The Betar Jerusalem soccer club is the only club in the world where many of the team's strongest supporters admit openly and proudly that come what may, they will never permit an Arab player to play for their team.
And if the team's new owners don't heed their warning, they have threatened to declare war on their favorite club. "Signing (national team star) Abbas Suwan," they have essentially said, "will be seen as a declaration of war.” And all's fair in love and war, as they say.
Betar Jerusalem fans (Photo: Tal Shahar)
I assume there are other clubs in the world that refuse to admit players based on their nationality, race, or religion – Jews, for example.
But at least these clubs are ashamed of themselves, and therefore they try to hide the fact that they employ racist policies. In any event, they don't hold the policy out for all to see, and they stop well short of declaring their racism openly, in public.
We can also say that in some countries, the civilized amongst them, "others out" policies are illegal and given to prosecution.
But Betar is not even ashamed of itself. The black flag flies alongside the team’s yellow one, and both represent an illegal, immoral, and clearly repulsive policy.
The supporters of Betar Jerusalem (ok, not all of them) have made that team the most disgusting club in the world.
Club owner Arkady Gaidamak well understands the trap he now finds himself in. In Europe, he is accused of supporting a nationalist, racist team, whose supporters hate Arabs for the mere fact of being Arabs, and even a star player for Israel's national team is persona non grata in Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium.
One is left with the clear impression from the last couple of days that Gaidamak is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. If he signs Suwan, he will incur the wrath of Betar fans. If not, he will be tarred with the brush of racism.
Perhaps I am too quick to accuse, but it seems to me that the owners are going to flinch and will bow to the view of Betar supporters – if one can even use the intellectual word "view", as opposed to primitive, base instinct.
If this really happens, it would be appropriate to recommend FIFA, the international soccer organization, ostarcize Betar. The club should be forbidden from playing in Europe, as it would have no place in a respectable international sporting organization. The banishers should be banished; the excommunicators should themselves be excommunicated.
It is near certain that Gaidamak will not announce publicly that Suwan has been disqualified from the club. In several days, we'll probably see a press release that the star player is not "appropriate" for Betar, and that the "professional staff" has decided against bringing him on – because of professional considerations, you understand.
Thus the door for Arab players will be closed once and for all – and not only to Abbas Suwan. We can't be fooled, and we well understand the practical meaning of things. We're not stupid, and neither are Betar fans; they can put away the black flag until further notice.
But that day will never come, for no Arab player will come knocking again on Betar's door.
I hope all this gets translated to Gaidamak - to French, English, Russian.
It sounds the same in any language, just like his promise to "take into consideration the will of our supporters" can be understood in all languages.
Why should he honor the "will of supporters," if they are trying hard to turn themselves and their team into the pariahs of the soccer world?
Where is Olmert?
I've noticed that Gaidamak has been left alone in this fight. Even the man who brought him to Betar to begin with, former Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, prefers to remain silent rather than spit in the face of racism.
After all, why should Olmert and co. put themselves on the line, and at such a touchy time? Instead of reneging on their commitment to the Sakhnin soccer team and to Abbas Suwan, Gaidamak would do better to renege on his promises to Betar Jerusalem.
The people who sold him Betar Jerusalem didn't show him all the clubs faults. Gaidamak could not have known he was buying a feral cat, trapped in a fetid sack.