The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission has demanded that the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team retract statements the team’s coach made against Arab players joining the team. In a letter this week to the team’s owner, Eli Tabib, National Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair spoke out against remarks made by Beitar coach Guy Levi on Radio 102.
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Levi said: “It doesn’t matter that this is the right time; it would create tension and cause much greater damage. I won’t find any player from the Arab sector who would want to. Even if there was a player who suited me professionally, I wouldn’t bring him, because it would create unnecessary tension.”
Levi’s remarks constituted “suspicion of racism in contravention of the law prohibiting discrimination based on nationality, among other things in acceptance to employment,” Koenig-Yair wrote.
The commissioner also noted that after the last time the commission approached Beitar Jerusalem, following similar remarks two years ago by its coach at the time, Haim Revivo, the soccer club called a press conference in which it called on its fans to fight racism and stated that if a suitable Arab player is found, he would be hired for the team. Yet Beitar Jerusalem remains the only top-tier soccer team in Israel never to have fielded an Arab player.
“The remarks of the current coach show that the ways of the team go completely against its declaration at that press conference and that ostensibly it maintains a policy of discrimination in a context of nationality and religion,” Koenig-Yair wrote.
The letter from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to Beitar followed a letter to the commission from the Coalition Against Racism in Israel, an umbrella group of Jewish and Arab organizations. The commission wrote that because of the attention in the media to the Beitar coach’s remarks, “it is of the greatest importance that the club be judged to the full extent of the law, because refraining from doing so could turn a statement and policy of this type into the norm in Israel.”