Wednesday, February 08, 2006

israel, south africa, and ronnie rosenthal

There have been, you may have have noticed, some deeply fascinating articles in the Guardian by Chris McGreal this week concerning links between modern-day Israel and Apartheid-era South Africa. The first made a direct analogy between the treatment of the Palestinians and the Black South Africans (McGreal points out that just as Afrikaaners falsely claimed there were 'no black people in South Africa when they first settled in the 17th century', Israel was hailed as 'a land without people for a people without land' - despite the presence of the Palestinians), the second explored, shockingly, the actual links between the two - so close at one point that they were assisting eachother with the arms race. I urge you to read both, but feel - especially in the light of the feedback which the paper printed yesterday and today - utterly unequipped to advise you whether the comparison is just, fair or malicious. It is certainly bold, and certainly worth a read, but I don't know enough about it to judge. Like a lot of people with leftish instincts, I sympathise with the Palestinian cause - I feel fairly sure, however, that I do so without having done sufficient research. Anyway.

I do, however, know quite a lot about Tottenham Hotspur, who - like Ajax - are well known for being a 'Jewish' club. What this means, of course, is just that a large population of the local area is Jewish and that this community has always (although perhaps not so much nowadays - much of the Arsenal board these days, incidentally, is Jewish) allied themself with Spurs. We were the first club to field an Israeli player, the much loved Ronnie Rosenthal. Conversely, we spent much of the 90s worshipping our Arabic midfielder, Nayim. Anyway; we've been long the targets of crass and often disgusting anti-semitic chants from other teams (I once heard Chelsea fans singing 'Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz'...), so it pains me deeply to feel duty bound to link to Simon Hattenstone's article in the Guardian today. He writes of a Spurs-supporting friend:

"On Monday he came into work, distraught. He'd been at White Hart Lane on Sunday and said he'd never heard anything like it. "It was bloody horrible," he said. "You know me, I can take most things, but ... I felt embarrassed to be there." Spurs fans have chanted against Sol Campbell ever since he left for the enemy, Arsenal, in 2001. Last week, as Campbell broke down and did a runner from Highbury, the abuse reached its nadir."

Go to the article to read what the Spurs fans sang, if you wanna know. I dunno if the articles about Israel and South Africa crossed the line into anti-semitism. But the songs Spurs fans sang about Sol Campbell on Saturday are grim, sickening, racist, homophobic bile, and I feel ashamed to call myself a Spurs fan.

Hattenstone does, at least, manage to end on an upbeat note, so I'll nick his closing paragraph and do the same.

"Meanwhile, Bob is mourning a lost innocence. In his email he asks: "What happened to the light-heartedness of the days when we sang songs such as this one for Man Utd games (to the tune of My Old Man's a Dustman): Posh Spice is a slapper/She wears a Wonderbra/ And when she's shagging Beckham/ She thinks of Ginola."


Laban said...

Stephen Pollard was at the game, and he didn't hear it.

Incidentally, there were certainly no Zulus in SA in the seventeenth century. They moved South, displacing or killing the existing people.

Aidan said...

The 'Sol, Sol, wherever you may be' chant was sung heartily throughout the game, from within seconds of the kick-off, yes. But I can't recall hearing the other one at all. And while plenty of '-isms' were indeed broached by the taunts, I'm really not sure that racism - which Simon Hattenstone makes most play of here - was truly a factor. The supposed lynching reference seems to be straining a little hard.
Ian Wooldridge in the Daily Mail suggested, when Campbell first left Spurs, that the fans' anger was perhaps rooted in racism - a crazy claim, when most supporters could surely give you passionate chapter and verse on why it's his behaviour towards the club that's most offended.
And I know it's the classic 'some of my best friends are...' argument, but I can't remember any of Spurs' many black players - or black opponents - being racially abused at all.
Not that I'm trying, nor wanting, to justify any of the more unpleasant abuse. Certainly wouldn't wish a breakdown on anyone (though perhaps Campbell is someone I'd feel least sympathy for...)
But I will be interested to see if Simon Hattenstone reverts to his usual weekly column material of life as a Manchester City fan, and addresses the suitability or otherwise of that club referring to Manchester United as 'the Munichs' and frequent chants on just that theme...

Stephen Newton said...

While it’s inexcusable, I don’t think football and racism is as simple as it first appears. When the world cup’s on fans will jeer the ‘frog’ they were cheering a week before as he protected their team’s goal. It’s playground mentality – reaching for the nastiest name without being bothered by what it means. That said they’ll always be a hard core of genuine racists who will feel legitimised by the mob, which is why it needs to be stamped on.

As for Israel/SA, there are obvious parallels, but you draw them at your peril. Laban predictably trots out the Zulus moved south stuff. So what? (A rule of thumb: if it matters to Laban Tall, it doesn’t matter.) Zionists will claim the Palestinians had a country: Jordan. None of that is particularly relevant or useful to today’s Israelis, Palestinians or South Africans. The risk is that pro-Israelis will simply take offence and refuse to engage.

Anonymous said...

The anti campbell sung at the lane was simply not racist. I was at the lane and the suggestion is ridiculous, its politcal correctness gone mad. The 'HIV' reference is to the fact theres suggestion he's gay and the hanging from a tree is a reference to how judas hanged himself(not american style linching)

This song may be offenseive,homophobic and in ill taste but it is not racist. Most of the ppl commenting on this matter and attacking the chants as racist either a. dont understand the nature of campbell and spurs history and b. werent at the match

There was a black man sitting next to me singing the song and the hundreds of other fans singing it went on to a sing a song celebrating our clab captain Ledley King( who incidentally is black)

Anonymous said...

why must it always be Black and White with people. I thot the world has change so much the current generation are leaving behind their parents small mindedness to be able to see humans as humans.

No need to deny the fact that wen we all hear Africa we dont think of the white settlers that expatriated centuries ago but the BLACK people that we all know resident there since the begining of time just as wen you say europeans we expect white people.

Racism is a state of mind of small minded human beings who cant deal with their own inferiority and decied to make others inferior so they can in turn feel superior.