An Emirati businessman is reportedly seeking to invest in Beitar Jerusalem, Israel’s most notoriously racist football club.
“The deal is real and on the horizon,” the Emirati businessman reportedly told his associates, after Israel’s i24 News reported on the matter.
“There have already been some Zoom talks,” he added, saying accountants and lawyers have already been hired to inquire into the investment’s legal and financial feasibility.
The businessman is described as a private investor who is not a member of the UAE’s ruling family. He reportedly refuses to be identified publicly until a deal is done.
The businessman said his interest in the club is rooted in his friendship with its owner, Moshe Hogeg. The pair have reportedly conducted business together in the past.
Hogeg, an Israeli tycoon, bought the club in 2018 on a mission to whitewash its image.
“The reputation was very, very bad and that was one of the reasons I decided to take the challenge,” he told BBC News in 2019.
Changes have only been that – reputational.
The most radical change that Hogeg managed was to recruit Ali Mohamed, a footballer from Niger who notwithstanding his typically Muslim name is a devout Christian.
Upon his signing, Beitar Jerusalem’s notorious fan organization known as La Familia said they had “no problem whatsoever” with Mohamed “since he is a devout Christian,” but that they did have a problem with his name.
“We will make sure that his name is changed so that the name Mohamed is not heard at [Beitar’s] Teddy Stadium.”
In 2013, Beitar fans were involved in racist rampages because the club signed two players from Chechyna who are Muslim.
The Emirati businessman evidently does not see the club’s racism as a hurdle in acquiring shares in it.
“I like that Beitar’s supporters are devoted and loyal to the team, and they will soon understand that people in the Emirates want peace and coexistence,” the businessman reportedly said.
“If there is a spirit of tolerance, we can create an atmosphere of pure friendship.”
“Pure friendship” will be difficult to achieve for a club determined to remain “forever pure,” in the words of its fans, as it remains the only “top flight” Israeli football club never to have hired a single Palestinian citizen of Israel.
Business is blooming
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates will sign the so-called Abraham Accords at the White House on Tuesday, formally establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.
Palestine’s BDS National Committee (BNC) called it “a cynical deal by corrupt, fanatic Israeli, Emirati, Bahraini and US rulers” selling out Palestinians “for their belligerent and capitalist interests.”
The BNC, which leads the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, renewed their call for a military embargo against Israel.
Business cooperation between the UAE and Israel has already begun, however.
An Israeli model flew to Dubai earlier this month for a photoshoot with an Australian model based in the United Arab Emirates.
Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi, named after the country’s crown prince, signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science to cooperate on research initiatives.
The Emirati university is closely affiliated with the government.
The Emirati minister of industry and advanced technology is chair of the university’s board of trustees, and participated in the virtual signing of the deal.
The UAE also welcomed a delegation from Israel’s Bank Hapoalim this month.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence company Group 42 became the first Emirati corporation to open an office in Israel.
The Emirati firm had already been doing business with Israeli companies.
Group 42 partnered in recent weeks with Israeli start-up NanoScent, a company that uses sensory technology to detect COVID-19.
Group 42 is linked to DarkMatter Group, a cybersecurity company with close ties to the Emirati government.
DarkMatter recruits veterans of Unit 8200, a high-tech branch of the Israeli military that spies on Palestinians in order to blackmail them, seen as the Israeli equivalent of the US National Security Agency.
Group 42 signed two agreements earlier this year with state-owned weapons manufacturers Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, supposedly to cooperate on research to counter the coronavirus pandemic.
Both Israeli firms are leading suppliers of weapons used in Israel’s attacks on Palestinians. It is unclear how two weapons manufacturers implicated in war crimes could help fight the pandemic.