Police arrested three Betar Jerusalem soccer fans for racist jeering
made at Saturday's game at the Teddy stadium in Jerusalem, Army Radio
reported on Sunday.
The background for the racist flare up was
the news that team owner Arkady Gaydamak intends to bring two Muslim
Chechen players to the team. Referring to the practice of the team to
recruit only Jewish players, the fans held signs that read "Betar is a
Politicians in Israel who condemned the fans'
behavior were quick to link the event to Sunday's marking of
International Holocaust Memorial Day.
Incoming MK Elazar Stern
(Tzipi Livni Party), condemned the behavior of Betar's fans as
"completely unacceptable," and told Army Radio that if on Holocaust
Memorial Day, Israel does not face the racism that has spread in our
society "then we are in trouble." Stern, who said there are currently
200,000 victims of the Holocaust living in Israel, is a son of Holocaust
survivors himself, and is the Chairman of the Board of The Foundation
for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, an outspoken Betar Jerusalem fan and the club's former legal advisor, blasted those who want to keep the football team "purely Jewish."
Speaking at an International Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, Rivlin said he feels "great sorrow as a Betar fan. These calls are outrageous."
Rivlin called for the Israel Football Association not to stand silent in light of recent events.
"Think what would happen if teams in England or Germany would decide that Jews cannot play for them. Israelis would censure them," he stated. "These calls have continued for a decade, and they teach us that it is not a small, fringe group. We must fight them, uproot them from among us and do justice with anyone who incites against partnership between all who live in this land."
Betar Jerusalem and its fans have a
reputation for being intolerant. Team owner Arkady Gaydamak said that
there is no conflict between the Jews and the Muslims in Chechnya and
warned against painting all of the fans with the same racist brush. "The
absolute majority of Betar supporters... are against the anti-Muslim
Gaydamak said that the racist outbursts made him
more determined to bring the two Muslim players to Betar. However, one
of the two players has already indicated that he would not come to play
for a team whose fans do not respect its players' beliefs.