Beitar makes a football of identity politics

The Beitar Jerusalem football team has a solid, right-leaning, Mizrahi fan-base; its policy not to hire Arab players has come under fire from the liberal Haaretz. Beitar spokesman  Oshri Dudai has turned to identity politics to argue that Beitar players and fans, and even its Yemenite owner, are ‘Arabs of the Jewish kind’. But, Dudai charges, they come last in the Haaretz pecking order of concerns, behind Arab Muslims and Arab Christians (unless Mizrahim can be used to level charges of neo-colonialism against the Zionist establishment.)

The ‘Jewish Arab’ fans of Beitar:’chanting ‘Death to Arabs’

It is true that at the simplest level this is a mere evasion. Dudai was forced to use this definition in order to respond to a Haaretz article that charged that the team never had an Arab player playing for it.  Dudai obviously knows what kind of “Arabs” were meant. No one thinks that Beitar Jerusalem refuses to hire “Mizrahi” Jewish-Arabs. If Dudai needs a hint to what kind of “Arabs” were meant, they are the same as those referred to by Beitar Jerusalem fans when chanting “Death to the Arabs” during games. People don’t usually call for their own demise.

But since Dudai decided to introduce identity discourse into Teddy Stadium, into the kingdom of “La Familia” – it is worthwhile to try and understand why he decided to respond the way he did. On the face of it – when Beitar’s spokesman says the team’s owner, many of its players and a major portion of his teams fanatic fans are “Arabs” – he risks finding himself in a dangerous corner if those calling “Death to Arabs” view his distinction through a less intellectual lens.

But Dudai’s statement had a second part: “Haaretz is a cadaver being  artificially kept alive by some Ashkenazi elite living in an ivory tower in central Israel, which is trying to keep it alive by issuing provocation after provocation.” And once both parts are read together the argument in its entirety comes to the fore: Haaretz is an Ashkenazi newspaper, Beitar is a (Jewish) Arab club; Haaretz is complaining about the exclusion of Arabs, but Haaretz too excludes Arabs (of the Jewish kind). So, before you preach to us on the exclusion of (Christian and Muslim) Arabs, include (Jewish) Arabs yourself. Or in other words: As long as you exclude us, we will exclude them.

This isn’t as complicated as it seems: Dudai is complaining about the priority order in Israeli society. Haaretz is looking after Christian and Muslim Arabs before Jewish Arabs. And in a wider context: The old elite (Male, white, Ashkenazi, Tel-Avivian, privileged, etc.) is looking out for everyone who is behind us in line. It left us outside of the club for decades, so what is the surprise that we are leaving them out of the club for decades too?

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  • This skin color test that the bigots now want to impose is a red herring. Before WW One, the Jews in Europe were called Orientals and seen as swarthy-skinned (and not deserving to live in Europe on that account), which indeed many of them were. I live in Jerusalem and maybe I'm not especially dark, but I have been taken for an Arab by Arabs on several occasions. Many Jews are darker than many of the Arabs, and that goes for some of my family –Ashkenazim– who are fairly dark, darker-skinned than I am. There is a range of skin colors among both Jews and Arabs. The whole issue is a red herring used just to deny Jewish rights to live in Israel. And so-called "Leftists" use it too.

    Just to illustrate the problem, several Arabs have been murdered by Arab terrorists who mistook them for Jews.

  • I cannot read Haaretz in Hebrew but what I've read in English I agree, it is a paper of far left sympathy, representing
    the Jews of the E European diaspora in Israel and elitist.
    If after 68 years only now is the traditions of Mizrahim being introduced in education, that is really a shame on Israel.
    After 3, 500 years Jews of the Mid east are retroactively "Arab" what a farce. And I am a Jew of the E. European diaspora in America. And if my DNA tells me I'm of Mid East descent, I'm going to declare myself a " person of color" So now I'm an
    "Arab" too.

  • Beitar has had at least one Muslim player. He was from the former USSR. Most fans did not like him either.

    Since Haaretz complains about screams like "death to Arabs," the Israeli Arab team, Bney Sakhnin, has fans who scream "death to Jews." They include Beitar fans among those Jews who should die or be killed. Maybe the "death to Jews" scream is OK with Haaretz.


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