Football enjoys a special status in Israeli society and is one of the few arenas that offers equal opportunities for Jews and Arabs. At the same time, football fans in Israel often expressed severe forms of racism, including calls to kill Arabs and on some occasions escalating into actual violence against Arabs.
Believing that change that starts on the football pitch will spread gradually to the rest of Israeli society, the New Israel Fund engaged 50 volunteers, all football fans, to serve as observers in the football stands. The observers record expressions of racism, incitement, and violence. They report on racist chants that are directed at the players’ background and toward their colour, race, religion, and ethnicity. They document violent acts, banners with racist messages, and incitement through songs that encourage violence against Arabs, and more. Based on observers’ reports, each week Kick Racism Out publish the Index of Racism & Violence in Football Stadiums (you can read the recent Hebrew report, from May 2016, here).
In collaboration with the Department of Community and Crime Prevention within the Ministry of Public Security, the Sport Administration, and the Israel Football Association, the programme has developed and changed institutional attitudes toward racist and violent behaviour in football games. The program is an initiative of FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) and is sponsored by UEFA. Israel also takes part in the annual awareness week against racism and violence in football and in 2008 the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, passed the Law for the Prohibition of Violence in Sport, forbidding the use of racist expressions.
The ‘Kick Racism out of Football’ project also uses an awards system in order to support and encourage teams and groups that use football to promote shared society in Israel. In 2016 13 grassroots Israeli initiatives using football to promote coexistence, tolerance, and inclusion, have been awarded grants by NIF’s Kick Racism Out campaign. The winners were announced in football stadiums in front of tens of thousands of football fans and broadcast on national TV during half-time of the Israeli Cup semi-finals in April and at the Cup Final at the end of May.
The winners were:
Maccabi Dalyat al-Karmel/Yokneam – a team of Druze, Muslims, and Jews from neighbouring towns near Haifa.
Hapoel Rovi Shapira Haifa – a youth team run by fans of Hapoel Haifa including players from the city’s different communities.
Bnei Zamir – a project that brings together Jewish and Arab children in the triangle region, northeast of Tel Aviv.
Hapoel Tel Aviv Youth Division – to support a tournament for six mixed Jewish-Arab teams.
Hapoel Katamon – to support the State Cup for Women (Youth) championship between Hapoel Katamon and Bnei Sakhnin, a Jewish team and an Arab team.
Abu Tor/El-Thuri – a project to improve relations in a mixed Jewish-Arab neighbourhood in Jerusalem.
S Ashkelon – a team whose players come from the Ethiopian community.
Hapoel Oranit – Third Division football team that have joint training with children from Kafr Qasim and Jaljulia.
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Tayibe Youth – for cooperation between the clubs.
Maccabi Achi Ar’ara – to present lectures and signs against violence and for the acceptance of the other.
Alexander Stream charity – to create a football pitch for a mixed group of children from Ha’sharon and the
The football state – to establish an amateur football project to promote shared society in Lod.
The Megido peace and brotherhood sport club – to have an on-going activity for Arab and Jewish children.
This initiative is expected to continue also in the next year’s football league.