With relations between Jews and Arabs deteriorating, efforts to promote joint living and shared society are more important than ever. As Israel’s new soccer season kicked off a month late due to the war and amid fears of clashes between Arab and Jewish fans, NIF’s Kick It Out (KIO) held a special pre-match event before the Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Akko game. Sakhnin is an Arab town in the north of Israel; Akko is a mixed Arab-Jewish city on Israel’s coast – both teams have Jewish and Arab players.
Before the event, Zuheir Bahloul, a journalist and sports broadcaster, KIO activist, and member of NIF’s International Council, said: “As a resident of Akko, a mixed city which represents the potential for partnership and co-existence in Israeli society, this event provides a response to the hatred and incitement which has been spreading in recent weeks. The soccer field has always given a platform to all the groups in Israel, and I hope that this year they will also represent sanity and decency, and will respect difference and include the multiculturalism of Israeli society.”
All the players denounced racism as the stadium announcer read remarks in Hebrew and Arabic calling for the elimination of racism and violence from soccer. Sakhnin’s mayor attended the event and 1,000 anti-racism flyers were distributed for fans to wave.
Established 11 years ago by NIF, KIO Israel, in partnership with the Israel Football Association, has had a major impact on racism by Israeli soccer fans and helped introduce new legislation outlawing racist chanting at matches.