Video has emerged from a shocking mob attack by hundreds of Israeli football fans on Arab workers and shoppers at the Malha Mall in western Jerusalem.
The video shows a large crowd, some wearing the colors of the Jerusalem Beitar football team, whose fans are notorious for their ultra-nationalism and racism shouting “mavet la ‘aravim” – death to the Arabs – in Hebrew. The chant can be heard at 2:30 and 5:21 in the video.
Haaretz reported on the mob attack earlier today – four days after the incident – in a story headlined “Hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem fans beat up Arab workers in mall; no arrests”:
Hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem supporters assaulted Arab cleaning personnel at the capital’s Malha shopping center on Monday, in what was said to be one of Jerusalem’s biggest-ever ethnic clashes. “It was a mass lynching attempt,” said Mohammed Yusuf, a team leader for Or-Orly cleaning services.
Despite CCTV footage of the events, no one was arrested. Jerusalem police said that is because no complaint was filed. Witnesses said that after a soccer game in the nearby Teddy Stadium, hundreds of mostly teenage supporters flooded into the shopping center, hurling racial abuse at Arab workers and customers and chanting anti-Arab slogans, and filled the food hall on the second floor.
“I’ve never seen so many people,” said A, a shopkeeper. “They stood on chairs and tables and what have you. They made a terrible noise, screamed ‘death to the Arabs,’ waved their scarves and sang songs at the top of their voices.”
Shortly afterward, several supporters started harassing three Arab women, who sat in the food hall with their children. They verbally abused and spat on them.
Some Arab men, who work as cleaners at the shopping center and observed the brawl, came to their rescue. “How can you stand aside and do nothing?” said Akram, a resident of the Old City’s Muslim Quarter who was one of the cleaners who got involved. CCTV footage shows that they started chasing the rioting youths, wielding broomsticks.
It seemed the workers managed to chase the abusers away, but a few minutes later supporters returned and assaulted them. “They caught some of them and beat the hell out of them,” said Yair, owner of a bakery located in the food hall.
“Death to the Arabs” chant common
Unchecked racism against Arabs is endemic in Israeli soccer. “In the late 1990s and onwards, ‘Death to the Arabs’ became a common chant in almost every football [soccer] stadium in Israel” wrote Amir Ben-Porat, a professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Ben Gurion University in an academic article I quoted in a piece I wrote in 2008. Ben-Porat, who authored a study on the use of the chant, says that because of the importance of soccer in Israeli society and its high profile in the media, “This chant is heard far beyond the stadium” (Amir Ben-Porat, “Death to the Arabs: the right-wing fan’s fear,” Soccer & Society, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2008, pp. 1-13).
On last year’s “Jerusalem Day,” an Israeli government sponsored ultra-nationalist festival, hordes of Israeli youths were also caught on video marching through eastern occupied Jerusalem chanting “Death to the Arabs” and “Muhammad is dead.”
The shocking incident at Malha Mall is an indicator of how far it has spread. Malha Mall is built near the ruins of the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village of al-Maliha.