Latest Stunts By Racist Israeli Football Fans Lead To Punishment Crackdown
The torching of Israeli Premier League club Beitar Jerusalem's offices "by fans angry at the signing of two Muslim players has sparked a major outcry which both supporters and ex-players hope could end decades of open racism at the club," according to Steve Weizman of the AFP. Along with "trophies, pictures and other memorabilia, a pair of boots and a jersey worn by former Beitar and Israel star Eli Ohana went up in smoke." It will be a "small price to pay if it ends up spelling an end to years of xenophobia." Ohana said, "If it will be the straw that breaks the camel's back and fixes the problem, then they can burn another two rooms. If this can be wiped out, it will be worth even this price." PM Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the arson as "shameful." He said, "Lately, we have seen displays of extremism that we find unacceptable. These must be uprooted, of course, from the world of sports. " In Israel, the offence of "incitement to racism" can result in a jail term, "but so far courts have not hit them with the full force of the law, only slapping offenders with a fine or excluding them from matches." Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said that it "is about to change." Rosenfeld said, "We're now in the second stage of ongoing investigations, finding and tracking down those that are leading the incitement to racism, using such means as are necessary to make arrests, including before incidents occur" (AFP, 2/12).