Fans of Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem football team have been involved in new racist rampages, this time sparked by the signing of Gibril Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev, two players from Chechenya. Beitar fans object on the grounds that the players are Muslim.
In the video above a mob of Beitar fans rampaged at the Malha shopping mall in Jerusalem after a match against the predominantly Arab team Maccabi Umm al-Fahm on 29 January at Teddy Kollek Stadium.
The mob can clearly be heard shouting “Death to the Arabs” (mavet la’aravim), “Death to Arcadi,” (arcadi met) a reference to club owner Arcadi Gaydamak, and “A Jew has a soul and an Arab is a son of a whore” (yehudi ze neshema, ‘aravi ze ben zona).
Last March Beitar fans were also caught on video as they rampaged through the same mall assaulting Arab workers and shouting “Death to the Arabs.”
Meanwhile, another video (see below) shows players on the mixed, but predominantly Palestinian team Maccabi Umm al-Fahm preparing for the match with Beitar by urging sportsmanship and an end to racist abuse.
Chechen players driven off field by hate
Another video shows Beitar fans mobbing the car of Beitar chairman Yitzhak Kornfein. Shouts of “Itzik Kornfein, son of a whore!” can be heard from the enraged supporters.
Haaretz reported that on Friday morning 150 hate-filled Beitar fans had driven the two Chechen players, Kadiyev and Sadayev, off the practice field with spitting and relentless abuse:
They were met with verbal abuse and were spat on, accompanied by demands to remove the Beitar team shirts. Every time one of them got the ball, the fans responded with derisive whistling. The two were finally forced to leave the area surrounded by police and security guards.
Last week, team coach Eli Cohen had tried to calm the fans’ anger by saying “There’s a difference, and it makes a difference, between a European Muslim and an Arab Muslim.”
The problem of rampant racism in Israeli football has existed for years. Israeli football and government officials have done little to address it, but it threatens to become a major embarrassment amid rising protests of European football body UEFA’s controversial decision to allow Israel to host this year’s Under 21 European championship.
In November ESPN even broadcast a documentary on Beitar fans’ racism.
Israeli Jewish player feels “embraced, loved” by Umm al-Fahm
While FC Maccabi Umm al-Fahm is the home team of the predominantly Arab city it is named after, the team’s current line up includes several Israeli Jewish players – Ron Ben Nahum, Dor Halevi, Golan Hermon, Maor Ohayon – playing alongside Palestinian citizens of Israel.
This Israeli TV report before the 29 January match against Beitar profiled the Umm al-Fahm team and its players amid anticipation of possible tension. Ihab Mahamid, the team’s chairman said, “we, first of all, are going to a game of soccer - we’re not going to war.” This is a sentiment echoed by players and fans.
“It’s time that they [Beitar fans] stop cursing the Arabs, and more important, that they not curse the Prophet Muhammad,” said player Ashraf Suleiman. “Because they’re always cursing Prophet Muhammad. We - for us - the Prophet Muhammad is a red line. They shouldn’t curse him. And then, if they don’t curse him, the game will go through smoothly.”
In the clip, Israeli Jewish player Doron Halevi is asked what it is like to play for an Arab team. He says:
I personally feel really connected to this, because first of all, this is not the first time I play in a team from the [Arab] sector. You know, it’s something else. It’s another nation. You come to a warm mentality, to people who embrace you, people who love you, people who - when you give them [of yourself] they’ll give you their whole soul.
Umm al-Fahm fans arrested, one has his hand broken
Despite the fact that Beitar Jerusalem beat Umm al-Fahm 5-0, a video from the Umm al-Fahm stands shows the fans engaging in spirited cheering.
Although the audio is extremely poor, at 1:58 the Umm al-Fahm fans can be heard chanting what sounds like the common demonstration slogan “bil roh bil dam nafdeek ya….” – which means “with blood, with sacrifice, we will redeem you oh ….” Typically people might say “we will redeem you oh Palestine.” However, while it is not clear what they do say, they very clearly do not say “Palestine” (filastin).
There are numerous videos from the Umm al-Fahm stands (not all of them posted here). In some the fans chant “bil roh bil dam nafdeek ya aqsa” – a reference to the Al-Aqsa mosque in eastern occupied Jerusalem.
At other times, the fans can be heard chanting “allahu akbar,” God is great. Other slogans are difficult to make out due to the poor audio.
Previous it has been suggested that the fans can be heard chanting “bil roh, bil dam, nafdeek ya Issam.”
The Arabic news site Panet reported that three Umm al-Fahm fans were arrested for raising Palestinian flags. The report said that on 30 January two of them were released by police and warmly welcomed home by fellow supporters. It gave their names as Ahmad Rasim Mahamid and Issam Suheil Mahamid.
The New York Times claimed:
The visitors from Umm al-Fahm, an Arab-Israeli town, had their own provocations. “With blood and fire, we will liberate Palestine,” they called in Hebrew.
However such chants could not be heard in either of the two clips above.
With thanks to Dena Shunra for invaluable assistance with translation and analysis.