“Israeli football does NOT say no to racism, says Haaretz Open Letter to Blatter

“Israeli football does NOT say no to racism, says Haaretz Open Letter to Blatter

Uri Misav is a writer on Haaretz and he has published  the following Open Letter to Sepp Blatter.


Sir, I would like to take a few minutes of your time and draw your attention to a matter of principle and values, even though during your long years of presidency, your and your organization’s names have not always been linked with  lofty principles; On the contrary. But perhaps for that very reason you would find it fit to intervene on the subject of Beitar Jerusalem. Not just for purifying the image, but to create a sense of linkage, even if a feeble one, between the lofty words FIFA uses and the reality on the ground.

See, Mr. Blatter, for few years now your campaign announces, “say no to racism”. On the last clip you made on the subject, top football stars recite this motto, in various languages. I also know Israeli football is no stranger to you and your organization. Recently, you personally intervened to try and protect Israel and its football groups from the boycott activities promoted by the Palestinian Authority.

The point is this, Mr. Blatter: Israeli football does not say no to racism. One of our biggest clubs, which our national symbol adorns its emblem,  says ‘yes’ to racism. Many of its fans are doing it deliberately and persistently, in broad daylight and under spotlights, and FIFA remains silent.

Despite the tremendous progress of football in the Arab population, whose representatives are integrating in the Premier League clubs, Beitar Jerusalem has never added to its ranks an Arab player. This is a racist and discriminatory approach, reminiscent of dark days in the history of world’s sports. But it does not end there. Many of the club’s  fans stand, every Saturday, behind racial epithets, including the anthem “Salim Tuama terrorist / I hate you Salim Tuama / I hate all Arabs.” The Club’s official fan society calls itself “La Familia”, as a tribute to organized crime groups. Its people were involved in the last decade, in a long series of violent incidents related to nationalism and racism. They do not necessarily constitute a majority in the stands, but they set the tone.

The current club’s coach, Guy Levy, started the season as Bnei Sakhnin Football Club’s coach. It did not prevent him from announcing last week that he was opposing the recruitment of an Arab player to Beitar, on the grounds that ‘It will cause unnecessary tensions’. Levy also described the members of “La Familia” as ‘excellent people and great fans’. Well, Mr. Blatter, I wanted to tell you, for example, about the annual Indoor football tournament of those excellent people, which was scheduled to be held last Saturday in the Sportek courts. Among others,  enrolled to participate few “charming” fans groups, named the “Death to Arabs” or “pure Beitar forever”. The club does not renounce these violence and racism, Mr. Blatter. It bows before them. At most, it grumbles that the fan’s actions impose radius sentences and fines. The only one who tried systematically to fight the phenomenon was the previous CEO, Itzik Kornfein, who suffered intimidations and harassments because of this, until he was expelled from the club.

Mr. Blatter, we commemorated the Holocaust Day of European Jewry last week. How can we continue to bear the shame? Why are you standing aloof in the face of  Beitar Jerusalem phenomena? Just this month FIFA decided to subtract six points from MS Ashdod’s the balance sheet following a refusal to pay Nigerian club a player’s transfer fees. Well, sir, how many points do you reckon are worth subtracting from a club which management, coaches, players and fans are collaborating for years in blatant and shameful racism?

http://www.haaretz.co.il/opinions/.premium-1.2616682 for version in Hebrew

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