Betar punished after fans boo Rabin

Soccer Federation bans fans from two home games; MK Cabel calls the penalty "shameful."

Ben-Shushan Beitar 224.8 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Ben-Shushan Beitar 224.8
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The Israel Football Association's (IFA) disciplinary committee on Thursday banned fans of the Betar Jerusalem soccer team from two home games as punishment for heckling during a moment of silence for late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in a match on Sunday. The IFA's disciplinary committee found the fans guilty of "unsportsmanlike behavior," according to a statement on the association's Web site. "It must be emphasized that the event ... in which we remember the day a prime minister in Israel was murdered is a day that unifies all those for whom democracy is valued and important, without any political differences," the committee wrote. MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) told Army Radio that the punishment was "shameful" and said that in light of the decision, it would have been preferable not to hold a committee session at all. Betar CEO Itzik Korenfein called the punishment inappropriate. "Every time something like this happens everyone jumps on Betar fans and thinks that by punishing them, the problem will be solved. There is a need for a joint effort by the education ministry, the police and local authorities. This is not the way to handle things," Korenfein told Army Radio. Betar fans are known for their nationalist and sometimes anti-Arab views, as well as especially noisy conduct at games. The team is one of the few in Israel that has never fielded an Arab player. The Betar incident sparked many Israelis to suggest that a general intolerance for incitement following Rabin's death was dissipating.