More than 150 people braved an unseasonably cold spring night at an anti-racism
rally on Wednesday outside the Malha Mall to express their disgust at a riot
last week when Betar Jerusalem soccer fans attacked Arab cleaners. Last Monday
after a game, more than 300 fans poured into the food court at the mall and
chanted “Death to Arabs!” and “Muhammad is dead!” and attacked a number of
“We won’t allow people who suffered pogroms perpetrate pogroms
on another nation,” Deputy Mayor Pepe Alalu (Meretz) told the crowd. “As
soon as I heard, I was horrified,” city councilor Laura Wharton, also from
Meretz, told The Jerusalem Post.
“It was clear to me there had to be some
response both to the violence itself and the racism, and also to the very
disappointing response of the police, who were slow in coming and also didn’t
detain a single one of the people who went on a rampage,” she said.
protest was organized by the Tag Meir (bright tag) organization, an umbrella
group of activists dedicated to stopping racism and sexism in Israeli society
Wharton called on the police to make an example of the fans they arrest by
giving them strong punishments or even jail time.
Police detained two
Betar fans for questioning after the protest on suspicion of provoking the
On Sunday, six days after the riot and after widespread
public outcry, police announced that they were starting an investigation. An
Arab cleaner at the food court said on Wednesday that it took over an hour for
police to arrive after they were called during the riot. Jerusalem Police
spokeswoman Shlomit Bajshi said no arrests were made because by the time police
arrived, the rioters had dispersed.
“Every game it’s like this,” said A.,
who has worked as a cleaner at Malha for 10 years. “Every time, they chant
‘Death to Arabs,’ but this time was different.”
A. said he expected there
to be similar problems after future games but he refused to be afraid because
this was his job. He warned that the next time it would end in broken bones or
After the protest, demonstrators handed out white lilies
to the Arab cleaners in the food court as a token of their support. A
16-year-old Betar fan wearing the team’s scarf around his neck tried to claim
that the Arab workers attacked him, but he was widely ignored.
“I want to
personally apologize,” Osnat Kollek, daughter of Teddy Kollek, told the crowd
outside the mall. “My father built this land, he was a student of Theodore Herzl
and he wanted Jerusalem to be a light to the nations and a capital of culture.
If he saw what went on last week, he would also personally apologize. This is
not the city he envisioned.”