Israeli football fans in racist attack against shoppers in Jerusalem
The failure of Jerusalem police to arrest any one of several hundred football fans who reportedly launched racially motivated attacks in the city’s Malcha shopping mall on Monday has prompted outrage in Israel.
Some Beitar Jerusalem fans, the country’s notoriously violent supporters stand accused of stabbing one man and assaulting several others in a mass attack on the shopping centre’s Palestinian staff and customers.
The police have not yet launched an investigation into the incident because an official complaint has not been lodged. Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper described the incident as “Jerusalem’s biggest ever ethnic clashes”.
“How can we arrest someone when there have been no complaints made? There have been no reports of injuries or that anyone was spoken to in [a racist] way,” said Micky Rosenfeld, an Israel police spokesman. Even so, Rosenfeld added, police will begin examining CCTV footage next week.
“Normally, members of the public would have come forward within hours to make an official complaint. Until now, none has been made.”
Shortly before 10pm on Monday, after a match at Teddy Stadium between Beitar football club and Maccabi Tel Aviv, supporters of the Jerusalem club flooded into the food hall at the neighbouring mall.
Witnesses quoted in Haaretz say that hundreds of teenage supporters surged into the second floor food hall, hurling abuse at Palestinian cleaners and chanting anti-Arab slogans. Several Palestinian women eating there with their children were harassed by youths who spat in their food, it is claimed. Arab staff managed to chase the assailants away but were then beaten back as the mob returned. One man was surrounded and attacked by around 20 youths.
A senior Malcha mall employee who witnessed the event confirmed the shopping centre’s considerable private security force was overwhelmed by more than 300 troublemakers who were “verbally and physically attacking Arabs”. Within 40 minutes, police had arrived in large numbers, the mall was evacuated and the situation brought under control.
A waitress at Malcha’s Apropos restaurant told the Guardian: “Everyone was shouting, screaming and running about the place. It was crazy. After around half an hour the security evacuated us. I heard that someone was stabbed.”
She said she had never seen such violent scenes at the shopping centre before, despite its proximity to the football stadium.
“It was scary at first but we have not got excited about this because we know these fans; they are known to be very aggressive”.
An employee at Steimatzky bookstore on the first floor was equally unsurprised by reports of thuggish violence. “Beitar is considered to be the most violent fan group of all the football teams. They openly don’t approve of Arabs playing for their team. The core group of fans don’t deny they are racist,” he said.
Beitar Jerusalem issued a statement condemning the attack but saying the club “leaves it to the treatment of the authorities”.