Sunday, February 10, 2013

Racism in Israel

Although generally speaking Israel is a very tolerant country, there are cases of racism that occur from time to time.  Case in point, the Betar Jerusalem football (soccer) club.  It has been known for years that the fans of this club are right-wing, nationalistic and anti-Arab.  When Betar is playing an Arab team or a team with Arabs in it, the fans chant racist anti-Arab slogans and this has got them and the club into trouble. Two weeks ago Betar played the Arab team of Bnei Sakhnin, from a small town in the Galillee, and the fans displayed a racist anti-Arab banner across the stands and this caused a scandal.  Also, there were some clashes and four fans were arrested. 
The police vowed to avoid any such incidents when Bnei Sakhnin came back for a return match, and the team itself has been very cooperative.  They rejected the racism and asked the fans to behave themselves, and at the second match to take palce today there will be a heavy police presence.  However, to break this pattern, the owners and managers of Betar decided for the first time to employ two Muslim players from Chechnya (many other league teams have Arab players).  They started last week, and generally there was little trouble, but last night the offices of the Betar team was fire-bombed and there was a lot of damage (trophies lost) but no injuries.
All involved from the Prime Minister down have called this attack "shocking" and "unacceptable", including the Sports Minister, the Mayor of Jerusalem and the Manager of the team, and the police are investigating.  However, this team is the only one in Israel where such incidents have happened.  Nevertheless, some Arab politicians have suggested that this represents the racist nature of Israel.
In south Tel Aviv there is an area around the old bus station where the African immigrants (about 30,000 of them, mostly illegal) cluster.  They generally live in very poor accomodation, abandoned buildings and the area is dangerous.  Recently a young Israeli girl was raped there and an 83 year old Israeli woman was repeatedly raped by an Eritrean immigrant. This case shocked a lot of people and there were anti-immigrant demonstrations by the local people. 
The last government built a strong fence along the Egyptian border from near Eliat to near Gaza, that has cut down the infiltrations by 95%.  From thousands a month it is now down to a trickle of African migrants.  One was shot last week while trying to cross the barrier.  This multiple layered fence has also stopped terrorist attempts to enter Israel from Sinai.  Five Israelis were killed in a terrorist attack along the border last year, but hopefully it won't happen again.  Now the government is concentrating on repatriating the illegal immigrants to their countries.  Each one gets a cash payment and a free plane trip.  Hopefully the number of illegal African immigrants can be rapidly reduced.  Now the Government has proposed to build a similar strong fence along the Syrian border to prevent the infiltration of Syrian refugees and also terrorists.


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