Jewish Journal

A response to NYT article about racist Israel

by Noga Gur-Arieh

January 31, 2013 | 10:47 am

A group of supporters of Beitar Jerusalem hold a banner reading "Beitar will always remain pure" during a Premier League match in Jerusalem Jan 26. Photo by Stringer/REUTERS

Earlier today, I came across this article from the New York Times. It referred to last week's incident involving Beitar Yerushalaim soccer club fans, who raised a sign reading "Beitar will be pure forever", in protest of the decision to bring two Muslim players to the team.

This incident was frowned upon, and treated very seriously, by both the Israeli media and the public. Many articles included interviews with Beitar fans who said that the claim that all Beitar fans are extreme racists is wrong, and that this group represents a small number of the team’s  fans. Those extremist fans, in case you were wondering, were banned from future Beitar games.

In my opinion, the NYT article wasn't as balanced as I expect an article in such a respected newspaper to be. A certain paragraph in particular made me feel uneasy:

“People in Israel usually try to locate Beitar Jerusalem as some kind of the more extreme fringe; this is a way to overcome the embarrassment,” said Moshe Zimmermann, a historian at Hebrew University who specializes in sports. “The fact is that the Israeli society on the whole is getting more racist, or at least more ethnocentric, and this is an expression.”

In other words, the message this article was conveying to the NYT's large scale circle of readers was that Israelis, one and all, are racists: not that it was a small group of people, and that it is not a sad phenomenon which exists everywhere. None of the above.  Just an inference from a gathering of several terrible stories of race-based violence coming from the Israelis.

Racism is a terrible phenomenon worldwide, which keeps growing in spite of the process of globalization. As people of the world are growing closer, small groups of extremists are becoming even more extreme. I wish it wasn't so, but it is. Israel is no different than any other place in the world. Racism exists everywhere, and it is aimed to all ethnic groups and religions. Just a couple of days ago London's Sunday Times' published a rather anti-Semitic caricature. Last night, I encountered a Palestinian Facebook group, calling to kill all Jews. Racism should have vanished from the world long time ago, but it hasn't, and I'm afraid to say it probably never will. Extremists everywhere will continue to hate in vain, and spread that hate. But as I said, extremists are everywhere, and so is racism. It is not an Israeli phenomenon, and not a Jewish phenomenon. It is everywhere.

This NYT article was offensive to me. I felt attacked, without the ability to defend myself. That being said, I can only hope that the readers of that article would realize there is an imbalanced atmosphere there, and won't come to hate us for supposedly being such a hateful nation.

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My name is Noga Gur-Arieh, and I’m an Israeli Journalist, currently studying for my B.A degree in Media and Political Science, at Tel Aviv University.

I am very socially...

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