Kiryat Shmona mayor refuses to rent stadium to team from Arab town as ethnic tensions rise

Beitar and Bnai Sakhnin fans facing off in the city's Doha Stadium, during a November 2014 game. (Flash90)
Beitar and Bnai Sakhnin fans facing off in the city's Doha Stadium, during a November 2014 game. (Flash90)

The mayor of Kiryat Shmona announces that he refused a request from a soccer team from the Arab town of Sakhnin to rent a stadium in his city for a match, as ethnic tensions intensify amid the latest security escalation.

Kiryat Shmona mayor Avichai Stern justifies his decision by pointing to the clashes between Israeli police and a group of Sakhnin residents last night.

“Those who call for bombing Kiryat Shmona are not worthy of being hosted by us,” Stern says in a statement. It was not clear what threat to bomb Kiryat Shmona he was referring to.

Bnei Sakhnin is in need of a stadium for its next match after the team was penalized for its fans lighting fireworks and throwing objects on the field during a match last month against Beitar Jerusalem, a squad with a similarly hardline fan base.

Stern writes that he could not “stand by when there are those who call for harming the residents of Kiryat Shmona or to the citizens of Israel, nor [could he] allow them to enter our house through the main door,” even if it is only some of Sakhnin’s residents causing trouble and not all of them.

“This is racism for its own sake,” Bnei Sakhnin chair Muhammad Abu Younes responds.

He says he and his team weren’t involved in the clashes with cops yesterday and shouldn’t be held responsible.

“How does this have anything to do with a soccer game? This week we played against them and it was held in good spirits.”

Abu Younes calls out the hypocrisy in Stern taking issue with Bnei Sakhnin’s fans while saying nothing about the racist La Familia fans of Beitar Jerusalem.

He also dismisses Stern’s claim that Sakhnin residents or his team called for Kiryat Shmona to be bombed. “Where did that claim come from?” he asks.

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