Israel's Racists and Ultranationalists Deserve to Be Booed

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Haaretz Editorial
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Munas Dabbur, yesterday.
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Munas Dabbur, a forward on Israel’s national soccer team, scored one goal Monday and set up the second against Faroe Islands in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, despite starting the game with an injury. None of that was of any interest to part of the crowd in the stadium in Netanya: Each time Dabbur touched the ball, and also before he scored the penalty kick that put Israel into the lead, they jeered with disapproving boos.

The boos aimed at Dabbur did not begin in Netanya on Monday. They’re a standard ritual that began in the wake of an Instagram post he wrote during the clashes on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in May, quoting from the Koran: “God will deal with the perpetrators of injustice.” Dabbur explained the post as a protest against the use of excessive force by the Israeli security forces, as a result of which an elderly relative of his was injured.

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His explanations did not help. He was not selected to play in two of the national team’s matches and was forced to apologize publicly to his teammates. At the same time, some Israeli soccer fans, stirred to rage by racist and ultranationalist public figures, decided to make his life miserable.

On Monday, after he scored the goal, Dabbur put a finger to his lips to shush the crowd. “I go in to play with shots and passes, and a moment before the penalty they boo me. I get a yellow [card] and the fans cheer. Unbelievable. What do I need that for?” he told his teammates by way of explaining the frustration that led to the response, adding that he was considering quitting the national team.

But for the racist, ultranationalist Jews in the audience, his explanations only proved that he should be expelled from the team. This ugly sentiment was expressed best, as usual, by far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, who said: “We’ve never seen such a thing, a player on the national team who wants to replace the crowd and perhaps the nation as well. We haven’t forgotten his remarks during Operation Guardian of the Walls [the hostilities with Gaza in May] or to which side he belongs...such a player has no place on the national team.”

Eyal Berkovic, formerly a national team great and presently an ultranationalist populist, argued that Dabbur shouldn’t be selected for the national team because “It’s inconceivable for a player on Israel’s national team to silence his audience. … He made a mistake and he must pay for it.”

Dabbur, however, doesn’t have to pay for anything. He’s one of the best players there is, and, of all the Israelis playing overseas, he plays at the very highest level (Germany’s Bundesliga).

But more importantly: The shameful booing in fact disgraces the incited, ultranationalist fans who seek to destroy a wonderful sports-based and social connection between Jews and Arabs. We can only hope that Dabbur will be strong enough to continue to play on the national team. Israel is honored by his presence on it.

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