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Op-ed: Goodes is not alone

August 7, 2015 – 2:23 pm2 Comments

By Asher Kozma:

Goodes

Getty Images: Mark Kolbe

The recent treatment of Indigenous AFL player Adam Goodes is an unfortunate reminder of how we as humans can band together in nastiness against those who are different.

Whether everyone booing has racist motives or not, it is clear the issue stems from racial tensions within our society.

Of course, Indigenous Australians are not alone in their exposure to discrimination. Any sports-minded Israeli ought to be familiar with the Goodes situation, as the Israeli Premier League has seen similar behaviour.

Two years ago I spent 10 months in Israel on Betar’s shnat hachshara program. A few weeks after our arrival we attended  a Beitar Jerusalem training session to show our support for two Muslim Chechen players, Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev, who had just signed with the club.

Beitar Jerusalem is the soccer club with the largest membership in Israel and a portion of their fans fiercely disapproved of Arab or Muslim participation in their beloved—and until 2014 Jewish-only—team.

As a group of Australians who had just arrived in the country, we didn’t fully comprehend why we had gone to the training session until we went to watch a match.

We saw Beitar versus Bnei Sakhnin, the latter being the larger of the two Arab teams in the league. I was appalled and embarrassed to share the name Betar with the fans who not only booed and hissed every time the Muslim players touched the ball, but also employed overtly racist chants and banners.

Dzhabrail Kadiyev

Dzhabrail Kadiyev at training. Photo supplied by Asher Kozma.

The theme of their commotion was to keep the side “Muslim free” or “pure.” This kind of shameless torment is unfortunately fixed into the lives of minority groups in Israel, and in my opinion is one of Israeli society’s biggest frailties.

By no means were all the Beitar supporters behaving in this racist and elitist manner. There were some who tried to support and cheer the new additions to the squad, however as has been the case at Sydney Swans games, the loud voice of hatred prevailed.

The irony is that Betar was founded by Jewish liberal thinker Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who encouraged participants of Betar and Jewish citizens of Israel to accept minority groups and treat them as equals.

“Every man is a king… the essence of your or my royalty is that there cannot be anyone above you or me in dignity and status.” 

Certain Beitar fans seem to have forgotten the origin of their club.

As a nation who has suffered the perils of minority status for thousands of years,  and who believes strongly in our right to the land we have historical ties to, Jewish Australians are obligated to show Adam Goodes and Indigenous Australians our support.

When you’re at the footy, let any racists know they’re doing the wrong thing. Don’t stand silent. For as we say in Betar: “silence is filth.”

Asher Kozma is the mefaked (director) of Betar Melbourne.

 

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