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Protests in Israel: football fans get involved

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Protests in Israel: football fans get involved

Status: 08/02/2023 08:26 a.m

Demonstrations against the right-wing religious government have been taking place on the streets of the Jewish state of Israel for more than six months. Football fan groups from different political sides are also getting involved.

Israel is divided as never before. On the one hand there is the right-wing religious government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which is carrying out far-reaching judicial reforms. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets for months to show their opposition to government plans, which they describe as undemocratic.

Among the organizations that can be seen on the streets of Israel are football fan groups who take part in the protests to show their political position. Both for the government and against it.

Hapoel fans demonstrate against the reforms

Fans of Hapoel Tel Aviv, who belong to the left-liberal protest movement, have also been seen among the demonstrators in recent days. The club has its origins in the labor movement. Dressed in fan scarves and shirts in red and white – Hapoel’s colors – they sing anti-fascist songs against the government. In recent months, Hapoel supporters have repeatedly chanted at demonstrations: “If you don’t jump, you’re a fascist”.

Division of the fan groups?

It is striking that Hapoel’s leading ultra group, Ultras Hapoel 99, is reticent about the protest movement. Although some group members were present, Ultras Hapoel 99 did not support the fan marches after Hapoel’s home games. This could indicate a rift within the club’s fan base in terms of the protest movement.

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Comments on social media, for example, provide indications of this. After a video of demonstrating Hapoel fans went viral in July, some fans expressed their displeasure with the protesters. “They don’t represent Hapoel, they only represent themselves,” were typical comments under the video.

Support from FC St. Pauli fans

At the end of July, Hapoel Tel Aviv was a guest at FC St. Pauli. The two clubs played a pre-season game in Hamburg, for which hundreds of fans from Tel Aviv traveled to northern Germany. The anti-fascist calls they made in Tel Aviv could also be heard in Hamburg.

An action that was very well received by the fans in Israel. After the game, fans of both clubs organized a party in Hamburg where anti-fascist songs were sung.

Right-wing groups are also active

At the same time, several fan groups that can be assigned to the right-wing and right-wing extremist spectrum can be seen at the demonstrations in Israel. At the end of March they publicly announced that they wanted to join the demonstrations in support of the government.

“We see what’s happening in this country, how the media wants to bring about an upheaval, and we can’t keep quiet,” members of the “Lions Army,” an ultra group of Bnei Yehuda, Tel Aviv’s third-largest club, wrote on their Facebook page written: “We will be present at the demos for the government.”

Far-right slogans on Tel Aviv’s streets

Young people dressed entirely in black could be seen walking the streets of Tel Aviv. Some have flown orange flags, the color of the Bnei Yehuda club. Signs with far-right slogans were held up to commemorate the late far-right Rabbi Meir Kahane. His party and organization Kahane Chai (Hebrew for “Kahane is alive”) is banned in Israel, among other places, and classified as a terrorist group.

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Another fan group actively supporting the right-wing religious government is “La Familia”, Israel’s best-known far-right fan group. It unites supporters of the six-time champion Beitar Jerusalem.

Attacks by the far-right fan group “La Familia”

On the streets of Jerusalem, youth and young adults wearing “La Familia” shirts were seen attacking protesters, grabbing a rainbow flag and kicking them. A man also used a “La Familia” flag to disrupt an Arabic-speaking reporter at work. According to media reports, members of “La Familia” also attacked an Arab taxi driver.

The group “La Familia” also has ties to a well-known face in the current government: Itamar Ben Gvir of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party. A former far-right activist and current Minister of National Security of Israel. Ben Gvir has represented La Familia members as a lawyer in the past.

The protests against the controversial judicial reform in Israel result in conflicts in all areas of Israeli society. Also in the curves of the football supporters.

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