Police investigate anti-Arab riot at Malha Mall

Some 300 Beitar Jerusalem fans storm Malha mall, allegedly attack Arab workers while chanting racist songs.

Soccer fans riot at Malha Mall 370 (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
Soccer fans riot at Malha Mall 370
(photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)
Police opened an investigation on Sunday after Beitar Jerusalem fans stormed Malha Mall following a soccer match at Teddy Stadium last week.
Roughly 300 fans attacked Arab workers while chanting racist fight songs in the food court on the second floor.
According to the mall’s CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts, the fans rioted for approximately 40 minutes chanting “Death to Arabs!” and “Muhammad is dead!” before police and mall security guards stopped them.
The police were criticized for not making any arrests and for allowing the riot to continue for so long.
Six days after the event, on Sunday, police said they opened an investigation. Deputy police spokeswoman Shlomit Bajshi said the Arab workers refused to file a complaint against the rioters.
The attacks happened around 10 on Monday night, after Beitar won 2-1 against Tel Aviv’s Bnei Yehuda.
In the video, fans are seen jumping around the food court chanting “Hapoel are communists and Arabs are sluts!” and “I hate all Arabs!” According to reports, fans spat at female Arab workers and attacked several Arab cleaners.
Beitar Jerusalem spokesman Asaf Shaked said the club “strongly condemned every incident of violence and racism,” and stressed that it has been trying to eliminate racist elements from its fan base.
Because the purported riot occurred outside the confines of Teddy Stadium, Beitar is likely to avoid sanctions from the Israel Football Association.
Beitar Jerusalem has a history of racist incidents stemming from overzealous fans, including fight songs with racist overtones and a “Death to Arabs” chant that appears when there are Arab players on the opposing team. In March 2010, a group of Beitar fans attacked two Arab janitors at Teddy Stadium during halftime.
After a game against Bnei Sakhnin last month, a riot broke out between fans from the two sides, who threw rocks at one another and at the buses carrying the players. Police arrested 11 people.
Ohad Eyal, the project director for the Kick Racism and Violence out of Israeli Soccer of the New Israel Fund, called Monday’s events a “pogrom.”
“There is a shared interest with security forces, the soccer teams and soccer fans across the country to uncover people who are trying to hurt the game,” he said.
Eyal attributed the violence to a larger societal problem, and said that the country needs to tackle racism as a general problem and not just a phenomenon of soccer games. His initiative aims to dampen the racism in sports through educating children and planning friendly matches between groups of youngsters from across the country.
“We are taking something that we love, which is sport, and especially soccer, and using it as something that connects all of us, not something that divides us,” Eyal said.