Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

Israeli Football as an Arena for Post-Colonial Struggle: The Case of Beitar Jerusalem FC

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

Israeli Football as an Arena for Post-Colonial Struggle: The Case of Beitar Jerusalem FC

Article excerpt

Introduction

In social and political sciences, sport provides a common research arena as it serves as a microcosm of wide complex social processes that transcend the specific field. The case of Beitar Jerusalem, the Israeli football club, provides a fruitful sociological discussion as it is located at a number of central intersections in the socio-political discourse of the postcolonial era.

In order to understand the linkage between sport and society within the Israeli context, one has to familiarize himself with Beitar Jerusalem football club which was established by one of the main-streams within the Jewish Zionist national movement. As such it found itself, especially during the initial days of the establishments of the Jewish State of Israel, at the center of a number of conflicts between the various streams of the same movement characterized by different attitudes to the term nationalism in the postcolonial era. Secondly, among Beitar Jerusalem fans, especially at that time, there was a relatively high representation of a socio-economic level comprised mainly by second and third generation Jewish immigrants from Arab and Muslim countries (Sephardic Jews, or Mizrahim). This echelon was, and still is according to some experts, in a hegemonic struggle against the first and second generation of Jews who immigrated to Israel from Eastern European countries (Ashkenazi Jews).

The current study seeks to place the case of Beitar Jerusalem and its fans, as depicted in media (see for example Galily & Bernstein, 2008; Tamir & Galily, 2010), entertainment and public discourse in Israel, within an Orient-Occident theoretical framework. For this purpose the study adopts an acknowledged theoretical framework of the relationship between East and West, which examines the relations between these two political and geographic cultural poles as a power struggle between those who are perceived as the conquerors (colonialists) and the conquered (natives). This theoretical framework, known as 'post-colonial discourse', deals with salient characteristics of power relations in a global society following the colonial period of the major European powers.

The main idea the current study attempts to formulate is that the process, which the Beitar Jerusalem football club and its fans underwent over the eighty years of its existence, is an inherent functional process of the identity crisis that took place at different stages of social stratification. This process has similar characteristics to the relations between the East and West in the post-colonial era. As such, this study proposes that Israeli society's attitude of superiority towards Beitar Jerusalem fans and similarly the attitude of Beitar Jerusalem fans towards Arab citizens living in Israel, is at its foundation an identity struggle. This struggle is an outcome of the position within the social stratification that enables greater access to material resources offered by society.

To present a relevant theoretical background for this argument, a review of the main approaches to the post-colonial discourse is presented. Importantly, Eduard Said's 'orientalism' argues that attaching a stereotypical inferior image to the East is the West's attempt to compare itself with the East and the Easterner (Said, 1987). Provided is a review of the work proposed by central researchers in the field offering diverse theses regarding power-relations between the conqueror and the conquered in the postcolonial era and thereafter. This discussion is followed by a review of the history of Beitar Jerusalem and its place within the social landscape of Israel.

The methodology applied in the current study is then presented. An analysis was conducted of texts published in the Israeli press over the past 70 years that are relevant to the orientalistic representation of Beitar Jerusalem and its fans. Finally the study examines how the process that Beitar Jerusalem underwent is reproduced by what the authors call 'the next generation of the labeling process' and is expressed similarly by Beitar fans' attitude towards non-Israeli Arabs. …

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