Family file petition to stop Israel Football Association segregation plans
Adalah, the legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, has filed a petition on behalf of a family demanding the cancellation of a decision by the Israel Football Association (IFA) to segregate national leagues for children into largely separate Jewish and Arab leagues.
The IFA has split the leagues in the Al-Shomoron area into two divisions, Shomoron 1 – which has 12 Jewish teams and 2 Arab teams, and Shomoron 2 – comprised solely of Arab teams. In the petition, Adalah argued that the IFA’s decision runs contrary to previous years when Arab and Jewish teams in the same area were merged into the same leagues.
The petition argued that segregation between children based on their ethnicity delivers a negative message that Arab teams are unwanted and not skilled enough to play with Jewish teams. Additionally, Adalah demanded the enactment of equal and clear standards for the distribution of teams in children leagues in different areas and districts.
Adalah petitioned the court on behalf of Attorney Muhammad Lutfi from Umm al-Fahem, who spoke to the IFA after discovering that the team on which his son plays, Maccabi Umm al-Fahem, was merged with a group consisting of Arab teams only despite in previous years having played with teams from Jewish towns as well.
Adalah Attorneys Sawsan Zaher and Muna Haddad stressed in the petition that the decision of the IFA to segregate the teams, even if only in certain areas, reinforces discrimination and prejudices against Arab citizens of Israel. Furthermore, the IFA’s decision to not distribute teams according to objective general standards, regardless of national belonging, will strengthen and perpetuate the lack of respect and lack of acceptance of others.
Attorneys Zaher and Haddad added that the IFA is subject to the principles of Israeli public law, which clearly prohibits segregation based on national or religious belonging or gender, in any area. In its response, the IFA hinted that the division of the teams was based on requests from Jewish families.
In a statement the IFA said: “We will not contradict the desires of the clubs (regarding the divisions), and we will not force a child to play in a league that is not joyful for him/her and that does not help his/her professional development.”