The current political atmosphere legitimizing racism and incitement is also escalating tension in the soccer stadiums. Last month, Betar Jerusalem was deducted a league point by the Israel Football Association following racist chanting by their fans. Last week Israel Channel 2 News broadcast film footage of Betar fans and players chanting “we hate Arabs” during celebrations after the club’s cup final victory over Maccabi Haifa. Drawing attention to the incident, NIF Israel Executive Director Eliezer Yaari wrote to the State Prosecutor noting, "The event was a blatant violation of the Law Prohibiting Violence in Sport 2008." In response to the letter, the Jerusalem District Prosecutor instructed the police to open a criminal investigation for racist incitement against a Betar player who was captured on film singing anti-Arab chants.
The captains of Maccabi Haifa (left) and Betar Jerusalem put on Kick Racism Out of Soccer shirts before last week's cup final.
This ugly incident aside, NIF’s campaign to combat racism in Israeli soccer has reported a further decline in racist incidents during the 2008/09 soccer season. Overall, racist incidents, as reported by NIF’s panel of 70 volunteer observers, were down by 33 percent compared with last season and there was 23 percent less racist chanting. Abuse of black players was down 38 percent.
Read more about this in the Jerusalem Post article.