The Jerusalem District Attorney on Thursday charged four Beitar Jerusalem fans with racial incitement for their reaction to the January signing of two Muslim Chechen players by the Israeli soccer club.
The news came as police said they would work to crack down on racism in the club’s fanbase, which has become notorious for displays of hostility against opposing teams players during games.
Three supporters, aged 22 to 24, were accused of shouting chants including “Death to Arabs” and “May your village burn” during a recent Beitar match against Bnei Yehuda in the capital.
Another indictment was filed against a 23-year-old Jerusalem resident who is accused of trying to break into the team’s training ground with the intent of sabotaging the introduction of Zaur Sadayev and Gabriel Kadiev, who recently became the team’s first Muslim players.
The Jerusalem district police said Thursday it was planning a large scale operation to penetrate and crack down on a tightly-knit group of 30 to 50 extremist supporters within the Beitar fan base known as La Familia. Police said they intend to use to surveillance and phone tapping in order to gain intelligence on the cell and and curb its activities.
Also Thursday, the Sports Betting Council said it would transfer NIS 200,000 to Beitar to help it in its efforts to root racism out from its games.
The signing of Sadayev and Kadiev came under fierce criticism by some of the team’s fan base, who oppose having Muslims or Arabs play for the club. In the Bnei Yehuda match, some of the fans held up a banner reading “Beitar forever pure,” and shouted racist chants — which included repeated calls of “No entry to Arabs.”
Statements issued over the years by the team have condemned racism and violence, while acknowledging the “small cluster” of dedicated fans who loudly express their hatred of Arabs.
Much of the extremist fans’ anger was directed at the team’s co-owner Arkady Gaydamak, a Russian-Jewish millionaire who initiated the transfer. A very small group of “so-called supporters” — no more than a few hundred — were not representative of the greater Israeli public, Gaydamak said in January, and would not be allowed to influence what happens at the club.