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The latest on…Yad Vashem and Mario Balotelli

Graffiti at Yad Vashem (Flash90)Yad Vashem Arrests

The Yad Vashem vandalism we blogged about a few weeks ago has led to three arrests and, earlier this week, one indictment. Rumors that the culprits were extreme charedi Jews proved founded. According to the Jerusalem Post, the arrestees are members of Neturei Karta, the fringe chasidic sect that disavows the State of Israel. We’ve blogged about them too, when defining the extreme right, but also in regards to some of their members’ unlikely and disturbing cooperation with the pro-Palestinian movement. In fact according to JPost, PLO flags were found in the suspects’ homes.

The indictee is Elhanan Ostrowitz of Bnei Brak who told investigator he would bomb the Knesset if he had the chance, and is also allegedly behind a similar graffiti incident at Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill. If it turns out that Ostrowitz and his comrades are affiliated with Neturei Karta, Israel will be faced with a much larger problem than domestic crimes. This fringe Neturei Karta element have proven in past years that they are willing to go to any extremes to bring down the State of Israel, even if it means consorting with people like Iran’s Mahmud Ahmadinejad, a man who has openly called for Israel’s destruction.

If they haven’t yet, Israel police and intelligence services must start taking this fringe element seriously. It’s become a matter of national security.

Super Mario

After Mario Balotelli’s stunning performance in Italy’s semi-final against Germany in Euro 2012, news outlets seemed to finally pick up on the Jewish angle to his story. (Note: we had it for your first!) When the whistle blew, Balotelli made for the stands and was shown embracing what looked like an Italian woman in her 50s, who we guessed could be his adoptive mother, Silvia Balotelli  (see video above). Turns out we were right; and finally, a lot of Jewish news outlets who previously hadn’t shown interest in the tournament, took notice.

Balo’s unique story simultaneously highlights one of the soccer tournament’s values – RESPECT – while revealing how much racism still exists in European society. We only first stumbled across his story because of an article in a British daily about how Croatian fans were making monkey noises when he came on the field, and threw bananas on the pitch. Both Italian neo-Nazis and American white supremacists were challenging his inclusion in the Italian national team. On the David Duke sponsored forum Stormfront, one poster wrote that as “a black and Jew he should play for Israel”.

Mario Balotelli is a spot-on example of the changing face of European soccer. All white, Christian teams are a thing of the past. Many of today’s hottest players are of immigrant descent, their families originally from places including Turkey, Tunisia, Ghana and Ethiopia. In the United States, sports figures like Jackie Robinson played a pivotal role in changing race relations and national identity. It seems that in Europe, a similar process is underway.

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