The Jerusalem Police recently announced that it would crack down harshly on racism in sports. Such a statement is akin to treating a terminal illness with Tylenol.
Racism in the sports stadium is a societal ill that has been around for years. Every Saturday, soccer fans hear the booing of dark-skinned players, racist epithets shouted against Arabs and the Prophet Muhammad, as well as taunts against the chairman of the Israeli Football Association and other officials tantamount to incitement of the kind that preceded former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's murder. And nary a word is spoken against these phenomena.
Even after events of the last week, authorities chose to avert their eyes and not properly deal with the phenomenon. But the general manager of Beitar Jerusalem, Itzik Kornfein, decided to unmask the police brass and demanded that the attorney-general and state attorney hold an emergency meeting. On Thursday evening, police released a statement saying they would do everything in their power to bring down the Beitar fan extremist group that calls itself "La Familia," using terminology from the battle against organized crime.
Let's assume that the police kick out 30 to 40 cowards and hooligans and prohibit them from attending Beitar Jerusalem soccer games. How will that uproot racism? How exactly will we remove the murky cloud hovering over sports stadiums? Is it really just a handful of people involved?
Every spectator and soccer fan knows that is not the case. This is a long-term process. Racism must be eradicated from sports stadiums and other public arenas. Enforcement must take place on a massive scale, removing hundreds of bad seeds from public places over long periods of time and rehabilitating them in the same way that violent husbands or other social menaces are rehabilitated.
How did we arrive at this point? Why has law enforcement kept silent until now? The problem is both substantive and procedural. The regulations currently in place were established many years ago. The state attorney has exclusive authority over what constitutes incitement, what constitutes racism and how to deal with the issue. Section 3 of the police code grants the police responsibility over public safety and property, but when it comes to racism and incitement, action is subject to the specific guidelines of the state attorney.
As a result, soccer racism is treated on a case-by-case basis by the Football Association, as if the problem ends at the stadium doors. The truth is, law enforcement has lost little sleep over what has been happening in soccer stadiums. Yet now, everyone is clamoring to kill the mosquito, but no one is even talking about drying the swamp.
So what can be done? The police must take the lead. Whether or not sports associations document and record incidents of incitement should be of no importance. The racism manifested by Beitar Jerusalem is just the edge of the volcano. Underneath lies a huge cauldron of boiling lava. If we treat racism on a case-by-case basis and fail to address it systematically, the lava may bubble up and explode.