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Emirati Royal Buys Stake in Controversial Israeli Soccer Team

Abu Dhabi businessman Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, a member of the ruling family in the United Arab Emirates, has purchased a 50% share in Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, the team announced on Monday. The purchase includes a commitment to invest more than $92 million in the club’s infrastructure and the acquisition of potential players over the next decade. Historically, the club was part of the Beitar youth organization associated with the right-wing Revisionist Zionism movement founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky and later headed by Menachem Begin. The same movement established the Irgun armed group in Mandatory Palestine; its Herut political party formed the core of the Likud, now headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Beitar Jerusalem is the only major Israeli team that has never fielded an Arab player and it is notorious for having fanatical supporters, particularly in a group called “La Familia,” who regularly chant anti-Arab slogans during games.