Netanyahu Takes 5 Days to Delete Fake News Facebook Post Attacking Arab-Israeli Soccer Club

The prime minister claimed the team’s fans booed during a moment of silence for teens killed in a flash flood last week. Although the story was quickly disproved, he didn’t remove his post for days

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Hapoel Be'er Sheva training facility in Budapest, Hungary, October 9, 2018.
Haim Zach/GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took down a Facebook post erroneously accusing fans of the Arab-Israeli soccer club Bnei Sakhnin of whistling and booing during a minute of silence in memory of the 10 teenagers who drowned in southern Israel last week. The prime minister deleted the post on Thursday, five days after posting it.

Netanyahu based his post on a story on the Arutz Sheva news website, but an inquiry found that the accusation was baseless and that the team’s fans had neither whistled nor booed during the moment of silence.

On Sunday, the day after a match between Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Ra’anana, Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page, “It’s a disgrace and a shame. I expect of all leaders, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, to strongly condemn this shameful behavior.”

Even though it quickly turned out that the Arutz Sheva report had been wrong, he left the post up for five days, making 18 other posts in the interim.

A screenshot of the accusatory post by Netanyahu, since removed.
Screenshot/Facebook

Haaretz sports writer Irad Tsafrir watched the game on television and reported that he heard nothing unusual, no whistling and no noise during the moment of silence. Tsafrir also asked Ran Malovani, a commentator on the Sports Channel, which broadcast the game, and he said he hadn’t heard anything either. Malovani added that Bnei Sakhnin commemorated the deceased teens respectfully.

Asher Alon, the owner of Hapoel Ra’anana, was present at the game, which took place at Sakhin’s Doha Stadium. He said that Bnei Sakhnin fans had not whistled or booed. “There was utter silence. No whistling, no noise,” he told Haaretz. “I don’t know what they want from Sakhnin. Their behavior was exemplary. [Netanyahu] should apologize to Sakhnin.”

On Wednesday the Bnei Sakhnin club wrote a letter to Netanyahu, demanding he remove the post. “It has been clarified and proven categorically and beyond all doubt that the audience at Doha conducted itself irreproachably at the time of and during the minute of silence for the dead in the floods in the south,” wrote team chairman Mohammed Abu Yunes. “Therefore and for the sake of fairness to the broad community of Bnei Sakhnin, and for the sake of respecting the feelings of the families of the dead, we write to Your Honor and ask that you remove the erroneous, misleading post from your Facebook page. We believe Your Honor will formulate another post correcting the mistake and demonstrating respect to all concerned.”

On Saturday night after the game Arutz Sheva published an article saying that “loud boos heard during the minute of silence disrupted the proper conduct of the ceremony.” The website also wrote that “fans at the stadium told Arutz Sheva that the boos had been loud and clear and they felt they were deep in the Palestinian Authority, not in Israel.”