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‘They’re racist as f*ck’: Fans who sang ‘death to Arabs’ protest as Israeli football club part-sold to UAE sheikh pledging $92MN

‘They’re racist as f*ck’: Fans who sang ‘death to Arabs’ protest as Israeli football club part-sold to UAE sheikh pledging $92MN
An Emirati sheikh has risked political uproar by buying half of top Israeli club Beitar Jerusalem, whose owner threatened to sue fans for $1 million if vile racist death threats against Arabs continued to be heard in the stadium.

Beitar have never had an Arab player and are infamous for La Familia, a small but highly vocal group of hardcore fans known for making "Death to Arabs" chants at the Teddy Stadium and warning the club's owners not to sign Arab or Muslim players.

Two members of the group were charged with arson after the club's offices were set on fire two days after it bought two Chechen Muslim footballers in 2013, and their owner - Israeli technology entrepreneur Moshe Hogeg - told fans that he would sue them for a million dollars if he heard "one racist comment" as part of an anti-racism campaign after he bought the club in 2018.

Now Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan has pledged to invest $92 million in the top-flight outfit over the next ten years, posing with Hogeg in Beitar's colors and declaring himself "thrilled" by his involvement in "such a glorious club".

The deal is being seen as an important symbolic moment, arriving three months after the UAE became the first Gulf Arab state to normalise relations with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords in August.

The two countries joined Bahrain in signing an agreement at the White House brokered by the US Trump administration, but the ensuing development at Beitar has clearly left many stunned.

"If you've never heard of Beitar Jerusalem, I'll be happy to tell you these motherf*ckers are racist as f*ck," responded one well-followed observer on social media.

"They went batsh*t crazy once when their club signed two Chechen Muslim players. The irony is hilarious."

Labeling La Familia "one of Israel's most notorious far-right structures", journalist Felix Tamsut said that the group had already daubed graffiti outside the stadium containing messages including "Muhammad is dead", "death to Arabs" and "forever pure [from Arabs]."

He added that La Familia had stormed a club training session in protest, brandishing a banner reading: "You don't buy 84 years of principles with money."

Bin Hamed, who will become vice-chairman and take over the professional side of the club, said it was a "challenge accepted". When asked if the club would sign Emirati internationals, he confidently replied: "Why not?"

The hardcore supporters at Israel's most significant Arab club, Bney Sakhnin, produced an image showing Arabs praying beneath the La Familia logo on Instagram Stories, adding before the rivals meet this weekend: "Prayer before Saturday".

Rabbi Josh Yuter, who is based in Jerusalem, told his Twitter following of almost 55,000: "The little I know about soccer - particularly Israeli soccer - is how terrible Beitar Jerusalem fans can be.

"If this somehow changes people's minds and attitudes, it will be an even bigger deal than the Abraham Accords, in my opinion."

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war and its claim of the entire city as the country's capital has been backed only by the Trump administration, Guatemala and Honduras.

The UAE has said it remains committed to establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Speaking in the same week as the Jewish festival of Hannukah, Hogeg called Beitar's more provocative fans "misled and brainwashed" and said that they would be shown "the right path".

"Together, we all march the club to new days of co-existence, achievements and brotherhood for the sake of our club, community and Israeli sports.

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“It’s a great moment because, in the end in football, we want to win. We want to win titles, we want to score goals, we want to make the fans happy.

"We want to show people, after so many people think that Muslims and Jews cannot do things together and cannot get along — we want to prove them otherwise.

“We have a strategy. This is part of the things we want to change in this club. Jerusalem is a holy place for all religions — Christians, Muslims and Jews — and we want to show that in this city we can have a football club that we can all enjoy together.

“It’s a historic moment for the club, for Beitar Jerusalem. It’s obviously a historic moment for both nations, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

"It’s the first real fruit of the peace agreement between the nations. And to everyone who will step in our way — we will deal with them with no fear."

Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was minded to mention the seismic deal.

“It’s instructive that an Emirati has bought Beitar Jerusalem,” he said, breaking off from a meeting with the Slovenian foreign minister. “It tells you how things are changing so rapidly.”

Columnist Herb Keinon also sounded an optimistic note in the Jerusalem Post. "Hamad's involvement may win over supporters who were turned off by the ugly culture that La Familia brought to the team and to their games," he predicted.

"Beitar Jerusalem, in the blink of an eye, went from an example of ugliness in Israeli society to a symbol of the potentials of peace."

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