Text size

From the vantage point of my armchair, I have the impression that a soccer match is sometimes no more than an excuse for beating people up. Admittedly, the number of times I have attended soccer matches is equal to the number of articles I've written on the subject - four - but on one of those occasions, I myself was the victim of such aggression.

About a decade ago, I prepared an article about the meteoric rise of Bnei Sakhnin, which unfortunately ended in its defeat by Ahi Nazareth. In response, the Sakhnin fans attacked the cars belonging to the journalists who had come to cover the match, with stones. I was extremely insulted. I didn't know which was preferable - to be stoned because I was a journalist, even after I had become friends with all the players after three meetings with them, or to be stoned because I was a Jew, since not much time had elapsed since the [bloody] events in Wadi Ara and that game.

I still don't know the answer to the question of what aroused the ire of the Beni Sakhnin fans - the journalist aspect or the Jewish aspect - but in the case of the Beitar Jerusalem fans, always known as "a mere handful", the answer is clear. They have degrees: First comes death to the Arabs, and then death to journalists and leftists.

A female Beitar fan - who was brought to a television interview wearing yellow from head to toe - began shouting about "the media that always speak about violence on the part of Beitar fans rather than violence on the part of Hapoel Tel Aviv fans." Hapoel Tel Aviv fans are no strangers to violence, but the problem with Beitar fans is that, in their case, for some reason the violence is first and foremost always aimed at Arabs.

It is the Arabs - not the team's coaches over the generations, its managers, players or owners - who always bear the brunt. True, it is not always all of the fans, only a handful, but where are all the other fans when the "handful" - whose number grows from one game to the next - sing racist songs during the match?

If we are indeed talking about a fixed number of violent fans, how is it possible that the remaining fans, whose number is much greater than a few hundred, do nothing to drown them out? Or perhaps only the number of members in the handful is fixed while the members themselves keep changing?

If we are to judge according to the shouting and cursing that accompany the violent conduct of the Beitar fans, then those who play on the soccer fields are not people but two kinds of gods - our God, the Jewish God who is known as "Elokim" by those who love Him, as opposed to the Arabs' god, Muhammed. In order for Beitar to win on the field, judging by the contents of their songs and their curses, it is not enough for all the Arabs to die, but Mohammed must also die. Every goal is proof of the existence of the Jews' god and the death of the Muslims' god.

From the primitive point of view of those fans, what takes place on the soccer field is a religious war. From that point of view, Beitar is a reflection of everything that is off-putting in Jerusalem and likely to lead to its destruction - unwarranted hatred and religious zealotry.

Even if the extremists among the religious population don't go to the soccer fields on the Sabbath, their interests are taken care of on the field. Also those of the most extreme nationalists. The attitude of the police toward the fans who go on the rampage is likewise similar to its attitude toward the ultra-Orthodox and the rioters who retaliate after terrorist attacks.

They ignore them, either out of fear or perhaps even out of identification with them. It is also possible that it's due to the fact that, to them, all the fans seem to look alike (a frequent excuse on the part of the police for their inability to apprehend ultra-Orthodox rioters) - the very same expressions of anger, hatred, racism and primitiveness.