Some 100 Israelis took to the streets in Jerusalem on Wednesday in protest of the attack by Israeli soccer fans on Arab cleaning personnel at the capital’s Malha shopping center.
A large police force secured the event, which protested the incident last week in which hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem supporters assaulted Arab workers at a mall, in what was said to be one of Jerusalem’s biggest-ever ethnic clashes.
“We came to say something simple – that the ugly incident from last week – is not our way,” one of the organizers of the protest said. “Jerusalem belongs to all its residents – Jews and Arabs.”
Akram, one of the cleaning personnel that were assaulted last week, said he was glad the incident was published in the media. “It is good that people around the world know what happened here. What isn’t good for the Arabs, isn’t good for the Jews.”
Osnat Kollek, the daughter of former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, spoke during the rally and condemned the attacks.
“I would like to personally apologize,” she said. “My father was the student of Herzl. He saw Jerusalem as a light unto the nations that would deliver the spiritual message of peace and fraternity. He worked on this his whole life and fought these type of incidents. We cannot remain silent about this. This is not Zionism.”
Last week, 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.
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. "They hurled people into shops, and smashed them against shop windows. I don't understand how none shattered into pieces. One cleaner was attacked by some 20 people, poor guy, and then they had a go at his brother who works in a nearby pizza shop and came to his rescue."
The attackers also asked Jewish shop owners for knives and sticks to serve as weapons but none consented, witnesses said. Avi Biton, Malha's security director, sent a force of security guards in an attempt to restore order, but they were outnumbered. He called the police who arrived in large numbers about 40 minutes after the brawl started. At about 10.30 P.M., they evacuated the mall and the management shut its doors.
Initially, no arrests were made in the incident. However following the Haaretz report, the Jerusalem Police announced that it had opened an official investigation over the riots.
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