Israel's Attorney General Vows to Rein in Racist Beitar Fans

Supporters of the Jerusalem-based soccer team object to the signing of two Muslim players from Chechnya.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein told Beitar Jerusalem Tuesday that Israel intends to stamp out the racism and violence of the soccer team's fans after it signed two Muslim players from Chechnya late last month.

"The Israeli public should reject any manifestation of racism, and the [law] enforcement authorities are obligated to fearlessly eradicate any manifestation of this kind that crosses the line into a criminal act," Weinstein wrote to Beitar Chairman Itzik Kornfein. "I intend to ensure that the matter is dealt with the best way possible."

At a training session Friday, the two players from Chechnya, Gabriel Kadiev and Zaur Sadaev, were abused verbally and spat on by fans. The two had to leave the area surrounded by police and security guards.The next day, fans chanted racist slogans against the players at a Beitar match.

Weinstein promised that the police and state prosecutor would bring to justice those responsible for violence and racism. He said he would call a meeting of officials from the prosecutor's office, the police and the Culture and Sports Ministry to examine policies related to racism at sporting events.

The attorney general plans to stress the recommendations several months ago by a committee examining violence in sports. Those proposals have been submitted to Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat.

Weinstein said he would also consider having the law changed, including a provision that would give incentives to sports teams to work for tolerance.

"I am greatly disturbed by the recent outburst of harsh and ugly racism by a group of Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans," Weinstein wrote. Even if the group's acts are not representative of the team's fans, the phenomenon cannot be tolerated, he added.

Reuters
Nir Keidar