
But it is not just Beitar Jerusalem. The racism in Israeli football is so rife that last year even Haaretz called for action, noting:
Only in Israeli soccer can a club block Arabs from joining its ranks, and harsh violence is treated solely as a disciplinary infraction, to be handled by the Israel Football Association’s internal court. The anarchy and lack of police enforcement have turned Israeli soccer into a source of violence, racism and hatred, and has even started to attract dubious characters, who at times manage the teams.
Israel gets to break the rules, again
In other countries, teams have faced international sanctions for racist incitement by fans, and the issue of racism in football was recently brought to the fore when players from AC Milan walked off a game in Italy due to abuse of black players. Although players have criticized bodies like UEFA and FIFA for not taking racism seriously enough, the issue has gotten more attention.
In December, for example, European football governing body UEFA boss Michel Platini criticized sanctions against Serbia for racism by fans as too lenient.
Yet Israeli football has escaped all scrutiny, and despite the rampant racism and violence, UEFA has awarded Israel the honor of hosting this year’s Under 21 tournament.
Recently, top world footballers condemned UEFA’s decision to award the tournament to Israel in light of Israel’s violence against Palestinian athletes and other human rights abuses.
The unchecked racist violence in Israel’s domestic leagues is another reason why Israel doesn’t deserve to host any international tournaments. But Israel, like in so many other things, is allowed to flout all the rules that everyone else must obey.
Have a problem with Arabs living in the Middle East
Permalink iResistDe4iAm replied on
"...the fans here have a problem with Arabs living in the Middle East" ~ Eli Cohen
That's like saying ...the fans here have a problem with [Asians] living in the [Far East].
Do they have a problem with Asians too, or is it only Arabs and Africans?
Israel can't be racist against Muslims, Islam isn't a race
Permalink Estelle Sherman replied on
Who cares if an Israeli team doesn't want Muslims? When there is one single Jew playing for the Palestinians or any other Arab team in the world, you might have a case.
You should to your research
Permalink Ali Abunimah replied on
You should do your research before you bring your bigotry and false assumptions to our comments section. There is a Jewish player called Gilad Shalit (not the one you think) who plays for the Palestinian team Umm Al-Fahim. The Palestinian team Bnei Sakhnin also has a Jewish player, called Idan Weitzman.
There are many jews playing
Permalink Ricardo replied on
There are many jews playing for Arab teams and arab-owned teams in the world. Many jews are playing in the English Premier League - including Israeli internationals -, where many clubs are owned by Arabs/Muslims.
Permalink Tomas replied on
Israel and Racism cannot live without the other.
Re: Israel can't be racist against Muslims, Islam isn't a race
Permalink Michael replied on
1) This is about Beitar Jerusalem not Israel.
2) It might not be racism but it is Islamophobia. Besides Beitar Jerusalem hate Arabs as well as Muslims. Some of their fans chant "death to the Arabs" (ref: 'Football and the wall: The divided soccer community of Jerusalem' on CCN).
3) Just because there's a high amount of anti-Semitism in the Arab world, doesn't mean we should ignore anti-Arab racism and xenophobia in Israel. Tu quoque fallacy.
racist against muslims?
Permalink colin replied on
lets get this straight. Israel is a racist state, with just a thin finere of democracy.
Israel has a high level of hate for everyone but themselves.
Permalink Ricardo replied on
2013 - Who cares if an Israeli team doesn't want Muslims?
1938 - Who cares if an European country doesn't want jews?
There is no "israel". It's
Permalink Anvar replied on
There is no "israel". It's Palestine
Permalink tomas replied on
Dont blame an intire country. Only one club is problematic in israel and this is beitar jerusalem. In the other clubs arab and muslims play all the time