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Police probe Israeli soccer mob's anti-Arab racism

March 25, 2012 4:15 P.M. (Updated: March 26, 2012 8:40 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israeli police have opened an investigation into the actions of soccer fans who chanted racist slogans and reportedly spat at Arabs after a match last week, they said on Sunday.

Flush with victory after their team won a match, hundreds of supporters of Israel's Beitar Jerusalem poured into a shopping mall near the club's stadium to sing, dance and chant "Death to Arabs".

News of the incident, which occurred on Monday, began to emerge in the Israeli media only on Friday, along with a YouTube video of the frenzy and reports that some of the fans spat at Palestinian women and children in the food court and attacked Palestinian workers who came to their aid.

No arrests were made at the time, police said, because none of the Palestinians would file a complaint when officers arrived to restore order in the Malha mall.

Faced with mounting public criticism for failing to take anyone into custody, police announced on Sunday they had opened an investigation and would examine closed-circuit TV footage to try to see if anyone was attacked.

On Friday, a YouTube video emerged showing a portion of the incident at Malha Mall.

According to the US-based website Electronic Intifada, the clip shows fans dressed in Beitar colors shouting "death to the Arabs" in Hebrew.

Beitar Jerusalem fans are notorious in Israel for their anti-Arab leanings and racist insults hurled at Palestinian players on opposing teams.

Around twenty percent, or 1.3 million people, of Israel's population are of Palestinian origin.

They are largely the descendants of Palestinians that managed to remain during the 1948 war, when an estimated 700,000 were expelled from or fled their homes during fighting that would see the establishment of the state of Israel.

Rights groups say that Israelis of Palestinian origin face discrimination in employment, education and public funding within Israel.
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