Axe Attack Proves Beitar Jerusalem Fan Club Is a Terrorist Group

To uproot a sick phenomenon like La Familia, pinpoint punishments are not enough. There is a need to uproot the racism and violence such groups represent.

Rioters toss smoke bombs onto the field of a soccer game between Beitar Jerusalem and Sporting Charleroi in Belgium, Thursday July 16, 2015.Screengrab: Sport 5

Should we be shocked by the axe attack on a Hapoel Tel Aviv soccer fan on Saturday night? Is the fact that a 32-year-old man is lying in the hospital in serious condition simply because he is a fan of a certain soccer club meant to surprise anyone?

The three suspects arrested in the attack are supporters of Beitar Jerusalem, members of the fan club that calls itself La Familia. This is an extreme, violent right-wing group that publicly declares its racist beliefs, which find expression in the posters its members wave at games, reading “Beitar, Pure Forever,” and “70 Years of Principles.” The principles are simple and are indeed upheld: opposition to the presence of Arab players on the team.

La Familia is protected by the law solely because it is connected to the no man’s land of Israeli soccer. The group has been linked to a long list of incidents: In December 2007, Hapoel Kfar Saba fans were attacked by Beitar Jerusalem fans identified with La Familia. In 2008, fans of Maccabi Netanya complained that a number of fans wearing La Familia shirts had robbed them at knife-point. In March 2011, three members of the group were charged with assaulting cleaning workers at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium the previous year. In March 2012, after a home game, hundreds of Beitar fans rioted at the Malha Mall and attacked Arab employees. In January 2013, after two Muslim players from Chechnya joined the team, the trophy room at the team’s headquarters was torched, and the suspects later arrested were said to be affiliated with La Familia.

As usual in such cases, the ritual denunciations were issued, like a bandage used to treat an incurable disease. Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev even condemned the attack as “horrifying,” and added, “This is an extreme, worrying and unpardonable rise [in violence] that we have to stop immediately. We must uproot the ‘wild weeds’ and punish them severely.”

But to uproot a sick phenomenon like La Familia, pinpoint punishments are not enough. There is a need to uproot the racism and violence such groups represent. And it is Regev, like many of her government colleagues, who fuel the destructive impulses inherent in organizations like La Familia with their incessant, institutionalized racism.

La Familia’s violence — on the field and off — is terrorism in every respect. Whether it’s Arab citizens or merely fans of an opposing team, the moment that causing physical injury becomes a modus operandi, the attorney general must examine the issue in depth and consider making the organization illegal.