Time For Sanity

Too many people have enjoyed poking fun in the past few days at Beitar Jerusalem's fans after the club was bought by a couple of dovish businessmen. A sort of malicious joy which actually ignores the fact that the majority of Beitar fans don't give a hoot about the new or past owner's political leanings, and never really did. The political beliefs of many of Beitar's owners were never really that clear, and people tend to forget that even when one of Beitar's most popular goalkeepers declared that he supports a leftist party nobody really got excited about it. By the way, his name was Itzik Kornfein, now Beitar's CEO.

Most Beitar fans have no problem with an Arab player wearing the yellow-and-black strip with the Menorah over his heart. Once, people claimed that because of a handful of Neanderthals who made racist sounds at African opposition players, black players would never be accepted at Beitar. Well, that belief doesn't take into account that black players were accepted at Beitar back in the 1980s.

Beitar, as opposed to other teams, is a social litmus paper. More than any other team Beitar's fans reflect the social changes. It's always so easy - and outrageously silly and dangerous - to view some phenomenon as an abscess that should be hidden, instead of understand that some of the more blatant forms of behavior in Beitar's stands are already the mainstream of larger segments of Israeli society.

The two new owners have absolutely no chance of success if they remain alone in their effort to promote change in the club. On the other hand, it would be a dreadful mistake on their behalf if they tried to bring an Arab player to Beitar only to prove a point. Such an immediate action would be counterproductive at this point in time, and would further harm the possibility that an Arab player could join Beitar in the near future. What is needed is quiet and serious educational work, only a small part of which is out there for the media to see and report. Israeli society and Beitar Jerusalem cannot afford to miss this opportunity.

The thousands of fans who come to the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem and all those who are passive supporters must save the club from the rabble - such as the tiny but vociferous "La Familia" group - who try to stain Beitar with racism and hatred. These are days of change and awakening in Israeli society - apart from the dark laws dealing with boycotts. The acquisition of Beitar by Dan Adler and Adam Levin is a unique chance for the fans to reclaim their team and save it, not only from fiscal bankruptcy but also from moral bankruptcy. Speak up now, or you may be silenced.