The Haim Revivo racism project
The new representative of Beitar Jerusalem’s owner announced last week he wouldn’t sign Arab players.
Israeli racism has a new and original justification: The people love it. When there is racism, Arabs are prevented from joining sports teams, so the teams can find sponsors. If once we had political, practical, spiritual and religious Zionism, now we have ideological racism and racism stemming from the need to sign sponsors. The person who thought this idea up, the ideological successor to Theodor Herzl and Ahad Ha’am, is an ex-soccer player, someone who made the list of greatest Israelis of all time: Haim Revivo.
The new representative of Beitar Jerusalem’s owner announced last week that he wouldn’t sign Arab players. “We do not seek to bring in an Arab player and provoke the fans,” Revivo said. “It wouldn’t be the right thing to do.” He also told the fans to tone it down because “these things make it hard to get sponsors” – he was referring to the spate of racist slurs, stone-throwing, spitting and other violent acts by Beitar fans.
Revivo’s new deal, as clear as the whistle of former star referee Pierluigi Collina, is that racism is good because the fans like it. The fans must not be provoked because then there will be no sponsors and no money. Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jorg Haider never thought of that.
It’s a fine thing to hear from Revivo, of all people, such base justification for racism. He reached the height of his glory when he played in a Muslim country. From 2000 to 2003, Revivo was the king of Turkey. He played for the two finest teams in Istanbul, Fenerbahce and Galatasary, scored lots of goals and was voted the best foreign soccer player in Turkey. To this day there are taxi drivers in Taksim Square who, if you say “Israel” to them, will respond “Revivo,” their eyes glistening.
No “representative of the owner” at those two clubs ever said he wouldn’t sign Jewish (or Israeli ) players so as not to provoke the fans. Nor was there any problem with sponsors. It’s not hard to guess what would have happened if a problem had come up with the Jew Revivo. A top-of-their-lungs chorus would have emerged from Elie Wiesel, the Wiesenthal Center, Yad Vashem, the Anti-Defamation League and Benjamin Netanyahu against the Turkish anti-Semitism that was calling for our destruction. But Turkey simply loved Revivo, judging him only on the number of goals he scored, not where he came from.
Revivo has forgotten this. He is a coward, with the reality shows “Dancing with the Stars” and “Eyal Golan is Calling You” and chairmanship of the Israel Football Players’ Association under his belt. He knows the soul of the beast – the fans of his new club – which is the soul of many Israelis, just more crude and violent. So sometimes I love the Beitar fans; they shout what Israelis are thinking. It’s not for nothing that Eyal Golan sings: “Who casts out the demons? / It’s us, the Beitars. / Who’s the queen? / Who’s the champ? / Beitar Jerusalem on top.”
This tune just goes on and on; words of praise for Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, and words of hatred for Rabin and his late wife, Leah. “It happened in the square / The SWAT team was helpless / It didn’t stop Amir / And suddenly, a red stain / We don’t want a peace treaty.” (The next part, about Leah Rabin, is unprintable ). And they sing: “We swear by the menorah / To the racism that is our dream / The whole world is our witness / There will be no Arabs here.”
When they are lectured day and night about a Jewish state, they understand the real meaning better than other Israelis. Do Netanyahu and Likud MKs Yariv Levin, Danny Danon and Miri Regev think differently? Would Habayit Hayehudi leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked phrase it differently?
Beitar’s racist singing raises up dark and hidden feelings, whose very raising the self-righteous reject. Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of Safed and the Beitar fans known as La Familia are the only ones who still manage to disgust us. Our political, judicial and educational leaders, no less racist and much more institutionalized, harmful and systematic, don’t disgust us. So maybe we should thank this project of Revivo’s. At least it disgusts us.