The New Israel Fund (NIF) has just started a partnership with the Israel Football Association (IFA). The campaign is titled “Kick Racism Out of Israeli Football“. Its quoted aim is to:
“promote the Israeli national soccer teams (men, women, and youth) as a shining example of equality, tolerance, and coexistence for the rest of Israeli society“.
Shining example? We would all like to see good examples; sport can build bridges. But it would be a lie to say that good examples at the national team level represent Israeli football or Israeli society at large. The fact that Palestinians and Jews play together on national football teams camouflages insidious racism in the game, the most repugnant being at the Beitar club. This the IFA has failed to eliminate. In any other country such a club would be closed down.
The title, as distinct from the quoted aim, of the campaign implies NIF commitment to kicking out racism. Yet recent events appear show NIF is not interested. As our 23 October post reports, the IFA decided to segregate Palestinian and Jewish youth teams in the Al-Shomoron region. This is classical apartheid. Mondoweiss then revealed that, on being challenged to comment, NIF washed its hands of the action, saying:
“There is close cooperation with the IFA in the struggle against racism and violence in the stadiums, which is a matter of the utmost importance, especially now. However, the Fund is not familiar with the issue of the youth leagues, and cannot assume responsibility for every IFA action. If there is truth to Adalah’s argument, we have no doubt that the matter will be handled in an appropriate manner”
This does not auger well for the NIF initiative. Our campaign is sceptical and remains to be convinced that the necessary determination will be displayed by the NIF and the IFA to expose and challenge racism in Israeli football.