Can Israel Learn From Britain on Ending Racism and Hatred in Soccer?

Anti-Semitism Remains Potent in English Stadiums

Ugly Support: Fans of Beitar Jerusalem soccer team unfurl anti-Arab banner. Can Israel learn from Britain on curbing racism in soccer?
haaretz
Ugly Support: Fans of Beitar Jerusalem soccer team unfurl anti-Arab banner. Can Israel learn from Britain on curbing racism in soccer?

By JTA

Published May 21, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Itzik Shanan and Abbas Suan watched last week as 100,000 English soccer fans sang along to a live performance by a multiracial quartet at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Shanan, who started a campaign to eliminate racism from Israeli soccer, and Suan, a well-known Arab-Israeli player, were in Britain for five days of anti-hooliganism training in advance of Israel’s hosting next month of a major international soccer tournament.

For Shanan, the operatic rendition of “Abide With Me,” a Christian hymn that has become something of a soccer anthem, was a reminder of the sport’s potential — and its pitfalls.

Ohad Eyal, a coordinator for the New Israel Fund, speaking at an anti-racism event in Tel Aviv.
JTA
Ohad Eyal, a coordinator for the New Israel Fund, speaking at an anti-racism event in Tel Aviv.

“It was amazingly cultural,” Shanan told JTA. “It showed me soccer can be truly a cultural event, but [also] reminded me of the long road that lies ahead of Israeli soccer until we catch up to England.”

The ground Shanan believes Israeli soccer needs to cover is not on the field.

For the past decade, England’s Football Association, or F.A., has trained dozens of Israeli activists who hope to re-create what they view as the F.A.’s success in reducing widespread displays of racism that tarnished the image of English soccer. Shanan and Suan were part of a delegation of 10 Israeli Jews and Arabs in Britain last week for F.A. training.

England is described as “a world leader in dealing with soccer racism and hooliganism” on the website of the New Israel Fund, the U.S.-based social justice group that created and bankrolls Shanan’s nonprofit, Kick Racism Out of Israeli Football.

But a recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents in English soccer, and the F.A.’s refusal to fully adopt new European countermeasures, are making some question the association’s suitability to instruct others in countering racist tendencies among fans.

“Clearly, Britain has not resolved its soccer racism and violence problem and is therefore no model for Israel,” said Manfred Gerstenfeld, a Dutch-born scholar of European anti-Semitism at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Critics such as Gerstenfeld point to a string of troubling incidents over the past year.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.