Fans with 'Pure Beitar' banner
Photo: Haim Tzach
I have been a Beitar Jerusalem fan for decades. As someone who was born in "Shuni" (formerly a secret base of The Irgun where my parents lived with dozens of other Beitar movement couples) and educated in the Beitar youth movement, it was only natural that I would become a Beitar Jerusalem supporter.
I have accompanied the team for years, and in times of need I found sponsors who allowed the team to continue to operate. I was proud to be a Beitar supporter. Something in the simplicity of the fans' joy is exciting. The team has supporters all over the country. Many people who are involved in Israeli soccer say Beitar fans are vital to the competitive atmosphere. Wherever Beitar plays, the stadium is almost always full or nearly full and there is the sense that you are attending a thrilling event.
Op-ed: Soccer fans' abhorrent behavior reflection of racist, vulgar and violent Israeli society
But all this cannot serve as an excuse for the group of racists who want a "Pure Beitar." Pure - meaning without Muslims or Arabs, a million of whom are citizens of the State of Israel.
One of the finest days of Israeli sports was the day Bnei Sakhnin won the State Cup final. It was very moving to see Jewish and Arab players dancing with the Israeli flag, proud of winning the State Cup.
The atmosphere in Israel's soccer stadiums is not too encouraging. The competition lost the element of fair play long ago. It is usually a contest between the fans of the opposing teams to see who can hurl the most offensive insults. Fans throw objects at each other, and there is a feeling that violence is an integral part of the atmosphere at the stadium.
As bad as these scenes are, they do not reach the level of revulsion I felt upon seeing the banners waved by Beitar fans during last Saturday's game. It was a display of the lowest level of support fans can offer their team, and it does not matter if the fans who waved the banners actually realized what the broader significance of the phrase "Pure Beitar" is and its connection to the terrible expressions used by haters of Israel and anti-Semites. The very use of this phrase expresses hatred, contempt, disgust, intolerance and zealotry of the darkest kind.
The fact that the Arabs are part of the State of Israel and are citizens with equal rights is irrelevant. Even if they were not citizens, these despicable expressions of racism cannot be tolerated, regardless of the fact that we live with Arabs and respect their heritage and religion. Arabs are welcome everywhere, including in the stands of Teddy Stadium and on the pitch, wearing the uniform of the team I thought I supported.
This issue should concern us all. If we do not remove these racists from our stadium and disconnect them from the team, we will be just like them. I will not be attending Beitar games until they are removed. I am sick and tired of being affiliated with the dark vulgarity of people who will never be a part of what Beitar is supposed to symbolize in sports an in Israeli society.