Israeli Arab wins quiz on Zionism (& soccer update)

April 07, 2005


1. Rami Wated, 12, beats Jewish boys in quiz on Zionism
2. Betar Jerusalem
3. Tottenham and Ajax
4. Neil Lennon, an Irish Catholic
5. Dudu Awat: A correction
6. Abbas Suan and Eyal Berkovic
7. "Arab Israeli beats Jewish boys in quiz on Zionism" (The Independent, April 7, 2005)
8. "Arab boy wins Israeli school quiz on Zionism" (Reuters, April 6, 2005)
9. "Arab Soccer Players Rescue Israeli Team” (Associated Press, April 1, 2005)
10. "Israelis toast Arab footballers" (Al, April 1, 2005)
11. "'No Arabs, no goals': Arabs save Israeli football team despite racist jibes" (Agence France Presse / Daily Star, Lebanon, April 2, 2005)


[Note by Tom Gross]


I attach another example of Arab integration into Israeli society. The media has in the past generally ignored similar stories. However, they have carried several in recent days. The goal-scoring success of Israeli Arabs seems to have opened a new awareness for the foreign press in Israel.

Of the two articles on the quiz attached below, the Reuters piece does not include as many negative references as the article from today's Independent of London. (The Chief Middle East correspondent of the Independent is the notorious Robert Fisk.)

Also attached are three more articles on the Arab goalscorers in the Israeli World Cup (soccer) qualifying games. These have been published since my dispatch on the subject, and include ones from the Beirut Daily Star and from Al

The headline of The Associated Press story below ("Arab Soccer Players Rescue Israeli Team") puts a particular twist on things and is less accurate than that used by Al ("Israelis toast Arab footballers").


In dozens of other articles on this subject that have appeared in recent days, journalists around the world have used the positive story of Jewish-Arab integration and unity on the soccer field, as an excuse to paint an overly negative picture of how awful life is for Arabs in Israel. In one of the articles below, Ahmed Tibi (an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset) complains, yet the author does not ask whether a Jew would be allowed to be a member of parliament in an Arab country, let alone make similar complaints.

Many articles on Israeli Arabs (including ones in this dispatch which are not even about soccer, such as the article from the Independent) have made much play of a small number of fans of the Betar Jerusalem soccer team who in the past have made racist chants. The aim of the journalists, presumably, is to try and establish for their readers that Israeli Arabs are routinely abused by Israeli Jews, which is not correct.

These Betar Jerusalem fans are a mindless minority who should be condemned unreservedly (and indeed are by most Israeli Jews). However, the problem of racism at Israeli soccer grounds pales in comparison with the problems of racism among fans at soccer grounds throughout Europe and beyond.


In addition to sometimes severe racist chants against black players, especially in countries like Spain and Italy, there is a great deal of anti-Semitism among certain European fans. For example, at matches involving Ajax (Amsterdam) and Tottenham (London) – soccer clubs that supposedly have Jewish connections – opposition fans, by the thousand, often sing anti-Semitic songs such as “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas”; and use the tune of "I've never felt more like singing the blues" to instead sing the words "I have never felt more like gassing the Jews."

Yet Reuters, Associated Press and foreign media don't publish articles stressing how much racism or anti-Semitism there is at soccer grounds in other countries. Only in Israel.


It is particularly amazing, as pointed out in my dispatch last week (Scoring goals against the "Israeli apartheid" myth, March 31, 2005), that some Irish fans have campaigned to have the Israeli soccer team banned because of its (imaginary) "apartheid."

Danny Preiskel, a subscriber to this email list, points out that Neil Lennon (a Catholic player) had to withdraw from the Northern Ireland soccer team match against Cyprus on police advice after repeated death threats from Protestants. (See, for example,


In the dispatch Scoring goals against the "Israeli apartheid" myth, it was stated that Dudu Awat, the Israeli team goalkeeper, was an Israeli Arab. He is in fact Jewish from a French Algerian family. Thank you to all those people who wrote pointing that out.


This week it was reported that Abbas Suan, the Israeli Arab who scored against Ireland, will be transferring to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the summer, giving him an even higher profile than he already has following his goal. The idea, according to press reports, is for him to play at club level alongside one of Israel's greatest Jewish players, Eyal Berkovic.

(Abbas Suan plays for Bnei Sakhnin – the team with a large Arab following who won the Israeli State Soccer Cup last season and represented Israel in European soccer competition this season.)

(Eyal Berkovic is one of Israel's greatest soccer exports. He has played for Southampton, West Ham, and Portsmouth – all clubs in the English Premier League – and for Glasgow Celtic, the Scottish champions.)

-- Tom Gross




Arab Israeli beats Jewish boys in quiz on Zionism
By Donald Macintyre and Said Ghazali in Jerusalem
April 7, 2005

In a fortnight when two Arab footballers have kept Israel in World Cup contention, an Arab schoolboy has beaten hundreds of Jewish children to win a quiz focused on the history of Zionism.

Rami Wated, 12, an Arab Israeli from Jaffa, was a winning finalist in a competition to answer questions mainly based on Tel Aviv street names and their relevance to the history of Jewish nationalism.

Rami, the only Arab among the final 60 sixth-graders from Tel Aviv and its neighbouring port of Jaffa, spent 10 weeks preparing for the contest after a teacher at Hassan Arafi, his Arab school, suggested he entered. Questions included "Who is Rothschild Street named after? Who was Herzl? What does the symbol of Tel Aviv, seven stars surrounding a lighthouse, mean? Who was Hannah Rovina?"*

With his Jewish partner Guy Gutherz, Rami won a plaque, two tickets to the Rishon Lezion amusement park, and CDs of songs about Tel Aviv after coming equal top with a Jewish pair, Ron Kalef and his partner Yarin Sade.

"After my teacher said I should enter, I wanted to prove myself," Rami said yesterday. "I wanted to win. Despite the fact that many did not believe I would win, I prepared well ... It doesn't matter if you are Jewish or Arab, just as long as you can prepare properly."

Rami's school teaches Israeli history, but less than in equivalent Jewish schools. Rami said he had prepared with a booklet from the Tel Aviv municipality, which organised the contest, on the history and street names of the city.

Rami's father, Khaled, said most Arab schools in the area had declined to participate in the contest but the principal of Rami's school took a different view. Mr Wated added: "He wants to prove Arabs could share in such a contest like other Israeli boys and girls. He wants the school to be respected."

Mr Wated said he regretted that Rami - who was unable yesterday to answer "Who was Salahadin?**"- had not yet learnt Arab history. But he added of the Tel Aviv quiz: "There are more positive things than negative about this. It helps co-existence. Rami had a Jewish partner of his own age and this means they can understand each other better." Israeli Arabs make up a fifth of the 6.6 million population, though a Central Bureau of Statistics projection said this would rise to a quarter by 2025. Arab leaders have long complained of prejudice and a lack of government funds, including for education, although Israel denies discrimination.

Kobby Barda, the Tel Aviv municipality spokesman, said Rami's victory indicated a "renaissance" for Israeli Arabs working with Jewish fellow citizens, after two Arab goalscorers rescued Israel in successive World Cup qualifying games. "This is a nice story," he added.

Abbas Suan, who plays for Sakhnin, the Arab club which also has Jewish players and won Israel's FA Cup for the first time last season, scored Israel's goal in its 1-1 game against Ireland 11 days ago. And Maccabi Haifa's Walid Badier scored in Israel's 1-1 match with France last Thursday.

At a game in Tel Aviv on Monday between Sakhnin and Betar Jerusalem, booing Betar fans, notorious for racist chants, tried to drown out an announcer urging the crowd to welcome Suan after his goal against Ireland. But Sakhnin fans answered a frequent chant from Betar fans, "No Arabs, No Terror", by shouting, "No Arabs, No World Cup".

* Baron Edmond de Rothschild is the banker and philanthropist who helped many of the early 20th-century Jewish pioneers in Palestine; Theodor Herzl is a founding father of Zionism; stars in the Tel Aviv symbol represent seven days of the week, and daily hours worked by the municipality; the lighthouse is a beacon for Jewish migrants to Israel and Hannah Rovina, an actress, was "the first lady of Israeli theatre". He was the Muslim general who defeated the Crusaders .



Arab boy wins Israeli school quiz on Zionism
April 6, 2005

An Israeli Arab schoolboy has outshone Jewish counterparts to grab a share of victory in a school quiz on the history of Zionism and the creation of Israel.

Rami Wated, 12, and Jewish teammate Guy Gothertz clinched a joint first place with an all-Jewish pair after being quizzed on the history of Jewish nationalism, said Kobby Barda, spokesman for the city of Tel Aviv, which sponsored the contest. Wated was the only Arab among the 12 finalists. His prize was a modest plaque.

"Despite the fact that many did not believe that I would win, I prepared well ... It doesn't matter if you are Jewish or Arab, just as long as you can prepare properly," Wated said on Wednesday.

He is a pupil at an Israeli Arab state school where the curriculum on Jewish history is limited compared with that offered in Jewish schools.

"We are from an Arab school where we are not taught about Zionism, but as soon as I saw the booklet to prepare for the subject, I took to it immediately," Wated said.

The young resident of the ancient port of Jaffa next to Tel Aviv said he had prepared in part by reading up on streets named after important figures in the history of Zionism, the movement which led to Jewish statehood in Palestine in 1948.

Israeli Arabs comprise about 20 percent of the country's 6.78 million population. They have long complained of prejudice and a shortage of government funds for their towns, schools and institutions.

Israeli officials deny any policy of discrimination.

Arab deputies serve in the Israeli parliament. Israeli Arab players came to the rescue of Israel's national soccer team, leading the squad to 1-1 draws in both of its last two World Cup qualifying matches.



Arab Soccer Players Rescue Israeli Team
By Kristen Stevens
The Associated Press
April 1, 2005

Israel suddenly has two Arab heroes. In a country where Jewish-Arab alienation runs deep, a pair of critical goals in World Cup soccer has created an instant connection across the divide.

For years, Abas Suan and Walid Badir endured racist taunts from the bleachers. Now they're the toast of the predominantly Jewish state.

Badir scored Israel's only goal in a 1-1 tie with France on Wednesday in a World Cup qualifying match, repeating Suan's feat in a Saturday match against Ireland - and keeping Israel in contention for a tournament slot.

The two are among Israel's minority Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of Israel's 6.8 million people. Many Israeli Arabs complain they are second-class citizens and targets of discrimination in employment, education and living conditions.

Their rage has spilled over from time to time. Conversely, four years of Palestinian-Israeli violence has kindled Jewish anger against Israeli Arabs for identifying with their relatives in the West Bank and Gaza.

Most Israeli soccer teams have Arab players, and often they are greeted with racist chants. "No Arabs, no terrorism," goes one.

Now that the two Arab players have rescued Israel's World Cup hopes, though, there's a new slogan being carried in banner headlines in Israeli newspapers: "No Arabs, no goals."

Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab lawmaker, said Arabs have mixed feelings about rooting for Israel in the fervor following the goals by Suan and Badir.

"As Arabs, we're normally pushed away from the Israeli political issues, and then suddenly we're pulled into this ultra-national patriotism,'' Tibi said.

The euphoria and goodwill of the moment may be transitory, said Zouheir Bahloul, an Israeli Arab sportscaster for Israel Radio and TV.

Part of the problem is how Israel's Arab citizens fit into the nation, dominated by its Jewish majority.

Bahloul said when Israeli Arabs see the athletic accomplishments of Suan and Badir, they feel more a part of Israel. But sports creates a virtual reality, he said, generating successful examples for Arabs while doors continue to close in other areas.

"If the state can create more opportunities in other fields, this type of inspiration gives Arabs the confidence to make things happen for themselves," Bahloul said.

Badir, a tall, rangy defender, burst into the penalty area Wednesday and headed a bullet shot past famed French goaltender Fabien Barthez, salvaging a tie score.

Badir's first comments were about his sport. "You have to give 200 percent in your job. I'm doing my best to fulfill my dream of reaching the World Cup," he said.

But his family's history in Israel is tainted by conflict and tragedy. His grandfather was one of about 50 Arabs killed by Israeli border police in 1956 at the Arab town of Kafr Kassem in an incident described by Jewish Israelis as a terrible mishap and by Arabs as a massacre.

Yet Badir stands at attention with the rest of the Israeli national soccer team as the Israeli anthem is sung before games, with its lyrics about Jews returning to their ancient land. It makes him uncomfortable, he says.

At a conference on racism in soccer last year, Badir said he hoped that one day the anthem would incorporate something that represents him as an Arab Israeli.

"Then I'll be able to sing it as well," he said.

As for Suan, he hopes the goodwill can endure.

After scoring his fateful goal, he told The Associated Press: "Now Jews and Arabs have something to agree on ... I only hope that Israelis will respect Arabs."

A native of Sakhnin, an Arab town in northern Israel, Suan said that through sports, athletes can set an example by relating to each other through friendship and dialogue.

"I think we get along better than politicians do," Suan said.



Israelis toast Arab footballers
April 1, 2005

[This is exactly the same piece as the AP piece above – except that Al gave a more positive headline to the story than that used by AP itself. The AP headline for example, was used by America Online on their website – Tom Gross]



'No Arabs, no goals': Arabs save Israeli football team despite racist jibes
Agence France Presse (AFP)
Daily Star Lebanon
April 2, 2005

"No Arabs, no goals," crowed MP Ahmed Tibi as a second Arab-Israeli footballer smashed the ball into the back of the net, saving Israel's World Cup prospects for a second time in less than a week. Aping the slogan beloved of Jewish extremists, "No Arabs, no terror attacks," midfielders Abbas Suan and Walid Badier are heroes in Israel's heavily discriminated Arab community after their prowess kept football burning bright.

Suan and Badier scored match-tying goals in back-to-back qualifier matches against Ireland and France in Tel Aviv on Saturday and Wednesday, keeping Israeli hopes alive for the 2006 German World Cup.

Overjoyed with Badier's feats in Wednesday night's crucial match against France, Tibi telephoned a journalist from Israel's right-wing Maariv newspaper.

The paper thought Tibi's slogan pertinent enough to reprint as its headline.

"All week he had been dreaming about how Abbas Suan and Walid Badier would save the homeland," sneered a Maariv editorialist.

Israeli by nationality, Palestinians at heart, Israel's 1.2 million Arabs, descendants of those who remained on their land after the Jewish state was created in 1948, are treated as second-class citizens.

"My expression, 'No Arabs, no goals,' is my answer to the racists in Israel. These two goals have had more impact than all the political pontificating," Tibi told AFP.

"The fact that these two Arab players made more than 40,000 spectators in the stadium leap for joy deals a heavy blow to all the extremists in Israel. I'm sure it annoyed some officials in Israel," he added.

"Happily, Avigdor Lieberman's transfer plan was not implemented last week, otherwise Israel would have lost both matches," Tibi mocked.

The extremist right-wing Lieberman, a former Cabinet minister, advocated the deportation of all Arab Israelis to the Palestinian territories.

Ironic then, that Badier equalized against France as Arabs marked Land Day, which commemorates the killings of six Arab Israelis in clashes with security forces when the government decided to expropriate Arab land in 1976.

"Like Abbas Suan against Ireland, Walid Badier saved the Israeli side against France," triumphed the Arab-Israeli newspaper Al-Ittihad.

By each rocketing the ball to the back of the net, "Suan and Badier kept the Israeli team on course to the World [Cup] and gave it hope."

Suan said he hoped that the exploits of Arab players could better strengthen peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews in Israel.

"I hope we can achieve what politics cannot: through football narrow the divide between Arabs and Jews in Israel," he said.

"For the first time in the history of Israel, Jews and Arabs are united behind the same cause," said the captain of team Sakhnin, which last year became the first Arab-Israeli side to win the Israeli Cup.

But if he dreams of playing for Israel in the World Cup, he hopes the feats of Arab players will help to end the racist diatribe against Sakhnin that has disgraced Israeli stadiums.

For Sakhnin chairman Mazen Ghanayem, the three Arab players on the national team are "our ambassadors" to the world. "Thanks to them, the world knows 18 percent of the population of Israel are Arabs who work as they should but don't have their rights," he said.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.