UAE investor said mulling stake in Israeli soccer team known for anti-Arab fans

Headway reportedly made in potential deal between unnamed entrepreneur and Beitar Jerusalem, notorious for some supporters’ anti-Muslim sentiment despite attempts to change image

Fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team hold up a sign reading 'Beitar forever pure,' during a match on January 26, 2013. (Flash90)
Fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team hold up a sign reading 'Beitar forever pure,' during a match on January 26, 2013. (Flash90)

A businessman from the United Arab Emirates is interested in investing in an Israeli soccer team known for its fans’ anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment, several Hebrew media outlets have reported in recent days.

Moshe Hogeg, the owner of the Beitar Jerusalem club, has reportedly received the offer via a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family following the normalization agreement announced between the countries last month that will be signed this week.

The businessman, who isn’t from the royal family and hasn’t been publicly identified, is said to be a personal friend of Hogeg and has told his associates that the deal is realistically on the table and that several Zoom video calls have been held on the matter, the Kan public broadcaster reported Saturday.

The report said accountants and lawyers have been hired to assess the financial and legal feasibility of the move.

Illustrative — National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat elbow bumps with an Emirati official ahead of boarding the plane before leaving Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, September 1, 2020. (Nir Elias/Pool/AFP)

Hogeg has reportedly tried to explain to associates why a UAE businessman could be interested in investing in a traditionally anti-Arab team.

“Fanaticism is ingrained in ignorance and xenophobia,” the Israeli businessman has told his associates, according to Kan. “If there is a spirit of tolerance, we can create an atmosphere of pure friendship between us and others. Sport is a global language characterized with tolerance and peace between countries and nations.

“I like that Beitar’s supporters are devoted and loyal to the team, and they will soon understand that people in the Emirates want peace and coexistence,” he added. “What is required of them is to respect people regardless of their race or religion.”

The Emirati businessman has even called on his colleagues to similarly invest in Israeli sports, the report said.

Moshe Hogeg, Israeli businessman and Beitar Jerusalem owner, seen at the team’s training ground in Jerusalem on June 25, 2019. (Flash90)

Hogeg has taken a positive view of the offer, and will travel to the UAE next week, Channel 12 said in a report that came before the expected ministerial approval of a nationwide lockdown in Israel.

Beitar, one of Israel’s top soccer teams, is known for its long history of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment, and is the only club in the Israeli league that has never had an Arab Muslim player. Officials on the team have indicated in the past that it is unofficial policy.

Hogeg, a high-tech entrepreneur, said after buying the team in 2018 that he hoped to put it on a “new path” and that religion would no longer be a factor in the club’s personnel decisions.

The team has been trying to change its image in recent years and in 2017 it received an award from President Reuven Rivlin for its efforts to tackle racism and for significantly reducing the number of racist chants at its games.

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