Hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem [football] supporters assaulted Arab cleaning personnel at the capital’s Malha shopping center on Monday, in what was said to be one of Jerusalem’s biggest-ever ethnic clashes. “It was a mass lynching attempt,” said Mohammed Yusuf, a team leader for Or-Orly cleaning services.
Despite CCTV footage of the events, no one was arrested. Jerusalem police said that is because no complaint was filed. Witnesses said that after a soccer game in the nearby Teddy Stadium, hundreds of mostly teenage supporters flooded into the shopping center, hurling racial abuse at Arab workers and customers and chanting anti-Arab slogans, and filled the food hall on the second floor.
“I’ve never seen so many people,” said A, a shopkeeper. “They stood on chairs and tables and what have you. They made a terrible noise, screamed ‘death to the Arabs,’ waved their scarves and sang songs at the top of their voices.”
Shortly afterward, several supporters started harassing three Arab women, who sat in the food hall with their children. They verbally abused and spat on them.
Some Arab men, who work as cleaners at the shopping center and observed the brawl, came to their rescue. “How can you stand aside and do nothing?” said Akram, a resident of the Old City’s Muslim Quarter who was one of the cleaners who got involved. CCTV footage shows that they started chasing the rioting youths, wielding broomsticks.
It seemed the workers managed to chase the abusers away, but a few minutes later supporters returned and assaulted them. “They caught some of them and beat the hell out of them,” said Yair, owner of a bakery located in the food hall. “They hurled people into shops, and smashed them against shop windows. I don’t understand how none shattered into pieces. One cleaner was attacked by some 20 people, poor guy, and then they had a go at his brother who works in a nearby pizza shop and came to his rescue.”
“I’ve been here for many years and I’ve never seen such a thing,” said Gideon Avrahami, Malha’s executive director. “It was a disgraceful, shocking, racist incident; simply terrible.”
Beitar fans are known for their staunchly anti-Arab positions and have been previously involved in attacks on Arabs.
Beitar Jerusalem’s management said in a statement that the club “firmly condemns violence and leaves it to the treatment of the authorities.”
Sorry, but that’s not enough. Beitar’s management has done virtually nothing to challenge the violent and racist behavior of many of the club’s fans. And Beitar remains the only professional team in Israel which deliberately excludes Arab players.
When Beitar captain Aviram Baruchyan announced in 2009 that he would like to see Arabs on the team, fans bombarded him with criticism, prompting him to recant. “The most painful thing is that I unfortunately hurt Beitar’s fans, and I understood that I hurt them very much,” he said after a reconciliation meeting with members of La Familia, a Beitar fan club. “I don’t care what other people think or write.”
And I don’t want to hear excuses about “root causes” of anger, any more than I want to hear them when Arabs attack Jews. (Would nobody have been arrested if hundreds of Israeli Arabs assaulted Jews?)
Cosnider, by contrast, HaPoel Tel Aviv, which has an Arab team captain and promotes mixed children’s teams of “Jewish-Israelis, Arab-Israelis, Palestinians, Bedouins, Druze, Christians, Refugees, Ethiopian Immigrants, and Kibbutz children” through its Miflaot project.