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Israeli club ban reporter over racism row

Jerusalem: A top Israeli football team has banned a left-wing newspaper from its press conferences after it wrote about the club's perceived anti-Arab stance. Haaretz daily has been highlighting the lack of diversity at Beitar Jerusalem since last summer, adding a sentence to every match report saying that they have never had an Arab player.

Beitar, who have some notoriously ultra-nationalist fans, are currently third in the Israeli premier league. Haaretz reporter Dor Blech said they were the only professional club never to have had an Arab player, calling it "unacceptable". The club confirmed that Blech was banned from the press box for last Monday's game and would continue to be in the future.

Oshri Dudai, spokesman for Beitar, told AFP the allegation repeated in every article was "out of context and not connected to the main issue".

Blech said Haaretz had appealed to the Israeli football association and to league management over the ban, and was starting a legal challenge. In 2013, the Israeli Attorney General ordered the police to crack down on Beitar fans after they set fire to a club office in protest at the signing of two Muslim players from Chechnya.

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