Thousands of media stories ran worldwide about the protests surrounding the arrival of Muslim players to the Betar Jerusalem soccer team in Israel recently. This weekend some fans shouted for the two new Muslim players to “go home” as they played their first games for the soccer team. While burning down team headquarters crossed the line and racism of all forms and shapes is wrong, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has said: “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.”
However, let’s keep things in content – few Betar fans are against peace, they are simply opposed to the continued killings of Jews. That said, unlike in Arab nations, the Mayor of Jerusalem, the Culture and Sport Minister of the Israeli government and other officials attended the game to support the players.
And guess what? There was no lynching of the players as there would undoubtedly be if any Jews played soccer in nearly every single Arab country. Now, every single Israeli team in the one democracy in the Middle East has Muslim players. While Muslim nations are largely devoted to destroying the Jewish State, their players play by and large in a free manner in the largest sport in the State of Israel. And meanwhile, there hasn’t been even one news report on the fact that Jews will be lynched if they entered most Arab countries. And naturally, no Jews or Israelis play on the soccer team of Libya, Egypt, or any of the other Arab nations in the Middle East.
The new Betar players emanate from Chechnya – from which Jews had to be rescued some years ago during the secessionist war in the Russian republic. Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, attended the game. Kadyrov, billed as devoted to “re-conciliation,” has rape squads and is criticized often by international human rights organizations. While international media worry about rabid Betar fans yelling about soccer, the British intelligence agency MI5 says Kadyrov has killed political opponents. In the new Betar players’ home-country, one cannot buy alcohol and there are segregated sports facilities for men and women. But, Betar Jerusalem fans are labeled by the media as amongst the most dangerous in the world.
Of course, amidst all this attention about Israeli divisiveness, there is even less mention about how often Israeli sportsmen and teams are barred from competitions. In many worldwide competitions, including the Olympics, Arab and Muslim competitors won’t compete against Israelis. A Kenyan-born marathoner, Mushir Salem Jawher, lost his Bahraini citizenship after competing in an Israeli marathon.
In the London 2012 Olympics, an Iranian athlete didn’t appear in judo as he was likely to compete against an Israeli. In 2001, the same Israeli boycotted by the Iranian had a Tunisian refuse to play against him. The Lebanese judo team at the 2012 London Olympics refused to practice next to the Israeli one – they refused to train without barriers.
Lest one forget, this past summer there was no moment of silence for eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team who were killed by terrorists in 1972. The Palestinian Authority announced their opposition to those who lobbied for a moment of silence. According to Jibril Rajoub, President of the Palestinian Olympic Committee: “Sports are meant for peace, not for racism… Sports are a bridge to love, interconnection, and spreading of peace among nations; it must not be a cause of division and spreading of racism between them [nations].” It may indeed be the case that the PA views the murder of these Olympians as heroic.
As CEO of 5W Public Relations, a PR firm, I say there is undue attention paid to Betar Jerusalem.
Just as there is little attention paid to the tens of thousands who have been killed in Syria while every minor incident in Israel is front page news. Wouldn’t it make a much stronger story rather than raucous football fans to talk about the Jewish refugees from the Arab nations of Bahrain, Algeria, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and plenty of other Arab countries? Balance is necessary in the media.
Ronn Torossian is a New-York based entrepreneur, philanthropist and author.
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