26 December 2013
Last Tuesday, Arab Israeli soccer team Bnei Sakhnin hosted Beitar Jerusalem in a league match. Beitar fans are notorious for their racist invective and violent attacks against Arab Israelis. As expected, the atmosphere in the stadium was awful, with both sets of fans cursing each other. Before the match, while en route to the stadium, Beitar fans allegedly ripped up a Koran owned by the bus driver. Pictures of the desecrated Koran have been distributed, although it is important to emphasize that as yet there is no conclusive evidence that the Beitar fans were responsible.
NIF's Kick Racism out of Football program, which monitors racism and violence on the field, issued a statement: "...There is no place in Israeli sport for this phenomenon. We call on the Israeli Police to arrest those responsible and bring them to justice. According to an Israeli statute on debasement of religion, the punishment can be up to three years in jail. We also expect that the head of the Israeli Football Association (IFA), Avi Luzon, and the Minister for Sport, Limor Livnat, will respond to the incident and do all that is in their power to prevent a repeat of racist acts which harm human rights and debase Israeli football."
At the match, a group of Sakhnin fans unveiled a Palestinian flag. In response, MK Miri Regev (Likud) called on Bnei Sakhnin to be expelled from the league. Regev did not address the alleged behavior of the Beitar fans.