CONSTRUCTING NATIONAL IDENTITY: THE MUSCULAR JEW VS THE PALESTINIAN UNDERDOG (Part 1)


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NO. 290 (PART 1)

CONSTRUCTING NATIONAL IDENTITY: THE MUSCULAR JEW VS THE PALESTINIAN UNDERDOG

JAMES M. DORSEY

S. RAJARATNAM SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES SINGAPORE

9 APRIL 2015




Abstract

Soccer threads itself as a red line through the 20th century history of the Middle East and North Africa as independence populated the region with nation-states. Soccer was important to the leaders struggling for independence as a means tostake claims, develop national identity and fuel anti-colonial sentiment. For its rulers soccer was a tool they could harness to shape their nations in their own mould; for its citizenry it was both a popular form of entertainment and a platform for opposition and resistance. The sport offers a unique arena for social and political differentiation and the projection of transnational, national, ethnic, sectarian, local, generational and gender identities sparking a long list of literature that dates back more than a century.1 The sport also constitutes a carnivalesque event that lends itself to provocation of and confrontation with authority — local, national or colonial.2



******************************* James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg in Germany, and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. 1 Examples include G. T. W.Patrick. ‘The psychology of football,’ The American Journal of Psychology, 14 (1903),. 104-117; Frederick Jakobus Johannes Buytendijk.. Le football : une étude psychologique, (Paris : Brouwer, 1952) 2 Gary Armstrong and Malcolm Young. . ‘Fanatical football chants: Creating and controlling the carnival,’ Culture, Sport, Society 2:3 (1999), 173-211 / Tom Clark.. ‘I’m Scunthorpe ’til I die’: Constructing and (Re)negotiating Identity through the Terrace Chant, Soccer and Society, 7:4 (2006), . 494-507 ii




Occupation and Conquest

Soccer is about occupation and conquest, the occupation of an opponent’s territory and the conquest of his goal.3 The sense of confrontation is heightened with ans often segregated from one another in different sections of the stadium. “The playing field thus becomes a metaphor for the competition between communities, cities and nations: football focuses group identities,” said Iranian soccer scholar Houchang E. Chehabi.4 French Iranian soccer scholar Christian Bromberger noted that every match between rival towns, regions and countries took the form of a ritualised war, complete with anthems, military fanfares and banners wielded by fans who make up the support divisions and who even call themselves “brigades”, “commandos”, “legions” and “assault troops”.5 Social scientist Janet Lever argued that in sports “nationalism is aroused by individual contestants but peaks over team sports… (It) peaks because many consider collective action a truer test of a country’s spirit than individual talent.”6 Little wonder that communities with contested identities and national leaders saw soccer, since itsintroduction to the Middle East and North Africa by colonial powers, as a key tool to shape their nations and promote modernity in a world in which according to political scientist Benedict Anderson “nation-ness is the most universally legitimate value in the political life of our time.”7 The sport was initially employed as what sports scholar Mahfoud Amara described as the post-colonial tool par excellence “for party-state regimes in their projects of mobilizing populations around nation-state building and integration into the international bi-polar world system.” It has since then helped autocratic leaders maintain power while managing the transition of their economies from state-run to market-oriented. It did so in part by exploiting the fact that nations emerge, in the words of Turkish sociologist Dogu Ergil, out of the tireless global competition that determines dominance, submission and the hierarchy of nations. Success in sports increases the confidence of nations. Failure does the opposite, Ergil argued.8 Amara and Ergil’s insights are relevant in the context of ethnographer Anthony D. Smith’s emphasis on “common myths and memories” and “mass, public culture” as crucial elements of national consciousness and the realisation that the relationship between nationalism and sports is to a large degree determined in the political context.9 That context in turn is defined by the multifaceted nature of nationalism. “There is a very real difference between the nationalism of awell-established world 3 Tom Clark, . ‘Aspects of the Psychology of Games and Sports,’ British Journal of Psychology, 31-4 (1941), 279-293 4 Houchang E. Chehabi. “The Politics of Football in Iran” in ed. Fringe Nations in World Soccer, ed. Kausik Bandyopadhyay and Sabyasachi Mallick, (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), 77 5 Christian Bromberger. . ‘Football as world-view and as ritual, French Cultural Studies,’ . 6 (1995), . 293 - 311 6 Janet Lever, Soccer Madness: Brazil’s Passion for the World’s Most Popular Sport (Long Grove: Waveland Press, 1983) , 29 7 Benedict Anderson. “Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, ( London: Verso, 1983) Kindle edition 8 Dogu Ergil. “On Football.” Today’s Zaman, July 19,2014 (accessed July 19, 2014) http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist/dogu-ergil/on-football_353397.html 9 Anthony D. Smith, “The Nation in History: Historiographical Debates About Ethnicity and Nationalism,” (London: Polity Press, 2000), 3 1

power and that of a submerged people… Inevitably there will also be a marked variation in the manner in which sport is used in such different contexts to promotes the nationalist cause,” noted sports scholar Alan Bairner.10

At the bottom line, sports and particularly soccer enabled post-colonial societies in the Middle East and North Africa to generate meaning and symbolism that gave imagined substance to an identity that differentiated the conceived nation from others and helped neutralise the threat posed by racial, ethnic, social, religious and regional identities they incorporated. At the same time, it allowed such sub-groups to differentiate themselves even though those sub-identities potentially would compete with the larger national identity. As a result, sports in general and soccer in particular served historically in the Middle East and North Africa as a platform of opposition and resistance against colonial rulers and their local allies,and as a tool to project on the international stage a nation struggling to achieve independence. Given its strength in producing various forms of distinction,11 sports frequently helped post-colonial Middle Eastern and North African societies mould multiple, often rival identities into one that encompassed the nation as a whole. It was simultaneously designed to help construct national myths and advance post-colonial modernisation and foreign policy goals.

Constructing National Identity through Sports Construction of a deeply rooted national identity was often hampered by the fact that a significant number of nations in the region lacked the perception of a long-standing common history on which countries like Egypt, Turkey and Iran pride themselves or the wrenching, unifying experience of a vicious struggle for independence as in the case of Algeria. This deficit was reinforced by the emergence of neo-patriarchic autocracies across that region that viewed the population as immature subjects rather than full-fledged citizens. As a result, sports — soccer in particular — underperformed as a tool in moulding nations and promoting feelings of national solidarity in line with historian Eric Hobsbawm’s definition of nations as imagined or constructed entities with invented traditions.12 Nevertheless, Middle Eastern and North African examples of the political employment of sports to create national myths are myriad. Egypt, a regional sports powerhouse, claimed to have fathered soccer long before the British who are largely credited with the emergence of the sport. Ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s State Information Service asserted that ancient Egyptians had recorded their knowledge of the game with inscriptions on the walls of temples that were discovered by the 5th century Greek historian Herodotus.13 In his memoire of a visit to Egypt titled “An Account of Egypt”,14 10 Alan Bairner, “Sport, Nationalism and Globalization; European and North American Perspectives,” (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001), 164 11 Pierre Bordieu, “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, (London: Routledge, 1984), 211-212 12 Eric Hobshawm. Introduction / Mass-producing traditions: Europe 1870 – 1940 in Eric Hobshawm and Terence Ranger (eds), The Invention of Tradition, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 1-4 / 263-307 13 State Information Service. 2009. History of the Egyptian football game, accessed December 31, 2009 http://www.sis.gov.eg/En/Templates/Articles/tmpArticles.aspx?ArtID=1746 2




Herodotus made no mention of the inscriptions or of ancient Egyptians playing something akin to soccer. He also failed to refer to assertions that he saw young men kicking around a ball made of goatskin and straw.15 Zionists like the Shah of Iran and the Ottoman Empire’s reformist Young Turks saw sports as a way to mould their citizenry in a nationalist image. For the Zionists, the goal was the new, muscular Jew. Reza Shah Pahlavi, who captained his team at his Swiss boarding school and played for the squad of the Iranian military’s Officer School, saw soccer as a way “to create a modern Iranian man who understood the values of hygiene, manly competition, and cooperation.”16 To the Young Turks, soccer was a means of garnering support as they sought to convert the remnants of the Ottoman Empire into a modern state. Both recognised what the French Iranian soccer scholar Christian Bromberger identified as the westernising virtues of the sport: “Football values team work, solidarity, division of labour and collective planning — very much in the image of the industrial world that produced it.”17 German and Swedish athletics was to the Turks like Cooper’s Commonwealth competition was to the Zionists. It furthered what social anthropologist Paul Connerton described as the creation of collective memory and shared identity through ritualised physical activity.18 Soccer was uniquely designed for that purpose — as historian Eric Hobsbawm noted, “the imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people.”19 For the Palestinians, in contrast to other national groupings in the Middle East and North Africa, forming a national identity initially constituted nation formation through differentiation of the Palestinian identity from a Syrian dominated pan-Arab identity, as stated by political scientist Paul James. Later nation building constituted the construction and/or structuring of a national identity within the framework of an own state as seen in post-Ottoman Turkey, Iran and Egypt.20 James defined nation formation as occurring “within a social formation constituted in the emerging dominance of relations of disembodied integration” in which there is no face-to-face encounter or agency extension.21 The differentiation of Palestinian identity in the absence of agency extension — the existence of a nation-state — was defined by asserting its distinctiveness from a Syrian Arab identity that was prevalent in Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan and Zionist settlements at the time. Moreover, both in nation formation and nation building, imagined national communities need to give 14 Herodotus, An Account of Egypt, Translated by G. C. Macaulay, Project Guttenberg, 2006, accessed July 10, 20111, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2131/2131-h/2131-h.htm 15 Alaa al Aswany, Egypt’s Enduring Passion for Soccer, The New York Times, April 16, 2014 (accessed April 16, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/17/opinion/egypts-enduring-passion-for-soccer.html?_r=0 16 Franklin Foer. “How Soccer Explains the World,” (New York: HarperCollins, (2006), 217 17 Christian Bromberger, “Football as world-view and as ritual,” French Cultural Studies, 6 (1995), 293-311 18 Paul Connerton, “How societies remember, “(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 4 19 Eric Hobsbawm, “Nations and nationalism since 1780: Programme, myth, reality,” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 143 20 Harry Mylonas, “The Politics of Nation-Building: Making Co-Nationals, Refugees, and Minorities. “(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012) 21 Paul James,. “Nation Formation: Toward a Theory of Abstract Community,” (London: Sage Publications, 1996), 45 3


substance to their constructs by creating a consciousness of what it meant to be a nation. For Israeli Jews and Palestinians, sports served that purpose.22

Nonetheless, the effort of multi-ethnic, multi-confessional Middle Eastern and North African societies to employ soccer in the shaping of an overriding national identity was complicated by the communal aspirations of minority communities such as Kurds, Berbers and Israeli Palestinians, as well as conflict that resulted from their assertion. These communities felt discriminated against because the newly established states were preoccupied with creating one imaginary overall national identity that superseded diverse societal fabric rather than one that sought multicultural accommodation of the identities of its various constituent communities.23 Those communities often saw soccer as much as a way of expressing an identity of their own as they viewed it as tool to shape the new state’s national distinctiveness. Bairner and historian John Sugden noted that “wherever there are national or regionalconflicts between societies which share a passion for sports, those conflicts will be in and carried on through respecting sport cultures.”24 Israeli sports historian Tamer Sorek argues that Palestinian citizens of Israel as opposed to Palestinians governed by Israeli occupation constituted at least for a significant period of post-independence Israeli history an exception to Sugden and Bairner’s notion. “Under certain conditions, sports may function in the opposite way. The particular case of Palestinian citizens of Israel is evidence that sports in general, and soccer in particular, may be used by the state as a tool to inhibit the nationalist consciousness of a national minority. The Palestinian citizens in turn tend to use soccer to smooth their tense relations with the Jewish majority rather than to emphasize the tension, and therefore they hide their Palestinian identity in the stadium,” Sorek reasoned.25 In effect, Sorek was highlighting the fact that post-1948 citizenship of the State of Israel did not amount to nationality for non-Jewish citizens i.e. the Palestinians. That dichotomy was reinforced by continued Israeli-Palestinian tensions, including military conflict in Gaza, Israeli-Palestinian frustration with lack of progress in peace talks, anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab bigotry on the soccer pitch. Nevertheless, Palestinian players contribute significantly to Israel’s national and top echelon teams despite their deep-seated sense of discrimination.26 This has meant that soccer serves Palestinians in Israel both as an integrative tool and a vehicle to assert their identity within the Jewish state.27 Rifaat ‘Jimmy’ Turk, Israel’s first Palestinian national team player, recalls coach Ze’ev Segal telling him when he joined Hapoel Tel Aviv: “There is one important rule. We live in a racist country. They will 22 Ibid. James 23 Ibid. Anderson 24 John Sugden and Alan Bairner, “Sport, Sectarianism and Society,” (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1993), 129 25 Tamer Sorek, ‘Palestinian nationalism has left the field: A shortened history of Arab soccer in Israel,’ International Journal of Middle East Studies, 35:3 (2003), 417-437 26 James M. Dorsey, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, (London/New York: Hurst/Oxford University Press, 2015(, forthcoming 27 Ibid. Dorsey 4


curse you, they will curse your mother and your sister. They will spit at you. They will try to undercut you, cut your legs from under you. You have to be smart about it and know how to dealwith it. You can’t allow yourself to be provoked. You have to stay focused. If you are smart, you’llsurvive. If you’re not smart, you can take everything I told you and throw it out the window.”28

Moulding Modern Citizens For pre- Zionist Palestine, Iran and Turkey, sports was key to moulding of the “modern” citizen as well as the forging of relations with a colonial or Western power. This could help them in their endeavour irrespective of the fact that Jews and Palestinians were forming nations while Turkey and Iran were building nations as illustrated in this section. In doing so, they built on the experience of the first modern day international sports encounter - a cricket match in 1860 between the United States, a former British colony, and Canadian colonies that had yet to achieve independence.29 They also relied on the notion, first put forward in 1891 by Reverend J. Astley Cooper, of a British Commonwealth sporting competition that would involve literary and military events as a way of strengthening ties between Britain and its colonies.30 Zionism’s view of sports, much like that of the Shah of Iran as well as the Young Turks and their Kemalist successors, was partly anchored in the need to prepare young men for military service and defence of the nation. It was similarly rooted although not acknowledged in 19th century German approaches to athletics articulated by Theodore Herzl, physician and the father ofpolitical Zionism, and social critic Max Nordau’s concept of muscular Judaism. It also harked back to the principle in Deuteronomy 4:9 of shimrat ha-guf, guard the body. “I must train the boys to become soldiers…. I shall educate one and all to be free, strong men, readyto serve as volunteers in the case of need,” Herzl wrote in his diaries.31 Speaking to the Second Zionist Congress in Basel, Nordau urged his audience to “let us continue our ancient tradition of being heroes with deep chests, nimble limbs and fearless looks.” Russian physician Max (Emmanuel) Mandelstamm made a similar appeal at the congresswhere he concluded by repeating a line from Roman poet Juvenal’s Satire X:32 “Men sana in corpore sano (A sound mind in a sound body).”33 28 Interview with the author March 1, 2013 29 The New York Times. International Cricket Match.; United States vs. Canada, September 1, 1860 (accessed July 29, 2010) http://www.nytimes.com/1860/09/01/news/international-cricket-match-united-states-vs- canada.html 30 J. Astley Cooper, “1908 Olympic Games, What has been done and what remains to be done The History of Sport in Britain, 1880-1914, ed. Martin Poley (London: Routledge, 2004), 147-157 31 Theodore Herzl, The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, Vol. 1 (New York: Herzl Press and Thomas Yoseloff, 1960), 51 32 R. D. Hick (Ed),Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925) 33 George Eisen, “Jewish History and the Ideology of Modern Sport: Approaches and Interpretations,” Journal of Sport History, 25:3 (1998), 531 5

Nordau argued that Zionism would revitalise Judaism, liberate it from the distress it encountered in the diaspora, and create the new Jew “morally through the rejuvenation of the ideals of the people and bodily through the physical rearing of one’s offspring, in order to create a lost muscular Jewry… We want to restore to the flabby Jewish body its lost tone. Jews have to show to themselves, and to the world, how much vitality they still possess.”34 Literature scholar Marilyn Reizbaum described Nordau’s image of the new Jew as “derived from the image of manliness and restraint which together make the civilised man. This image is ironically modelled on the Aryan ideal…”35 Political scientist Haggai Harif went a step further in describing the emphasis on the “physical ability of the ‘New Jew’ who symbolized the ideal of national revival in the eyes of the fathers of Zionism” as a core element in “a revolution in the existential reality of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, in defining its collective identity and in its ways of life... Gymnastics and sport were among the offshoots of renewed life in the country and were an expression of the glorification of the physical heroism that was perceived as vital in the battle to conquer the Land” of Israel.36 Zionism’s embrace of the importance of sports was also rooted in moves by significant segments of 19th century Jewish diaspora to accommodate societal change, counter anti-Semitism, and by implication reject Orthodox Jewish repudiation of sports as a form of secularism. From the mid- nineteenth century, many Jews viewed joining the main gymnastic movements and, more importantly, sport and country clubs and the Olympic movement as part of their ‘emancipation’ from the old legal and social exclusions and from a “Jewish pathology”. Jews were described as intellectuals, cosmopolitans, and therefore artificially removed from nature. Responding to the charge of physical inadequacy, participating in gymnastic and sports movements was just another facet of claiming equality and, simultaneously, manifesting patriotism. Movements such as the Deutsche Turnerschaft, the Sokol, English Muscular Christianity, and of course the Olympic Games were as much a product of the 19th century as was the emancipation of Jews. In many societies, Jews considered the two as part and parcel — if Jews could join this fraternity of athletes, it would prove they were being accepted by thelarger society. Zionist preoccupation with the body, exercise, and later the Jewish Olympic idea (Maccabiah Games) was a direct consequence of industrialisation, urbanisation and anti-Semitic pressures, wrote Sports historian George Eisen.37 Eisen was referring to the Maccabiah — a sporting event for Jews from across the globe — first organised in Palestine in the early 1930s and which today is recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Historian David Biale argued that “like other nationalist movements of the nineteenth century, Zionism was preoccupied by the physical and emotional degeneration of the nation and by the threatof demographic decline.”38 As a result, Jewish 34 Max Nordau, “Stenographisches Protokoll der Verhandlungen des II. Zionisten-Congresses (Basel, August 28– 31, 1898), (Vienna: Verlag des Vereines Erez Israel), 14-27 35 Marilyn Reizbaum,Max Nordau and the Generation of Jewish Muscle, Jewish Culture and History, 6:1 (2003), 130-151 36 Haggai Harif, “Israeli Sport in the Transition from a Mandatory Community to a Sovereign State: Trends of Continuity and Change, Israel Affairs,13:3”(2007), 529-553 37 Ibid. Eisen, Jewish History and the Ideology of Modern Sport 38 David Biale, “Zionism as an Erotic Revolution” in People of the Body, Jews and Judaism from an 6


immigrants imported soccer to Palestine under Ottoman rule. The game was institutionalised through public schools and clubs in 1917 under British colonial rule.

Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, a xenophobic German nationalist, radical egalitarian and father of German gymnastics, inspired Zionist thinking despite his anti-Semitism that eventually prompted clubs associated with his movement to create Aryan sections. Historian Petr Roubal quotes Jahan as saying that “Poles, French, clerics, landlords and Jews are Germany’s misfortune!”39 Jahn’s combination of seemingly contradictory racist andrevolutionary views posed a challenge to reactionary rule in Germany. As a result, Jahn was incarcerated in 1819 and his gymnastics movement was banned. Released in 1825, he resurrected his movement in the form of a more militaristic group that favoured unification of the various German states as the 1848 revolutions swept across Europe. Jahn saw gymnastics and physical education at the time of the Napoleonic conquest of Prussia as apowerful tool to prepare for a liberation struggle. His German Gymnastics Movement (Deutsche Turnerschaft) established in 1811 expressed nationalist goals and emphasised strengthendurance, discipline, and movement in unison.40 He also saw his gymnastics, with its egalitarian lack of divisive class or regional characteristics, as a vehicle that would demonstrate what an ideal society would look like. Jahn believed that his gymnasts should be “chaste, pure, capable, fearless, truthful and ready to bear arms.”41 Jahn’s notion of a utopian society constituted fertile ground for representatives of all political stripes in the Middle East, including various trends within Zionism as well as Jews in Palestine and the Young Turks in the Ottoman Empire, who saw militarisation of society as the way forward. InZionist Palestine, Jahn’s thinking was to have its greatest impact on Beitar, the right-wing youth movement associated with revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s idea that evoked the Jews’ last stand against the Romans. Beitar was the Hebrew acronym for Joseph Trumpeldor Union, named after a one-armed Russian army officer who established the Zion Mule Corps that was defeated alongside the British and other Allied forces in 1916 by the Ottomans in the Battle of Gallipoli. Beitar’s mission was to create the “New Jew” who would be able to build and defend the Jewish state. Beitar differed from other Zionist factions in its insistence that Jews had to rely on themselves rather than on the British. Its philosophy was rooted in the Biblical story of God advising Joshua on the eve of the Israelite’s return to the Promised Land, which stated “Every place that you have set foot I have given you”42 and “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord Embodied Perspective, ed. Howard Eilberg-Schwartz (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 284 39 Petr Roubal, . ‘Today the Masses Will Speak,’ Mass Gymnastic Displays as Visual Representation of the Communist State in Neue Staaten - neue Bilder?, ed. Arnold Barteztky (Ed), (Koeln: Boehlau Koeln, 2005), 326 40 Friedrich Ludwig Jahn und Ernst Eiselen. Deutsche Turnkunst zur Einrichting der Turnplaetze, (Leipzig: Reclam, 1816), III-VLVIII 41 Ibid. Jahn and Eiselen, III-XLVIII 42 Joshua 1:3 7


your God will be with you wherever you go.”43 Jabotinsky summarised Beitar’s mission in songs he wrote, one of which said: “From the pit of decay and dust Through blood and sweat A generation will arise to us Proud, generous, and fierce.”44 Russian-born Yosef Yekutieli, an Ottoman conscript who became a physical educator in Palestine and a driving force in realising Herzl and Nordau’s vision, played a key role in the development of soccer and its emergence as a nationalist battle.Yekutieli defined his mission as “the development of Jewish culture — both physical and spiritual, and the presentation of that culture to the Jewish people and to the whole world; the development of Jewish sport in the world and the emphasis of the idea that Jewish sporting athletes were not just part of their home countries but were part of the Jewish diaspora. The emphasising of the fact that Eretz Yisrael is the centre of the Jewish world; and finally, the strengthening of the Maccabi movement.”45 A centrist Zionist youth movement whose concept of sports was influenced by Jahn served Yekutieli’s purpose of tightening bonds between the Zionists in Palestine and the Jewish Diaspora and projecting Jews as a nation and Palestine as their homeland. Maccabi grew out of the Union of Jewish Gymnastic Clubs founded at the Fourth Zionist Congressin 1903. It was named after the Maccabean revolt in the second century CE that was sparked bythe creation of gymnasium in Jerusalem by the High Priest Jason. The gymnasium in which Jews competed nude and participated in pagan rituals provoked the Maccabeans’ anger because it amounted to idol worshipping in their view. Ironically, one of the first things the Maccabeans did after recapturing Jerusalem was to destroy the gymnasium.46 Yekutieli, the founder of the Palestine Football Association and the Palestine Olympic Committee, first dreamt of the Maccabiah as a 15- year old. His inspiration was the 1912 Olympics. It took him 16 years to prepare a plan for the Jewish National Fund and another four to organise the first tournament.47

Following the Zionist Example Palestinians, notwithstanding their hostility to Herzl, Nordau and Yekutieli effectively adopted their approach. “Obedience is one of the most important qualities a soldier on the battlefield must equip himself with. The war will not be fought without obedience. I urge everyone to obey whoever they are subordinate to, irrespective of whether you are players, spectators or referees, and to heed his every command, decision and restriction,” said the sports column of Filastin, a twice-weekly Christian- 43 Joshua 1:9 44 Lawrence Wright, ‘Thirteen Days in September, Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David,”(, (New York: Knopf, 2014), Kindle edition 45 Ibid. Jewish Agency for Palestine 46 Eizehu Gibor, “Living Jewish Values,” (Los Angeles: Torah Aura Productions, 2009), 19 47 Ibid. Gibor, 20 8


owned newspaper published in the first 67 years of the 20thcentury that pioneered Palestinian sports reporting, supported the Young Turks during Ottoman rule, opposed pre-Israel’s traditional Palestinian leadership, and was influential in promoting Palestinian nationalism. In a separate column, Mohammed Tahre Pasha, an Egyptian doctor, who went on tofound the Mediterranean Games and head the Egyptian Olympic Committee, argued that sports was crucial for the East and the Arab’s regaining of past glory. “‘The East neglected sports for a long time. It is a main reason, if not the main reason, for its loss of superiority,” Pasha argued.48 The employment of sports by Zionist leaders also served as a way to mould relations between theJewish national movement and the British mandate authorities in Palestine who established civilianclubs as well as ones associated with various branches of the government, military and law enforcement. “Here it is, we are given the opportunity now that tens of thousands of British soldiers from various countries and classes happened to come to the country; some of which will play important roles in the British policy and it is up to us to influence them and make them our friends through friendly sport meetings; it is our duty to do so properly and on a full state scale,” Maccabi said in a memo at the beginning of the Second World War.49 The strategy of forging ties to British colonial personnel proved to be a double-edged sword. It created situations of both bonding and friction. At times, encounters between Jewish and British players would end up in brawls with Jews alleging discrimination by British referees. Moreover, tensions would rise at times of unpopular British measures like the publication of the White Book in 1930 that restricted Jewish immigration to and settlement of Palestine. Sir John Robert Chancellor, the High Commissioner at the time of the publication, suspended matches between Zionist and British soccer teams to evade the risk of violent eruptions.50 The Zionist effort nonetheless constituted the flip side of Astley Cooper’s vision of Commonwealth sports. Jewish clubs sought to forge alliances with their British counterparts in a bid to build ties to Brits who one day may be influential in formulating British policy and could help cement Palestine’s identity as a Jewish entity. Ties to the mandate authority, the Zionists hoped, would also ensure Jews of British protection in times of violent Palestinian resistance to Jewish settlement of the land. As a result, Zionist exploitation of the sport turned soccer into a barometer of British-Jewish relations against the backdrop of the controversial settlement of Palestine in the 1930s. Relations between British and Jewish players and fans warmed and cooled depending on political circumstances. In good times, they further served, according to Palestinian historians, as cover for illegal Jewish immigration. The historians charged that such incidences occurred in 1932 and 1935 48 Mohammed Taher Basha. Filastin, March 11 1945 49 Haggai Harif and Yair Galily, “Sport and politics in Palestine, 1918–48: Football as a mirror reflecting the relations between Jews and Britons,” Soccer & Society, 4:1 (2003), 41-56 / Aron Nethanel and Zelig Rosetzki, “A Memorandum to the Jewish Agency to the Land of Israel on Having Sport Ties with the British Army in the Country, March”21, 1940,, quoted by Issam Khalidi. فلسطين في القدم كرة على عام مائة in manuscript provided by the author 50 Harry Schneiderman, The Year in Review, Canadian Jewish Chronicle, September 11, 1931 9


during the Maccabiah, “This was not merely physical activity for the enjoyment of the individual: it was physical development in the service of the nation,” the Jewish Agency for Israel said.51 Sports historian Eisen argued that the Olympics had provided “a guiding example for the Maccabiah idea and (the) exerting powerful influences upon the inception and format of the Jewish Games.”52 Nonetheless, the Palestinian Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) deprived Maccabiah of the ability to project itself as representative of the region’s diversity by withdrawing participation from the 1932 tournament.53 It also complicated the PFA’s effort to meet FIFA’s requirement that it represent both Jewish and Palestinian clubs.

Defence under Cover of Sports Palestinian historian Issa al-Sifri warned in a book published in 1937 that “since 1924, the Zionists were trying to find new tricks for admitting more Jewish immigrants to the country; they have used smuggling and manipulation. They have pretended to submit to the restrictions of the immigration laws (while) transferring Jews to illegal resident status in Palestine by hiding them in the settlements. The Maccabiah was one of the ways of achieving these tasks,” Al-Sifri wrote.54 Hapoel, the sports association with the Zionist labour movement, pioneered naval operations that supported illegal immigration into Palestine as well as the smuggling of arms toJewish paramilitary groups. The movement also helped establish Jewish settlements. Its members were often also part of the Haganah, the underground Jewish paramilitary force that after independence formed the core of the Israel Defence Force.55 All in all, the involvement of sports movements in what Zionists described as defensive measures traced their roots to the late years of Ottoman rule when sports groups volunteered to protect Jewsagainst Palestinian protesters.“ From the early 1920s, members of the sports organizations participated in activities aimed at restraining Arab manifestations of violence. They also assisted with the absorption of immigrants and in broadening the settlement enterprise, were involved in protests against British policy which sought to limit the development of the national home, and continued its activities in the fields of education, culture, etc. Many of these activists volunteered to serve in the British army during the Second World War, and some were active in saving and rehabilitating Jewish Holocaust refugees from Europe,” Harif noted.56

51 Jewish Agency for Israel. The Story of Sport in Israel, (accessed June 20, 2014), http://jafi.org/JewishAgency/English/Jewish+Education/Compelling+Content/Eye+on+Israel/Sport+in+Israel/T he+Beginnings+of+Modern+Jewish+Sport.htm 52 George Eisen, “Jewish History and the Ideology of Modern Sport: Approaches and Interpretations,” Journal of Sport History, 25:3(1998), 482-531 1932 20, March ,مقاطعة دورة االلعاب مكابيه في تل أبيب: اإلنتصارات القومية على مكائد الصهيونيةFilastin. 53 54 Iss Al-Sifri. Filastin bein al-Intidab wa al- Sahyoonia. (Jaffa, 1937), 184-187 quoted in Issam Khalidi, Body and Ideology, Early Athletics in Palestine (1900 - 1948), Jerusalem Quarterly, 27 (1937), 44-58 55 Yehoshua Alouf and Gilboa Shaked, Hapoel." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 8. (Detroit: Macmillan, Reference USA, 2007). 338 56 Ibid. Harif, Israeli Sport 10


Palestinian media as well as a Jewish scholar asserted that the Maccabi was using its 1935 tournament to obtain as many tourist visas as possible for Jews from abroad to visit the territory. Filastin said it had received a complaint from residents of the town of Tulkarem denouncing the games as a provocative military exercise.57 The paper reported the letter in an article headlined “Ten Thousand Jewish Athletes: By What Right are They Permitted to Come?”58 Ha’aretz reported that the Palestinian media had questioned whether British authorities were “taking sufficient precaution to ensure that the tourists entering the country would leave at theend of their stay under the visas granted, or whether it knew that many contemplated remaining permanently as residents.”59 In his 1979 dissertation, “The Maccabiah Games: A History of the Jewish Olympics”, Eisen acknowledged the Palestinian concern but asserted that the number oftourists cited by the media was “highly inflated by the hostile Arab news media even though their perception as to the real purpose of the Jewish influx was quite accurate.”60 The notion of using sports not only to project nationalism but also as a cover for developing military skills for the conquest of Palestine and defence of the rights of the Jewish people was particularly prevalent among those elements within Maccabi that traced their routes to Beitar. Filastin and other Palestinian media demanded that the games be banned and asserted that their opening march was paramilitary in nature.61 The assertions prompted the British authorities to cancel the march a day before the opening of the Maccabiah.62 Earlier, the British had advised Beitar against wearing its brown-coloured shirts during the opening ceremony as it was reminiscent of fascist dress in Mussolini’s Italy. The ban prompted Beitar to pull out of the tournament and break away from Maccabi.63 Beitar, unlike Maccabi and Hapoel which saw itself first and foremost as sporting organisations with affinity to the Socialist International, defined itself primarily as a movement that also engaged in sports. The Palestinian media nevertheless complained that the British gave the Zionists preferential treatment by imposing far less restrictions on them than on marches by Palestinian youth and sports groups. The complaint reflected British fears that Palestinian youth were adopting more militant nationalist attitudes. The British mandate authority warned in the public security sectionof its 1936 annual report that Palestinian youth had closely followed the Egyptian student movement that had “instigated disorders there in November, 1935.” It said Palestinian youth had“gradually achieved a certain degree of influence with the Arab leaders themselves and used this influence to press for the adoption of a more extreme Arab policy. These activities were voiced in the Press through the

57 Issam Khalidi, Coverage of sports news in Filastin, 1911-1948, Soccer and Society, 13:5-6 (2012), 764-777 / FilastinJanuary 18, 1933 1935 30, March ,عشرة آالف الرياضيين اليهود: بأي حق هل هم المسموح القادمة؟ Filastin. 58 59 Haaretz, ישראל-ארצ בשמ במכביע יופיע םי, April 4, 1932 60 George Eisen, The Maccabiah Games: A History of the Jewish Olympics, (unpublished, 1979), 175 61 Davar”, תמכביע" סביב הסתה, April 3, 1935 62 Davar, המכביע פתיחות ערב, April 1, 1935, 63 Ibid. Jewish Agency for Israel 11


medium of ‘Al Difa`a’ newspaper, which was suspended for a month under the Press Ordinance for advocating the adoption in Palestine of the methods employed by the Egyptian students.”64 Palestinian media hinted at a growing divide between more militant youth and the Palestinian leadership in articles that criticised the lack of solidarity within Palestinian sports organisations,65 using the term Assabiyah — a phrase coined by Ibn Khaldun, the 14th century historiographer and founding father of modern sociology — that refers to the bonds of cohesion built in the formation of communities.66 Divisions among Palestinians were exacerbated by the decision of some Palestinian clubs to join the Zionist-dominated soccer federation during the popular revolt against Jewish settlement and British colonial administration in the late 1930s and the disappearance of a political edge in sports reporting during the Second World War as a result of British censorship. Al-Sifri was not the first person to suspect Zionist use of sports. Palestine’s Ottoman rulers feared that sports was used as a means to further Jewish nationalism and provide paramilitary training. To counter the Zionists, Ottoman authorities pressured schools to bar sports clubs like Rishon Le Zion in Jaffa and Bar Giora in Jerusalem. Schools often barred sports clubs for fear that authorities would confiscate their equipment or close them down. Ottoman and Palestinian fears were fuelled by the participation of Hashomer — a left-wing Jewish self-defence and settlement organisation — in the Rehovot Games, Zionism’s first major series of sports tournaments. Hashomer grew out of Bar Giora - a self-defence group established during the second wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine and named after Simon Bar Giora who was a leader of the Jewish Revolt against the Romans in 70 CE. Hashomer not only fielded athletes but had been contracted to guard the Rehovot settlement.67 Palestinian nationalists sought to stress the point that youth movements like Maccabi were paramilitary rather than sports groups. “The idea of the Maccabi goes back to first century B.C. when the Roman Empire saw for its own safety that the Jews have to (assimilate) so they could become Romans, but the Jews refused; they decided to maintain their national identity. The idea was in the beginning religiously ethical, so were their ways to achieve their goals. Later the concept was reduced from the realms of religion and ethics to the ground of nationalism and weaponry. The war was ongoing between the parties. The Romans were defeated more than once by the Maccabeans. The Jews remained nationally independent. We have no objection to see the Jews struggling for the sake of their unity and independence. The most we can prove here is that the Maccabi movement was a military struggle, but not an athletic movement as many Jews want to suggest to the world. What has been mentioned was proved by history,” said Filastin. 64 His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, “Report by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Palestine and Trans-Jordan for the year 1936,” December 31, 1936 65 Filastin. عصبية-وال أريد إتحاد-أل, July 18, 1935 66 Syed Farid Alatas, “A Khaldunian Exemplar for a Historical Sociology for the South,” Current Sociology 54:3 (2006),397-411 67 Stephen E. C. Wendehorst, “Between Promised Land and Land of Promise: The Radical Socialist Zionism of Hashomer Hatzair,” Jewish Culture and History, 2:1 (1999), 44-57

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