A bus carrying the Hapoel Jatt soccer team was hit with stones on Wednesday in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Tapuah. The incident occurred after the Arab Hapoel Gat team played against Elitzur Shomron – which represents the local settlements – despite protests from Kfar Tapuah residents.
- Construction in West Bank settlements booming despite declared freeze
- Outpost Watch: Obama's future minefield - and Netanyahu's
- Netanyahu puts settlement construction plans on hold until after Kerry visit
- Israeli soccer team breaks new ground: Recruits Arab women
Both teams play in the Sharon District A League. Last year, the game between the two teams took place in another settlement town, Karnei Shomron, and passed without incident or interruption. This year, however, Elitzur Shomron began playing at a field in Kfar Tapuah.
According to a report from the website Kol Yehudi, dozens of Kfar Tapuah residents gathered before the game and expressed their opposition to allowing the Arab players to enter the settlement. Kfar Tapuah’s entry policy for Arabs only permits Arab construction workers into the settlement.
The report quoted one Kfar Tapuah resident as saying, “There was no notification that Arabs were coming, and no one knew it was happening. They tried to hide it from the residents. I think the administration made a mistake, and I hope it never happens again. There was a big controversy here about Arab workers, and the administration decided they should be allowed entry. This has majority support, but the point is that this is a soccer game, which is a much bigger thing than construction. It is real assimilation.”
A group of residents showed up to protest during Wednesday's game. Due to the protest, the doors to the arena were locked until police arrived on the scene. After the game was over, the Arab team had a police escort out of the settlement, but residents that had gathered by the settlement’s gate began to throw stones and eggs at the bus. Both the bus and police vehicle were damaged. Overnight, the arena walls were sprayed with racist graffiti.
“We never thought there would be danger," Hapoel Gat's chairman, Nur Abu Ful, told Haaretz. "Ten minutes before the game was over, the team manager and settlement secretary came over to us and said, ‘We have a problem here. A group of young people want to harm you. Wait until security arrives.’
"I told the referee and he said, ‘I’m continuing the game.’ We finished the game. They held us up until the police arrived. Not 20 meters away from the arena, they began to throw rocks at us, as well as eggs and other things. The driver drove like mad to get out of there.”
In response to an inquiry, the Kfar Tapuah administration stated, “There were attempts by the administration to hold the game elsewhere, to be considerate of some of the residents and to avoid unnecessary conflict.”
In response to questions about the police presence, it said, “We have stated, and continue to state, that there is absolutely no place for violence in our community, and the administration will act to prevent it by every legal means at its disposal.”