Israeli Football Association ‘bans’ use of rainbow flag

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The Israeli Football Association has warned teams to stick to regulations – after a pride flag was used to mark a corner during a match.

The warning has been issued in response to a complaint made over a Jerusalem team’s decision to replace a corner flag with a rainbow flag during a recent match.

According to Arutz Sheva, Shlomi Barzel, head of the public relations department of the Israeli football Association, issued a notice on Tuesday to all league teams. The notice warned them that using outside flags of any type is strictly forbidden, such as the ‘gay pride’ rainbow flag.

The decision was made after lawyer AItamar Ben-Gvir wrote a letter to the Israeli football association over the weekend, requesting that Jerusalem football team Hapoel Katamon be punished – after the team replaced the traditional corner flags with rainbow ones.

“It was brought to my attention that in the last soccer match of the Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem team, the team’s management exchanged the corner flag with the ‘pride march’ flag, and even published a picture of it to the media,” he wrote.

“A soccer game is an enjoyment and pastime, and there is no place to bring in a political agenda from the management of any soccer club.

“Therefore… I ask to take steps against the Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem club.”

Although Israel is one of the only countries in the Middle East to embrace LGBT people, the issue has raised controversy in the largely religious city of Jerusalem where the team is based, due to remaining taboos within Orthodox Judaism.

In response to the ruling, Ben-Gvir said: “I’m satisfied with the decision and hope that the Hapoel Katamon club will internalize that the corner flag can’t be replaced with the flags of the ‘Open House people,’ referring to LGBT rights centre situated in Jerusalem.

He added: “… the law is the law, rules are rules, and we all have to observe the rules so that we will have sports clean of politics and agendas.”

In response to Ben-Gvir’s claims, the team said in a statement: “We at Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem oppose racism and violence since we were established, we are happy to show that in soccer too there is room for everyone, regardless of their background and without irrelevant questions. All are welcome to celebrate our ascent to the national league this Friday at Teddy (Stadium).”

In January, Israel re-drafted its recognition laws, meaning trans people would no longer be forced to undergo surgery to legally change their gender.