The British papers maligned Israel before last week’s match, says HaimBaram
ENGLAND GOT a reprieve last week, and the much-maligned Israel bailed the English out of a certain exit from Euro 2008. We don’t expect you to thank us profusely, it is not in your nature and we don’t really need it. It will be exaggerated to claim that the Israeli players fought for England. They simply strove to restore their sagging reputation after the dismal performance at Wembley against England.
A tremendous amount of scorn was heaped upon the modest Israeli football after that rather pathetic game, and only a victory against the unduly arrogant Russians could have lifted it. The youngest team in our history was far more resilient and efficient than the established first team, and the Russian guests failed to make an impression.
As far as I am concerned, the filthy rich among the visitors have exploited the collapse of the Soviet Union to accumulate a fortune at the expense of their fellow citizens. Free-thinkers in our country despise this, and the victory over the Russians was the epitome of this highly justified contempt.
Throughout the week prior to the game we had been abused by the British media, and some of the allegations were drawn straight from the old antisemitic dictionary. We were depicted as a country of greedy Jews, anxious to please our Russian-Jewish masters and to betray England for numerous pieces of silver. This cheap rubbish had spread from the popular press and penetrated (in a more subtle manner) even the so-called quality newspapers. As a life-long Anglophile, I have never been so ashamed of England.
The betrayal conspiracy-theory has been ludicrous. To start with, we don’t owe you anything, and it is not our fault that you have a mediocre manager, hardly good enough even for Middlesbrough. Secondly, you have failed dismally to understand the nature of our society. As a radical non-Zionist, I share much of the criticism of the Israeli policies vis-àvis the Palestinians, but some people in England have a shallow view of Israel. You don’t understand the vibrant character of our media, the distinctive Israeli identity, the pride, the dire need to belong to the outside world, the democratic selfimage. It is impossible here to surrender a football game to Russian oligarchs, whether they employ a lacklustre manager like Grant or not. We won the game; it is as simple and naïve as that. But you owe us a massive apology. Haim Baram is a sports columnist for the Jerusalem-based Kol-Hair and former football commentator for Israeli state TV