On Monday the Jerusalem prosecutor instructed the police to start an investigation against Beitar Jerusalem player Amit Ben Shoshan for chanting a racist Beitar anthem: "…This is the land of Israel, Toama… I hate you Salim Toama. I hate all the Arabs," part of a popular chant sung by Beitar fans (see the full version and past "performances" at the end of this text).
Toama is a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, a former national team and Hapoel Tel Aviv midfielder who currently plays for Standard Liege in Belgium.
On May 26 the cameras of Channel 2 caught players of the soccer club Beitar Jerusalem, among them Ben Shoshan oining their fans in their "Toama song". This during the festivities in Jerusalem after Beitar
won the Israeli cup for 2009.
The prosecutor went into action after the New Israel Fund (NIF) tendered a complaint in the framework of its campaign to Kick Racism Out of Israeli Soccer. Israeli law provides for a penalty of up to one year in prison for chanting racist slogans during a sporting event.
It is important to mention that NIF acted several times in the past against Beitar Jerusalem and its fans, who are considered to be the most racist in Israel. On May 20, 2009, NIF published on its website:
For the first time ever the Israel Football Association (FA) has deducted a league point in punishment for the racist chanting by a team's fans. During a match last month against Maccabi Petach Tikvah, Beitar's fans repeatedly sang chants insulting the prophet Mohammed and Arabs. The Israel FA disciplinary committee based their evidence on the reports of the volunteer observers in NIF's campaign to Kick Racism Out of Israeli Soccer. Beitar was also ordered to play one game without spectators.
In 2008 the club received a suspended penalty after their fans were found guilty of racist behavior for chanting "the Prophet Mohammed is dead" at a match.
According to the Israeli news portal Walla (Haaretz Group), Beitar fans had already sung the "Toama song" before and during the Cup game last Tuesday. Walla criticized State President Shimon Peres, who was present in the stadium, for not reacting.
Walla commentator Noam Tirosh wrote on May 27:
"If Shimon Peres had [properly] done his job as president, he would have left the Ramat Gan stadium in protest against the racism of the Beitar fans. But actually we forgot for a moment this is still [the old] Shimon Peres."
The liberal daily Haaretz seems to play down the incident and chose for its first report on the case a telling title which has not yet been translated in the English version, "Ben Shoshan racist: Salim Toama has already forgiven, the persecution not yet"
Although Salim Toama himself plays a bighearted "uncle Tom" and forgives Ben Shoshan, this should have no legal relevance in court, as the "Toama song" is not aimed only against him, but against all the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Toama is probably trying to increase his chances of playing again on the Israeli national team.
Yesterday a contrite Ben Shushan posted a letter on Beitar Jerusalem's official Web site in which said he was inebriated at the time of the incident and that he was sorry if he caused offense.
"I was carried away by the inappropriate chant without noticing what the words were," Ben Shushan wrote. "I do not identify with the words. As a soccer player and as a human being I do not get involved in such things. I don't hate individuals or people."
He also wrote that he had personally apologized to Tuama, whom he considers to be a friend.
Ben Shoshan (this I consider to be the correct English spelling) is very far from convincing, as the "Toama song" has a status of an anthem among Beitar fans and it is impossible that he heard it for the first time last Tuesday and according did not know what he chanted.
The position of Haaretz legal expert Ze'ev Segal sounds like a cover up for Ben Shoshan and his club:
Haaretz legal analyst Ze'ev Segal said yesterday that indictments have been rarely issued for incitement to racism because of the difficulty in proving intent to harm and because of the importance of the right to freedom of speech.
This is a very strange understanding of the law. At hand is a case of repeated racist expressions which are for sure not covered by the right to freedom of speech, just as libel is not covered by this right
The crimes committed by a typical Beitar fan and his Bulldozer in the Jenin refugee camp in 2002 prove that there is no reason to play down the "Toama song" incident. In many talkbacks Beitar fans uttered death threats against my British colleague and politician Yvonne Ridley, who picked up my Email and also tendered a complaint by the World Soccer Association FIFA.
She wrote:If you feel as offended as I do then lodge your complaint to Mr. Blatter at http://www.fifa.com/contact/form.html and urge FIFA to take action.
Her initiative should be followed.
Please send a complaint to FIFA. A possible formulation:
Please take action against the Israeli soccer club Beitar Jerusalem and its players for their repeated extreme racism (s. E.g. http://shraga-elam.blogspot.com/2009/06/ick-racism-out-of-israeli-soccer.html).
It is true that many soccer fans all over the world are brutal racists and death threats seems to be rather usual in this sub-culture. E.g. a Swiss referee had to hire bodyguards and go into hiding after English fans who felt that their national team had been disadvantaged by his decision threatened to kill him. It is also true that in the Netherlands the Ajax Amsterdam Club is considered to be Jewish and fans of opposing teams often greet it with a hissing reference to gas. But this repulsive behavior is no reason to accept Beitar racism, which also has very strong implications outside the stadium.
Besides, if a similar song had been chanted against the famous British player David Beckham (of Jewish origin), the Anti Defamation League would certainly have launched an international campaign.
Edited by George Malent
“Racism in the soccer stadiums is nothing new, but this time players [of Betar Jerusalem] and among them also members of the Israeli national team joined in the racist chants [of the fans].”
This is written on the web site of the Israeli TV station “Channel 2” and one can see there also the report about the incident:
The Toama Song
What's Salim doing here? Don't you know?
What's going on here I ask?
Everywhere I hear that this is the land of israel
Toama, this is the land of israel
This Is The Land Of Israel, Toama
This Is The Jewish State
I hate you Salim Toama!
I hate all Arabs!
- Posted on March 6, 2009 : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUPQ2qagj7Y&feature=related
- Posted on February 17, 2009