Sunday, January 03, 2010

Passing the Buck on the bad boys of football

Beitar Jerusalem fans on the terraces

The Financial Times' partial Middle East coverage has for some time been giving cause for concern - a bias no less worrying than that of the BBC and The Guardian. Their staff pursue the unwritten law that there must only be bad news about Israel. One narrative that western journos like the FT's correspondent Tobias Buck dutifully follow is that Israel society may come across like one big family, but is in fact hopelessly fractious and divided.

On Saturday, under the guise of an article on the 'not-so-beautiful' game of football, the FT published a portrait of the downright ugly 'bad boys' who support Beitar Jerusalem. No other soccer team in Israel glories in the fact it will not recruit an Arab player (although Buck does not reveal it has black players). What an unpleasant bunch. Out-and-out racists they are, screaming milhama at their opponents ('war'). Their hatred for Arabs and for the Ashkenazi 'liberals' of Hapoel Tel-Aviv is truly venomous.

The Mizrahim behind Beitar Jerusalem, Buck acknowledges, come from Arab countries. How and why did the families of the fans come to Israel? How many Jews have ever been allowed to play for Moroccan teams? Might persecution in Arab countries just have something to do with their anti-Arab racism? While it can never excuse it, might it explain some of their behaviour? No, Buck is not going there. Jews can never be portrayed as victims, except of each other. That role is reserved for Arabs - sorry, 'Israeli-Palestinians,' as Buck calls them.

Buck has dutifully absorbed far-left cliches and exaggerated claims of Ashkenazi discrimination against Mizrahim. According to the narrative, the Mizrahim are 'underdogs' of the Ashkenazim. Their raucous chants at Hapoel Tel Aviv are their way of 'getting even' with Ashkenazi-dominated society with its 'complex hierarchy'. The Mizrahim were relegated by the Ashkenazim to development towns (how unfair that not everyone streaming into Israel in the 1950s and 60s was allowed to move to Tel Aviv). The Mizrahim haven't had a prime minister from amongst their ranks, Buck tells us. Buck does not say that they have had a Mizrahi president, and prime minister is about the only job in the cabinet that Mizrahim haven't held down. What Buck is not prepared to examine is that divergent political opinions, not the 'ethnic demon', account for the hostility the fans of Beitar show to Hapoel Tel Aviv, whom they disparage as belonging 'in the Arab camp.'

Of course the valiant Arab team of Bnei Sakhnin (Buck irritatingly terms them 'Israeli-Palestinians') come out as 'fine' footballers and 'thoughtful' men. They are the only moderates around here, long-suffering champions of Israeli-Arab coexistence, pained by the Jewish racism around them. Here, Buck comes across as more radical than the Arab player he interviews, finding it offensive that Arab-Israelis must sing the Israeli national anthem Hatikva, that speaks of Jews and only the Jews yearning for the land. The cheek of it.

How much more offensive than for British citizens of the Muslim or Jewish persuasion to show allegiance to the Union Jack flag, with its three crosses?

Read article in full


Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

When teams from Jewish cities and towns play in Sakhnin [home base of Bney Sakhnin], they are greeted with chants of "death to the Jews." A few years ago, Arab soccer fans in Sakhnin physically attacked in pogrom fashion Jewish fans who had come to Sakhnin for a game.

Apparently, Mr Buck did not see fit to report these facts. It is also true that fans of Beitar Jerusalem, as well as of other teams, chant "Mavet la`aravim" [death to Arabs].

Buck doesn't want to look at the context. By context, I don't just mean the history of Jews in Arab countries, whether Morocco, Iraq, Yemen or wherever. I mean the events of the last 16 1/2 years since Oslo when the number of terrorist attacks, of terrorist mass murders, and of victims [dead and injured both], rose dramatically over the numbers for the previous 16 1/2 years.

Likewise, within the post-Oslo context, Israeli Arab politicians, including members of Knesset, have grown much more vituperative against the State and their Jewish fellow citizens. Moreover, everyone is aware of the hate incitement coming out of the "palestinian authority" and its mass media [radio, TV, newspapers], its mosques and Friday sermons, its teaching of hate in the schools, etc. The hatred for Jews openly preached and expounded in the "palestinian authority" by both Fatah- and Hamas-oriented voices is immense. Certainly, hatred in the other direction, from Jews for Arabs, is only to be expected.

In this vein, I remember arafat's chant of praise for Yihya Ayyash, called the Engineer because of his prowess in bomb-making for mass murder purposes. This was in early 1996 after Ayyash had been killed by Israeli secret services with a bomb planted in his cellular phone. Arafat chanted at a mass meeting in Ayyash's memory: El-Mehundess, el-Mehundess, el-Mehundess, Yihya Ayyash [mehundess = engineer], to the loud cheers of the crowd.

Methinks that counter-hatred would only be natural in such a situation.

Now, I don't know if Buck explained that HaPoel is hated because it is associated with the Labor Party, which signed the Oslo accords and thereby brought arafat and his goons into the country. HaPoel = The Worker and was officially part of the Histadrut, the labor union affiliated with Mapai, which later became the Labor Party. Further, in Israel, "left" means anti-national, without any constructive attributes perceived by the general public, just destruction and mass murder perpetrated by the terrorists that Labor allowed into the country. Hence, it is no wonder that many Israelis hate the "Left."

Now, many Ashkenazi Israelis feel the same way as the Mizrahim about the "Left." And it also known that some of the "leftists" are of Mizrahi origin, so the hatred is anti-"Leftist", that is, anti-anti-national. And hatred of the "Left" does not have to go back to the 1950s and 1960s when the Histadrut controlled access to jobs, promotions, etc. Yes, the Histadrut, like many American labor unions, was a hot bed of favoritism, cronyism, and such like corruption. But that does not explain why fans of Beitar Yerushalayim and other teams --including Ashkenazim-- shout "mavet la`aravim." The events of the past 16 1/2 years are explanation enough.

bataween said...

Thanks for supplying the context so lacking in Buck's article. As you say, hatred of the left crosses ethnic lines, but Buck and his ilk are still mired in the 50s ethnic divide and its easy explanation of Ashkenazi'discrimination'.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Yes, the situation at soccer games here is sometimes ugly. But Buck --as you point out-- wants to see all faults on the Jewish side. He also seems to be inciting against Mizrahim by making them out to be "racist" without any context. He sees no historical context of the experience of Jews in Arab countries or of our suffering since Oslo. Maybe Buck could pay some attention to soccer in the UK and the notoriously thuggish behavior of British soccer fans abroad. Let's not forget the game against an Italian team years ago when British fans beat about 12 Italian fans to death.

One more point: Before Oslo, the Israeli Arabs seldom called themselves "palestinians." That only came after Oslo. In fact, I would say that hatred between Jews and Arabs in Israel has much increased since Oslo.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Here is a blurb for a new book by historian Isaiah Friedman, British Pan-Arab Policy, 1915-1922. I don't agree with every point that Friedman makes, according to this blurb. But I agree that British policy contributed to Jewish-Arab conflict.

"In this myth-shattering study, Isaiah Friedman provides a new perspective on events in the Middle East during World War I and its aftermath. He shows that British officials in Cairo mistakenly assumed that the Arabs would rebel against Turkey and welcome the British as deliverers. Sharif (later king) Hussein did rebel, but not for nationalistic motives as is generally presented in historiography. Early in the war he simultaneously negotiated with the British and the Turks but, after discovering that the Turks intended to assassinate him, finally sided with the British. There was no Arab Revolt in the Fertile Crescent. It was mainly the soldiers of Britain, the Commonwealth, and India that overthrew the Ottoman rule, not the Arabs. Both T.E. Lawrence ('Lawrence of Arabia') and Sir Mark Sykes hoped to revive the Arab nation and build a new Middle East. They courted disappointment: the Arabs resented the encroachment of European Powers and longed for the return of the Turks. Emir Feisal too became an exponent of Pan-Arabism and a proponent of the 'United Syria' scheme. It was supported by the British Military Administration who wished thereby to eliminate the French from Syria. British officers were antagonistic to Zionism as well and were responsible for the anti-Jewish riots in Jerusalem in April 1920. During the twenties, unlike the Hussein family and their allies, the peasants (fellaheen), who constituted the majority of the Arab population in Palestine, were not inimical towards the Zionists. They maintained that 'progress and prosperity lie in the path of brotherhood' between Arabs and Jews and regarded Jewish immigration and settlement to be beneficial to the country. Friedman argues that, if properly handled, the Arab-Zionist conflict was not inevitable. The responsibility lay in the hands of the British administration of Palestine."

bataween said...

As you say, Eliyahu, the British have nothing to be proud of when it comes to football hooliganism. In fact they practically invented it. Some teams have terrible reputations, eg Millwall. Historically the Glasgow teams of Celtic and Rangers were always at each other's throats: Celtic never recruited Protestant players and Rangers never Catholic, though this has changed recently.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Bataween, I don't read the FT regularly, although when I read it years ago I was impressed with its high quality. That seems to have been lost. I myself posted on what I saw as FT censorship of historian Simon Schama.

Independent Observer said...

Bataween, have there not been two Sephardi-Mizrahi Presidents - Moshe Katsav and Yitzhak Navon?

Independent Observer said...

Bataween places the gradually-disappearing Ashkenazi-Mizrahi divide in proper context.

It is, further, the business only of Israelis, to discuss and resolve equitably in Hebrew within Israel.

It is disappointing that both foreigners and Mizrahim have too often fallen for this device.

bataween said...

Dear IO,
You are right, Yitzhak Navon makes two presidents, but he is Sephardi (tahor) not Mizrahi, as you say.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Yits'haq Navon's grandfather or great-grandfather back in the 19th century [Joseph Navon] was already prominent and wealthy in Jerusalem. He built --as a contractor-- the railroad to Jerusalem from Yafo on the coast.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Yits'haq Navon was one of Ben Gurion's right hand men, and his secretary at one time. So he was close to the center of power. Note that he was nominated for president by the Labor Party after Begin had become prime minister.

Anonymous said...

The twin fascisms that causes most massacres, wars, "conflicts" today:

Arabism is racism (Arab racism)
Millions upon Millions are/became victims of Arabism which is the worst current form of racism in its gigantic proportions, like: Kurds Jews (not just in Israel...) Berbers (the real natives of North Africa), Africans (noty just in the genocide in the Sudan & in Egypt on native Nubians by Arab invaders - till today), Persians, etc.

Islamism is bigotry (Islamofascism)!
The Islamic supremacy that "works" towards its vision of "final Islamic domination on the entire planet", from Middle east to Africa from Asia to Eurabia, from terrorism & massacres in multiple countries (like: Thailand Phillipines, China, Indonesia, USA, France, Kenya, Tanzania, Russia, Tunisia, Morocco Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon India, Israel, UK, etc.) to propaganda,

Let's face it! that entire war on Israel & the Jews since the 1920's by their facsist Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini who started the "genocide campaign" [and continues by the children/grand children of Arab immigrants into Israel - Palestine - now convenienently called "palestinians"] in a clear outlined declaration to 'kill all Jews' is out of pure Arab Muslim bigotry.