Beitar Jerusalem received some press Sunday when the Israeli soccer club announced that it would change its name to “Beitar Trump Jerusalem” as a gesture of appreciation for President Donald Trump for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. (Today, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner celebrated the opening of the embassy while Israeli forces killed at least 55 Palestinians and injured approximately 2,400 who were protesting near the border fence in Gaza.) What you might not know about Beitar Jerusalem, beyond this sub-minor-league-baseball stunt, is that the club won’t sign any Arabs because its hardcore, far-right fans—La Familia—are incredibly racist.
It’s tough to find an applicable equivalent to this refusal. Comparing it to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier for major league baseball wouldn’t be accurate, because that was in 1947, and Beitar Jerusalem’s racist, unspoken policy still exists to this day. The club signed two Chechen Muslim players, Gabriel Kadiev and Zaur Sadayev, for the 2012-13 season. As The Guardian documented in 2015, La Familia reacted poorly. After the signings, two fans were arrested and charged when they allegedly set fire to the club’s headquarters. Others heckled the Muslims in practice and when Sadayev scored his first goal in a game, a number of supporters walked out.
In 2015, Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an article about Beitar Jerusalem’s refusal to sign an Arab player—while also discovering that there had indeed been one who played in the 1970s and asked to be kept anonymous out of safety. This led to Beitar banning Haaretz from covering matches. Beitar spokesman Oshri Dudai had this vapid response to the coverage of the club’s racism:
The most interesting reaction actually came from Dudai himself, who said that Mizrahi Jews are Arabs to all intents and purposes, hence the club is not racist or discriminatory.
“If we talk about facts – we not only had an Arab player but there is also an Arab owner,” he said in a radio interview. “Being Arab refers to a geographic origin, not to a community. It’s not a question of religion. There are Christian Arabs, Muslim Arabs and Jewish Arabs. Our owner is of Yemenite origin. Yemen, as far as I remember, is at the bottom of the Arab peninsula, making him an Arab in fact. We’ve also had at least four Muslim players before.
“Haaretz won’t let facts get in their way,” continued Dudai. “Haaretz is a corpse that is being forcefully ventilated by some Ashkenazi elite, sitting in an ivory tower in central Israel while trying to resuscitate this corpse, each time with a different provocation. This may infuriate us, but it doesn’t impact us. We unequivocally don’t care if we’re not covered by Haaretz.”
Just last year, club adviser Eli Cohen had to resign his post after saying he would not sign a Muslim player because of the reaction to Kadiev and Sadayev. This is not a Donald Sterling situation, in which one hateful person holds the power and dictates the club on his terms. It is rancid throughout: the fans, the front office, the ideology. When the person in charge of the United States campaigns on Muslim bans and openly loathes brown people—among other minorities—it makes a lot of sense why an Israeli soccer club with the same interests would back him up.
H/t to @perceivdinsight