After Guy Levy, the coach of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, announced that he wouldn’t sign an Arab player regardless of how good he was because it “heightens the tension and would only cause damage,” the backlash was severe. The Sharakah Association – a group of like-minded civic organizations committed to an equal and democratic society – strongly condemned the remarks and demanded action. They sent a letter threatening legal action and NIF turned to the Israel Football Association and to the media to back them up.
The next day, Israel Football Association Chairman Ofer Eini said, “Levy’s words are not appropriate and their racist scent certainly doesn’t contribute to Israeli soccer and Israeli society. As a coach and an educator it would have been better had he avoided comments which can serve those who want to divide Israeli society.”
Kick Racism out of Israeli Soccer – NIF’s initiative to fight racism and violence both on and off the field – called Guy Levy’s words “A hard slap to all soccer fans for whom soccer is a tool to connect people, a sane place that allows for all parts of Israeli society to take part in and enjoy a shared experience.”
Eventually the public pressure from the media and social networks reached the government’s Economy Ministry. Representatives dealing with equal opportunity employment sent the coach a letter demanding an apology, and warning that he would be taken to court if he refused. The team released a statement clarifying that Guy Levy was giving only his personal opinion when he made that comment.
Levy himself has yet to apologize and insists that his comments were not racist and are being blown out of proportion.
Beitar has a long history of racism surrounding their controversial fan club “La Familia.” They have also led the rankings (conducted and disseminated to the media by Kick Racism out of Israeli Soccer) as the most racist Israeli soccer franchise for years. Today, most Israeli soccer teams feature Jews and Arabs playing together and enjoying equal opportunities and rights, but Beitar Jerusalem remains the only professional Israeli soccer team without a single Arab player.