A controversial soccer game between a Jerusalem team and a team from Um el-Fahm ended Tuesday night without incident, with the Jerusalem team winning 5-0.
The game was played under the watchful eye of some 600 police officers, who were equipped with anti-riot gear on the possibility that tensions could mount between Jewish fans of Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabee Um el-Fahm. In a game last week, Beitar fans protested against the possibility that their team was rumored to be considering signing two Muslim Chechen players, with fans calling out slogans deemed racist against Arabs. Three Beitar fans were arrested.
Beitar initially demanded that the match be played in a stadium with no fans in attendance, but the Israel Football Association decided against this, based on Um el-Fahm's objections. As a precaution, police refused entry to Tuesday's game to anybody with signs supporting Beitar. Initially, police had attempted to ban Israeli flags from the game.
But it appeared that police had prepared for the wrong kind of disturbances. Arab fans of the Um el-Fahm team loudly shouted curses and epithets against the Jews and Israel. Eight Arabs were detained and released for attempting to start a riot, and for unfurling a Palestinian flag. They were ejected from the game, but police did not arrest them.
Earlier, President Shimon Peres sent a letter to the chairman of the Football Association, strongly condemning the organization for not speaking out against the racism and incitement by fans that has been developing within the league. "In light of recent racism and on the evening of the game between Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Umm al - Pahem, I wish to appeal to you to send a call to the football fans in the audience to refrain from any expression and manifestation of racism, both on and off the court," Peres wrote. "I am sure that the people are deeply moved by this phenomenon and would never accept it. The sport today has received a universal declaration against racism. It is inconceivable that the opposite would happen in Israel. I'm sure that your compliance and determination until now will lead the fight against these phenomena.”