Until relatively recently, the state of Israel was preoccupied with its military security and paid little attention to cultural politics. However, the emergence of other ‘battlegrounds’ has seen a shift to ‘soft power’ in an attempt to generate a more benevolent global image. This paper spotlights an international sporting event which ordinarily attracts very limited interest from the mainstream media. However, when held in Israel, it created much greater interest. The paper identifies the UEFA’s Men’s U-21 tournament, held in Israel in 2013, to assess how different groups responded to the event: celebratory by the host nation and its supporters, the Israeli Football Association and UEFA; critical amongst Palestinians and their supporters in the international community. The paper identifies how the Israeli state is using ‘hasbara’ in an attempt to arrest its deteriorating international image and shows how the concept is empirically operationalized (‘hasbara in action’).
Tamir, Ilan, and Yair Galily. “When the Private Sphere Hides from the Public Sphere: The Power Struggle between Israeli National Identity and Football Fandom.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport (early view; online first).
On 13 May 2012 Israeli sports fans were deprived of one of the season’s most important soccer tournaments, after the scheduling of both legs of the UEFA Champion’s League semi-final matches overlapped with national days of remembrance. A week before, Israel’s sports channels refused to play the first leg of semi-final matches since one of the games coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day. And, again, a week later, Israeli sports fans were confounded with the same issue, with Memorial Day coinciding with the soccer tournament’s second leg of semi-final games. It is well known that sports spectatorship is a transformative experience through which fans escape their humdrum lives, just as religious experiences help the faithful to transcend their everyday existence. In an era where alternative channels (television, Internet, etc.) are easy to find, we used in-depth interviews with sports fans to learn more about the dilemma of both public and private media expressions and watching and enjoying soccer matches while the Israeli nation is in agony. Findings reveal a whole different viewing experience whereas instead of group watching, cheering and eating together rituals, on a regular match day, an unaccompanied, quiet and even embarrassing experience was marked.