Hard-line supporters of an Israeli right-wing football club have protested against the club's decision to hire two Muslim players.
Beitar Jerusalem's owner, the Russian-Israeli Arkady Gaydamak, announced the signing of two Chechen footballers, Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev, from Russian team Terek Grozny.
But during a Premier League game yesterday - International Holocaust Day - fans branded a banner reading "Beitar will always remain pure". Driven by fan pressure, Beitar is infamous for being the only Israel football team never to have signed an Arab player.
The only Muslim player ever to join the team, Nigerian defender Ibrahim Nadalla, left shortly after signing in 2005.
"Imagine, just imagine what would have happened if (soccer) clubs in England and Germany had announced that a Jew cannot join their teams. We, the Jewish people, who should lead the fight against racism and fascism; we, who will bear the scars of these phenomena on our bodies for generations to come, cannot and must not stay silent in the face of these calls," Israeli Knesset speaker and a senior ruling Likud member, Reuven Rivlin, said yesterday.
Jerusalem police arrested three supporters on charges of incitement at yesterday's match, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
The Israeli Football Association (IFA) said it would take disciplinary action against the club.
Arab citizens make up around 20 percent of Israel's population of 7.8 million.
Last March, fans of Beitar ran wild in a shopping mall in Jerusalem, chanted anti-Arab songs and attacked Arab workers.
CCTV footage shows a large crowd of Beitar fans shouting "Death to the Arabs" and "I hate all Arabs" as they ran riot, although no complaints were filed with police.
To report problems or to leave feedback about this article, e-mail:
To contact the editor, e-mail: