For the first time Bnei Sakhnin
, the soccer team from an Arab town in the Lower Galilee, and Betar
Jerusalem, whose fans are infamous for expressing anti-Arab feelings, agree on something.
It was the police's fault.
The stone throwing, face bashing, and soccer stadium wrecking that occurred following the Premier League match between the two teams at Sakhnin's new Doha Stadium
on Sunday night could have been avoided, they all said.
"Both sides didn't act nicely but the police and the security should have been prepared for this," Betar spokesman Dror Markowitz told The Jerusalem Post
"Who is responsible for all this? The police," Lufa Kadosh, the Jewish coach of Bnei Sakhnin, said.
The police made the tactical mistake of releasing the Bnei Sakhnin fans from the stadium before releasing the Betar fans, said people from both sides.
Kadosh, who described being kicked, beaten, and spit on by Betar fans as he left the stadium with his son, said the police "should have had Betar fans leave first and then the Sakhnin fans. Instead they did the reverse."
On Monday, Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi appointed a senior officer to investigate the police deployment at the match. Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra said the police might need to take disciplinary action against senior officers who commanded the 350 policemen at the stadium.
"I hope that the needed lessons will be learned and if necessary, changes will be made within the [police] command," Ezra said.
A spokesman for the Northern District police echoed the minister and but would not admit any wrongdoing by the officers at the stadium. "I can't decide if there was or was not a failure," said Lt. Col. Eran Feinemesser. "We will implement all the lessons and conclusions that [the investigating officer] arrives at."
In addition to the police investigation, the Israel Football Association announced that both teams will face a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.
Once outside the stadium, some of the 4,000 Bnei Sakhnin fans threw stones into the ground and hit the Betar fans, said witnesses.
The police then moved the 500 Betar fans to the field, after which the Betar fans began vandalizing the stadium. The media filmed them breaking down the gates, tearing down the goal nets and destroying the stadium speakers.
"You can see a lot of the Betar fans attacking," Channel 10 correspondent Emmanuel Rosen said. "We have it on film. They threw stones on the mobile studio. It was a ridiculous failure of the police. This was a first-grade level job for the police and they blew it."
As the stones flew into the stadium and the stadium was vandalized, Rosen interviewed Bnei Sakhnin captain and national team player Abas Suan. Betar fans heckled from behind.
"They called out: 'Abas Suan is sick with cancer' [which rhymes in Hebrew], that he's a terrorist, and the other usual stuff," Rosen said. "Suan didn't react. After he tried to leave the stage, they attacked him. A Betar fan punched him in the face."
Koby David, the spokesman for the Galilee police, said that the five people who were arrested were all Arab. When asked if anyone had been arrested in relation to the attacks on the Bnei Sakhnin captain and coach, David answered that he was unaware that Suan was hit.
"Has Abas Suan been beaten?" asked David? "Who says he was beaten?"
David even suggested that one of Suan's fans might have beaten him. "Looking at the past, it is possible."
Rosen dismissed the comments. "The only ones who could have beaten Suan were either the police, the journalists or the Betar fans. I think it's pretty clear who did it."
David said that the police had cameras on the field and that the footage is being viewed for the investigation.
Betar fans who returned to Jerusalem Sunday night on a bus with a massive hole in one of the windows, said they too blamed the police.
"The police and security did nothing to help us. They should have stopped the Sakhnin fans from throwing stones," one fan said.
As the bus pulled out of the stadium, Sakhnin fans jeered at the Betar supporters, making Nazi salutes and shouting.
"You see," one said, "the Arabs are animals. There will never be peace between Betar and Bnei Sakhnin."
Ali Abu Rabia, a Bnei Sakhnin fan who owns a sporting goods store in the town, noted that the Sakhnin fans may have also been reacting to a film Channel 10 broadcast last Wednesday. In the film, Sakhnin is My Life
, Betar fans make inflammatory remarks, such as they will "pee on the Koran" and that "Mohammed makes coffee for the Jews."
"Would you expect that after seeing [the film] the [Sakhnin] fans would pass out baklawas [to the Betar fans]?," he noted.
But Abu Rabia also blamed the police for not taking action against his fellow fans.
"I'm not saying we were ok," said Abu Rabia. "Yeah some of the fans threw stones. But what is this asking and begging for a fan not to throw stones? They should have done like in England
: They should have beaten the fans.
"Who pays for police at a game? The team who is hosting," continued an incensed Abu Rabia. "NIS 400 for each policeman for one and a half hours. Do you think they deserve one shekel? Bamba they don't deserve."
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report