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May 10, 2022 12:03 pm

Spanish Advocacy Group Weighs Legal Steps After Violent Attack on Visiting Israeli Basketball Fans

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avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Basketball Champions League Final 4, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg vs. Hapoel Holon. Photo: IMAGO/Pressefoto Baumann via Reuters Connect

A pro-Israel advocacy group in Spain has strongly criticized local authorities’ inaction over the violence faced by a group of Israeli basketball fans on the streets of the northern city of Bilbao over the weekend, saying it is considering taking legal action.

“We condemn the atmosphere of violence unleashed with impunity for days in Bilbao against the supporters of the Israeli basketball team Hapoel Holon,” ACOM, a group fighting delegitimization and antisemitism in Spain, said in a statement Monday. “The threats have passed from words and intimidation to aggression and physical persecution.”

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators on Sunday attacked a group of Israeli basketball fans in Bilbao on their way to the stadium to support their team Hapoel Holon, which played Germany’s MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in the Final Four of the Basketball Champions League. The Israel fans walked into a demonstration of protestors waving Palestinian flags and chanting anti-Israel slogans. In response, the Israeli fans sang the country’s national anthem, according to a report from Israel’s Ynet news.

The situation soon escalated, with footage posted on social media showing people throwing chairs, glasses, bottles and fire torches at the Israeli fans.

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“We were literally ambushed. A group of pro-Palestinians started throwing objects at us from a bar decorated with a Palestinian flag,” Boaz Yitzhaki, a Hapoel Holon supporter, recounted. “We had families and children with us. Children started crying. It was a very, very scary incident.”

ACOM noted that “this type of violent and discriminatory manifestations are not especially new in the Basque region, where for many years the environment of the terrorist group ETA and the most violent antisemitism have converged without problems in the implementation of antisemitic boycotts and pressure.”

Yitzhaki added that although police officers were standing nearby the scene of the clashes, they were slow to react.

Given the extreme seriousness of the events that took place these past few days against the supporters of the Israeli team Hapoel Holon, and faced with the exasperating inaction of the competent authorities regarding these acts that should have consequences, we are studying taking legal action to this respect,” ACOM announced.

In a plea on Twitter, Hapoel Holon Chairman Eitan Lanciano called on Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to intervene.

“For several days now, Israeli fans who have come to a sporting event are suffering from antisemitism in Bilbao from pro-Palestinians, who are preparing for demonstrations and are disseminating it on social media channels, and every encounter with Israelis turns into derogatory chants and throwing objects,” Lanciano wrote.

Israeli MK Yuli Edelstein said he was “horrified by the violence that Hapoel Holon fans receive from gangs of Palestinian terrorists in Bilbao.”

Edelstein called on the Spanish government and the International Basketball Federation to take action against “the use of sports games for the violence of terrorist supporters throughout Europe against Israeli audiences, teams and players.”

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