Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Maccabi-Palestine in Australia in 1939

James Hothersall sent us this piece which follows up on Neos Osmos' interest in soccer and the military. He reveals an interesting story about the racist contradictions inherent in the way we view some outsiders.
The role of Australia and its war mythology needs to be explored further. During the depression Australia had undertones of racism. According to Rutland in Edge of Diaspora (1988) anti-Semitic organisations in the Thirties included: The Australian Nazi Movement, The Australian Unity League, Eric Campbell’s New Guard and The Douglas Credit Party of Australia.

The rise of Nazi Germany and the displacement of Jews led to the 1938 conference in Evian in to discuss the problem. At the Evian the Australian delegate Thomas Walter White spoke against taking Jewish refugees: ‘As we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one by encouraging any scheme of large-scale foreign migration…..’

Non-Empire immigrants had to have 500 pounds and be literate in a European language. The financial stake was eventually reduced to 50 pounds for the Jewish diaspora which was little consolation when the fascists’ had stripped them their assets.

An interesting soccer tour took place during this time of increased tension. In 1939 The Maccabi-Palestine team arrived in Australia for 5 test matches. Overall media response was very negative with suggestions that future tours should only be accepted from members of the Empire. The Sydney Morning Herald of 7th August 1939 described play as ‘wretched’ and stated that it ‘caused resentment among paying spectators’. This assessment is bemusing as although the tourists lost the test series they won 11 and drew 3 of their 19 matches – including big wins over Queensland, Victoria, Melbourne, South Australia and Western Australia.

Despite the negativity Avraheim Reznik, Avraheim Beit HaLevi and Menaham Mirmvotich remained in Australia. According to records at the Australian War Memorial two were killed in action serving Australia:
  • Menaham Mirvotich (2/11th Battalion - Infantry) died 12 May 1945 in New Guinea
  • Abraham Bezalel Beth-Helevy [Anglicised] (2/12th Battalion - Infantry) died 21 January 1944.
What this story highlights is that the ANZAC story isn’t simple.

Maccabi-Palestine v Australia SCG, 1939


  1. James, I reckon if you haven't already, try and find a copy of Egon Kisch's 'Australian Landfall'. While it's set a few years before this tour, it has some great stuff about Australian immigration laws at the time, as well as the way reactionary forces went about enforcing them. It's also a bloody funny book.

  2. Thanks for the info on this. I'd seen the footage before but never gotten around to finding out more about the tour, and probably wouldn't have discovered what happened to some of the players themselves

  3. Reznik, Mirmovitch, Beit HaLevy were all full internationals with the 'British Mandate of Palestine' - these games are recognosed as internationals by the Israel Football Association.

    Reznik played with the Maccabean club in the Perth league (the club still competes at amateur level). Many of the tourists were either full internationals or had ties to the famous Hakoah Wien club.

    According the Eretz Israel press after on the way back to Tel Aviv the team played and won two games in India:

    v Bombay 6-0
    v British Army XI 7-0

    The team then travelled to Colombo but no matches are recorded.

    The team wore the light blue of Hakoah with the Maccabi badge for matches and trained in the traditional Maccabi blue and yellow.