May 12th was a terrible day and night for Jewish-Arab relations in Israel. Almost 400 people were arrested by police after intense Jewish-Arab violence and unrest across the country. Jews and Arabs were attacked by extremists from both parties.

Israeli football, including the Israeli national team, reflects Israeli society, particularly relations between Jews and Arabs. In recent years, the treatment of racism and hatred by official institutions towards black gamblers as well as between Jews and Arabs has changed radically.

A recent case involving the Maccabi Tel Aviv team confirms this change. Last week, a team supporter was banned from games for the rest of his life after being taped on a TV show calling out racial slurs against Maccabi Haifa player Mohammad Awad.

This is an unprecedented punishment for Israeli football. In the letter to this fan, the Tel Aviv team’s legal advisor, Yael Margalit, wrote that the club takes their behavior seriously, that it is offensive, inappropriate, illegal, and has no place at football matches or anywhere else. “The club’s goal is to combat all signs of violence and racism in the stadiums. Your actions have caused great damage to the team and continue to cause and tarnish it and its loyal fans,” he wrote. In the letter it is pointed out that the supporter is forever excluded from any activities in the club and cannot buy season tickets or regular tickets for team games or exercises. In addition, Maccabi Tel Aviv plans to take legal action against him for the harm caused by his words.

Maccabi Haifa praised the decision, saying, “This is a good and necessary decision. The fight against violence and racism is shared by all of us. ”

Israel Professional Football League Chairman Erez Kalfon said: “I commend Maccabi Tel Aviv’s decision. The administration will stand by the side of all associations in all measures against racist or violent supporters. The fight against violence is shared by the administration and all teams. Together we will eradicate the violence in the football stadiums. “

Beitar Jerusalem, a Premier League team that fought against the racist support group La Familia, said: “We commend Maccabi Tel Aviv for its uncompromising fight against racism. Many thanks to the judge for today’s decision, which gives all clubs the support to take action against rioters and racists. “

In the past, La Familia members have tried and failed to prevent team owner Moshe Hogeg from signing a Muslim player. Nigerian-born player Ali Muhammad al-Faz has become one of the team’s stars and has scored several of his goals. That fight between the team owners and their racist fans didn’t end there. La Familia tried to prevent a deal from selling half of the team’s property to an Emirates businessman, but the deal ended up being canceled for other reasons.

The tensions of the past few days in East Jerusalem and the clashes on the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and in the Sheikh Jarakh district have shown another side to the involvement of football players in political events. An Israeli international – Moanes Dabbur – an Israeli Muslim who plays for the Hoffenheim team in Germany, wrote a post about the events on his Instagram page. Against the background of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, he quoted a verse from the Koran: “Do not believe that God will ignore the deeds of evil men. He will only postpone her judgment until the day the gaze is frozen. “

The post was taken as an attack on Israel and in support of Palestinians who rioted in mosques and clashed with police. Dabbur was criticized from all sides, many fans and league players protested against the post and Dabbur himself, and members of the Knesset called on the chairman of the football association to oust him from the national team. Shortly thereafter, another Muslim international, Biram Kiyal, published a photo of the mosque and quoted Mahmoud Darwish’s “On this earth, what makes life worth living”.

The association did not oust either Dabbur or Kiyal, but condemned their posts with the words: “The football association expects all athletes, especially national team players, to express themselves in a way that contributes to unity, reconciliation and calm. Players are leading figures and role models. They need to recognize their influence on the discourse and be aware of the results of the bodies they have initiated, which can deepen rifts and polarization. ”

This is not the first time that football players from the Arab community have encountered this duality. In their public statements, they are stuck between the two sides: the Jewish public supports them and hugs them, and given their talent and performance as stars of the national team, they have become national symbols – a status that has great professional and financial significance for them and contact with international teams. On the other hand, they are even more important and influential symbols for the Arab public. Their reputation and notoriety are critical, and both sides expect them to behave in a certain way.

Among the Jewish public, some think that an Arab player cannot be the captain of the national team because he refuses to sing the national anthem. Former player Eyal Berkowitz demanded that Circassian Bibras Natkho be released from this role for not singing the anthem.

The Jewish public expects from the Federation’s response that Arab actors in Israel will be neutral and unresponsive to sensitive issues and political events – and if they act differently they can expect an attack that threatens their careers. It is exactly the opposite in the Arab public. Someone who has such significant status in the Jewish public is expected to speak up and draw attention to such topics. Arab citizens cast their eyes on their opinion leaders and expect Arab gamblers to serve their people.

Arab football players in Israel are seen as a symbol of coexistence, and whole campaigns of hope for the unity of Israel and against racism are being laid on their shoulders. Maybe that’s too hard to weigh on them.