Most race attack victims `are white': The Jewish Footballer

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The Independent Online
FOOTBALL'S ATTEMPTS to rid itself of racism received a setback last year when West Ham United's Israeli-born midfielder Eyal Berkovic revealed he had been subjected to anti-semitic abuse from other players.

Berkovic claimed to have been barracked during an FA Cup tie against fellow Premiership club Blackburn Rovers. He said: "It's the first time since I came to England that I've had this sort of thing from opposing players and I find it difficult to handle. It upset me badly."

Shortly afterwards, the player was subjected to further anti-semitic comments from opposing supporters at a game at Bolton Wanderers.

Although anti-semitism has been in steady decline in Britain for many years and physical attacks are now rare, there has been a notable rise in incidents of abusive behaviour.

Figures supplied by the Board of Deputies of British Jews show that there were 133 such incidents last year compared to 86 in 1997.

Mike Whine, a spokesman for the Board, said: "It tends to be a drip, drip of constant harassment of people. Although each incident may be fairly small it builds up to something fairly substantial."

Occasionally more serious incidents of anti-semitism occur. Rabbi Menachem Junik of Richmond Synagogue was attacked by a gang of up to 15 youths as he walked home in July 1996.The youths pelted him with beer cans, pulled his hair, swore at him and told him: "Leave this country. We don't need you here." There were 17 recorded anti-semitic assaults last year and 31 incidents of racist damage to Jewish property.