In a move aimed at bolstering Israel's international image and ability to fight anti-Semitism and racism, Israel has joined European efforts to combat racism and violence at soccer games.
Sponsored by Football Against Racism in Europe and UEFA, the action has targeted acts of racism and violence through a week-long publicity campaign at various soccer matches.
“By doing this, we are showing that we are fighting racism here,” said Itzik Shanan, director of communications at the New Israel Fund (NIF), the organization that lobbied for Israel's inclusion in the event.
“This will give us more weight to condemn others that behave in an anti-Semitic manner.”
Arieh O'Sullivan, director of communications at the Anti-Defamation League Israel office, said that this summer's war in Lebanon had strained relations between the Israel Football Association and its European counterparts, and that cooperation between the two sides was an important step forward.
“This summer FIFA banned its teams from traveling to Israel because of the danger from the war. Allowing Israel to participate in this programme is a good sign,” O'Sullivan said.
The event kicked off on November 5 during a much-anticipated match between Betar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa. Before the game players entered the stadium wearing jerseys bearing the FARE logo and holding banners with anti-violence and anti-racism slogans.
Hebrew and Arabic were added to the FARE action week logo, spelling out “Kick Racism and Violence Out of Football” in both languages.
“Betar previously led our racism index,” Shanan said, explaining the importance of launching the campaign in Jerusalem. He was referring to a survey done by the NIF to determine the level of racism exhibited by soccer fans.
“We are happy that they were willing to accept the challenge.”