FIFA Responds by Forwarding Letter to Disciplinary Committee
7 June, 2012
Haifa- On May 16th, 2012, the Mossawa Center and the Coalition Against Racism (CAR) sent a letter to FIFA, the World Football Association, and UEFA, the European Football Association, detailing the continuation of racist incitement and attacks by Beitar Jerusalem, a football team in the Israeli Football Association (IFA).
The letter specifically addresses the most recent incident in March 2012, in which Arab workers were physically attacked by Beitar Jerusalem fans in Al-Malha mall in Jerusalem. After a football match, hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem fans (mostly teenagers) rushed into the nearby shopping mall. They yelled racial slurs and beat a number of the Arab cleaning personnel. It took the Jerusalem police nearly one week to start their investigation of the incident.
Beitar Jerusalem fans have been historically involved in attacks on Arabs and have been recorded using racist chants during many games. Another example of violence occurred in February 2011, when Beitar Jerusalem fans rioted after losing a game to Bnei Sakhnin (a predominately Arab team) by throwing stones and breaking windows of the Sakhnin players’ bus, as well as physically assaulting the players.
Beitar Jerusalem fans are not the sole instigators of these incidents; Beitar Jerusalem coaches, managers and players have also participated in discriminatory acts, which feed into the normalization of racism. Since its establishment in 1936, Beitar Jerusalem continues to be the only Israeli football team that refuses to recruit Palestinian Arab players. In 2011, Mohammad Ghadir, a striker for Maccabi Haifa team, expressed his willingness to play for Beitar. However, Beitar Jerusalem refused Ghadir’s offer on the grounds that it would upset the team’s fans. Additionally, when Beitar Jerusalem won the Israeli cup last year, some of the players, including Amit Ben Shushan, chanted along with fans, “I hate you Salim Toama (an Arab player), I hate all the Arabs.”
The ILA’s responses to these incidents have been inadequate and inappropriate. Many times the attacks are not investigated by the disciplinary committee and often, if football players are convicted of incitement, they are given lenient punishments that are disproportionate to the crime. For example, the Beitar Jerusalem player, Ben Shushan, who used racist chants calling for killing of Arabs, was charged with a “learning penalty,” which only required him to give a few lectures against racism to youth football teams.
The Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sports, Limor Livnat, recently appointed a committee to inspect the management of the ILA. Unfortunately, none of the appointed committee members are Arab citizens of Israel.
The Mossawa Center and CAR want FIFA and UEFA to honor their commitments to combat racism in football by requesting the associations to investigate Beitar Jerusalem for these attacks, and to conduct an inquiry into the ILA, whose disciplinary committee is failing to handle these incidents correctly.
Mossawa and CAR also requested that the associations pressure the ILA to carry out a public campaign against racism in football. FIFA has recently responded to the letter, stating that the matter is currently under review by their disciplinary committee.
The Coalition Against Racism is a project funded by the European Union.
For more information: Jafar Farah at TheMossawaCenter@gmail.com or +972 (0)4 855 5901