Jerusalem Soccer Fans' Racism Is a Microcosm of Israel 2013

The furor following Beitar Jerusalem's decision to sign Muslim players relies on the same warped logic that prevented Yair Lapid from even considering a coalition with Arab parties.

The logic of Beitar Jerusalem is a reflection on Israel 2013. If Yair Lapid doesn’t count Balad MK Hanin Zuabi, then a Muslim cannot play on the capital’s soccer team.

Some people in the eastern stands at Teddy Stadium are convinced that Muslims are born different and even develop differently in their mothers’ wombs. And we’re not talking about a few people - there are many of them, apparently thousands.

They believe that Muslims are inferior. Such racism isn’t based only on blind hatred or cultural gaps. Those fans believe in pure racial segregation. They genuinely see a difference between Muslims and non-Muslims. A day-old Muslim baby is not like a day-old Jewish baby - of that they are absolutely convinced. From their perspective, a Muslim is an undeveloped human being. He is inferior - and if he plays for them, then they are inferior. Also, they seriously fear that he could sell a game - after all, a Muslim can be bribed.

We are not just talking about hatred based on demographics or history. Nor of wars and territories. The diagnosis is mainly racial, and only after that political. In their eyes, even if the Messiah comes and creates global peace, builds a new Middle East and takes us all to eat humus in Damascus, even then they won’t want any Muslims at Beitar.

The question is what to do with these people. In the western stands the fans booed them in an attempt to form some sort of opposing critical mass. But those of the eastern stands are more vocal, energetic and belligerent. Some of them know no limits. They could still turn up at team practices and start trouble, and after that they could reach the home of the chairman, and even the owner. So what should be done with them?

In Israel 2013 it’s not clear whether anything can be done. Within the racist train of thought there is room for leaving Arabs out of soccer teams altogether, and in the eastern stand there’s an automatic logic: If Hanin Zuabi cannot be included in the count of Knesset seats, then she cannot be a Beitar player either.

Meanwhile, the lightweight racists at Beitar are trying to persuade the ultra-racists that “It’s okay this time, because we’re talking about Chechnyan Muslims, not real Arabs.” Lightweight racism as a counterweight to outright racism - that’s what you find throughout Israel, and not just at Beitar Jerusalem.

No optimistic turning point will result from all this. Everything will continue to depend on those sitting in the eastern stands - and the level of their aggressiveness ebbs and flows according to the distractions. On Saturday, after a goal was scored against Beitar, they turned their attention to the game itself and forgot about the racism. For a moment they’d had enough of cursing the proposed new Muslim players and the man who intends to bring them here and even find them apartments in the capital city. In any case, it was only a temporary distraction.

When there aren’t such distractions, racism will again run amok in the stands and the thuggery will again take center stage. Then the weak ones will try again: The Israel Football Association will try, the police will try a little bit and the fans in the western stands will heckle them. There is not - not in Israel in general and not in Beitar Jerusalem - the necessary atmosphere to make racism extinct. Whoever is strong, whoever is violent, will continue to set the tone.

Nir Neidar