Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also chimed in, stating: “It’s instructive that an Emirati has bought Beitar Jerusalem. It tells you how things are changing rapidly”.
UAE Royal Buys 50% of Israeli Football Club Beitar Jerusalem
An Emirati royal from Abu Dhabi has reportedly bought out 50% of the Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem for $92 million. Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, closed the deal for a 300m shekel ($92m) investment over a 10-year period. The deal was brokered by Naum Koen, a Ukrainian-Israeli businessman based in the UAE. Beitar’s owner Moshe Hogeg and the club’s CEO Moni Brosh and chairman Eli Ohana also traveled to Dubai in early December as part of the deal being sealed.
The Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem is known for its racist anti-Arab and anti-Muslim chants during games, with its hardcore fan base known as La Familia routinely chanting “Here we are, the most racist team in the country” during intense matches. Beitar Jerusalem is also the only club in the Israeli Premier League to not have any Palestinian players, despite facing several penalties for its racist chants and opposition in allowing Palestinian citizens of Israel onto the team.
Despite the club’s apparent enthusiasm over the deal, many of Beitar’s fans remain upset at this shocking buyout. Fans have reportedly spraypainted offensive and racist graffiti on the walls of the stadium as a sign of their disappointment and anger:
Beitar Jerusalem's fans sprayed racist graffiti on the outer wall of their stadium saying: "Mohammed is Dead", "Death to Arabs", "Fuck Dubai", and "You can't buy us!!! $ Don't fuck with us!"
In response to Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan taking a stake of 49% in their club pic.twitter.com/6UN5kiYXgc
— Amr Fekry (@AmrFekry26) December 8, 2020
Despite the complaints and racist attacks by many of Beitar’s fans, those at the top of the decision-making have highly praised this new collaboration. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also chimed in, stating: “It’s instructive that an Emirati has bought Beitar Jerusalem. It tells you how things are changing rapidly”. Beitar is closely linked to Netanyahu’s Likud party and counts numerous Israeli presidents and prime ministers among its fan base.
On Beitar Jerusalem’s official website, there have been numerous articles highlighting this “historic” deal. Most notably, the UAE royal also shockingly referred to the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and expressed his excitement at the prospect of working closely with the “glorious club”:
I am excited to be a partner in such a glorious club and in such a city, the capital of Israel and one of the holiest cities in the world. I have heard a lot about the change taking place in the club and the way things are going, and I am happy to take part in that. We will put together a team that will strive for the highest and farthest possible out of a desire to see Beitar Jerusalem reach the highest stages in football. Go Beitar!”
While little is known about the Abu Dhabi royal, his personal website states that he has an MBA from the University of California Irvine, and currently serves as the chairman and CEO of “several commercial, industrial, and financial enterprises”. When interviewed by The Times of Israel about his specific connection to the UAE royal family, he reportedly stated: “If you need more information about myself you can have it on the web, there is a Wikipedia that explains everything about myself”. The Wikipedia page in question, however, is only a few days old and says little about his credentials.
In addition to the royal’s buyout, his son, Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nayhan, will represent his father on a newly formed board of directors. While this is not the first time Emirati royals have invested in sports clubs (most famously when Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan invested billions of pounds into Manchester City), this is the first time Emirati royals have invested so heavily with an Israeli football club.
As just one more step in the path of the UAE and Israel normalizing ties, it remains to be seen just how much further the UAE will continue to chase after Isreal – and amidst the ongoing Israeli occupation and slaughter of innocent Palestinians, the future seems bleak at best.