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UAE Royal buys half of Israeli football club known for fans who insult Prophet ﷺ

Twitter: @fcbeitar

A member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family has purchased a 50 percent stake in Israeli Premier League football team Beitar Jerusalem, whose fans are notorious for their anti-Arab, anti-Muslim stance and for instances where they insulted Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

Announced on Monday, the purchase comes amid a flurry of business deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates following their move to establish formal diplomatic relations in September.

 

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan has bought 50 percent of the shares and will invest NIS 300 million ($92 million) in the Beitar Jerusalem team over the next decade, according to the soccer club.

Beitar Jerusalem hailed the deal as “historic and exciting.” The partnership comes three months after Israel and the United Arab Emirates established diplomatic ties.

A statement on the soccer club’s official website quoted the UAE sheikh as referring to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a position not shared by the Gulf country’s leaders.

“I am moved to be a partner in such an esteemed club… and in such a city, the capital of Israel and one of the holiest cities in the world,” said bin Khalifa. “I heard a lot about the changes the club is undergoing and how it’s being managed, and I am happy to take part in that.”

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.

Bin Khalifa said his investment represented “the fruits of peace and brotherhood between the nations” and said the move would further “bring people together through sport.”

Racist and anti-Muslim fans

Many of Beitar Jerusalem’s most extreme fans are part of the far-right La Familia fan group.

In 2016, 19 members of the group were charged with attempted murder, including of rival supporters.

In October, leading Arab-Israeli politician Ayman Odeh demanded a “racist” song by La Familia members insulting the Prophet Muhammed (ﷺ) posted on YouTube be removed. The social media giant later took down the clip from its platform. Sung by La Familia fans, the Hebrew-language song insults the Prophet (ﷺ)