Independent Lens: Forever Pure

About This Episode

Beitar Jerusalem Football Club, formed in 1936, is the most popular and controversial soccer team in Israel, long associated with the conservative Likud political party and the only club in the Israeli Premier League never to sign an Arab player. Midway through the 2012-13 season a secretive transfer by the owner, Russian-Israeli oligarch Arcadi Gaydamak, brought two Muslim players from Chechnya onto the team. A powerful group of Beitar fans known as La Familia began a racist campaign against the two Muslim players, the team’s management, and any player who supported them. Shouting hate-filled chants and unfurling banners reading “Forever Pure. No Arabs,” they created a national scandal that sent the team spiraling out of control.

For more than two decades, right-wing Israeli leaders have known that the road to victory passes through Teddy Stadium, home of Beitar Jerusalem Football Club. They have sat in the East Stands, listening to La Familia's anti-Arab chants, and Gaydamak spent millions on the team, hoping to use the fans' rabid loyalty to become Mayor of Jerusalem. To many of those fans Beitar is much more than their home club — it’s their identity, along with the racism they embrace.

But Gaydamak’s bid for election fails and he loses interest in the team. In 2012, after taking the Beitar squad on an unexpected tour of Chechnya capital Grozny, Gaydamak agrees to bring the two Muslim players, Zaur Sadaev and Dzhabrail Kadiev, to Beitar Jerusalem. Pandemonium erupts after the arrival of the two newcomers sets off a media firestorm in Israel in what becomes a tempestuous Beitar season. Forever Pure takes us inside the disturbing and sometimes violent reality of national pride taken to extremes.