Shocking levels of racism are commonly accepted in Israel

by Yaniv Reich on November 21, 2009

Is Israel unique in having serious social problems with racism, particularly with anti-Arab racism? Of course not. Just about every country in the world has racist undercurrents that occasionally bubble to the surface. But in what other ostensibly Western, democratic societies would the team captain of a professional sports need to apologize publicly to the team’s fans for daring express the sentiment, at an anti-violence conference, that he wanted an Arab player on the team? More importantly, how could Israeli society, or any society, accept this behavior?

Yediot Ahronot reports:

Beitar Jerusalem captain Aviram Baruchyan met Thursday evening with fans belonging to the “La Familia” organization and apologized for saying that he would like to see an Arab play in the football team.

The fans told him they were hurt by the remark he made about 10 days ago at an anti-violence conference.

Baruchyan said at the end of Thursday’s meeting, “The most painful thing is that I unfortunately hurt Beitar’s fans, and I understood that I hurt them very much. It’s important for me that the players know and that everyone knows that I am with them through thick and thin, and I don’t care what other people think or write.

“However,” he added, “it’s important for me to stress that I’m not the one who decides on these things, but if at the moment the fans don’t want it, there won’t be an Arab player in Beitar.”

A useful contrast can be found in European football’s effort to stamp out racist chanting by some fans at competitions.

This incident says much, of course, not just about the racist fans “hurt by the remark”, but also about the institutional environment of professional sports, civic life, and Israeli attitudes that allow occupation to continue almost entirely unchallenged .

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