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Palestinian-Israeli football club slams Netanyahu for spreading fake news

Bnei Sakhnin threatens to sue the Israeli PM for spreading false claim that fans booed during minute's silence for flood victims
Bnei Sakhnin players scuffle with players from their mainly Jewish rivals Beitar Jerusalem at the Doha Stadium in 2014 (AFP)

A Palestinian-Israeli football club has threatened to sue Benjamin Netanyahu over the Israeli prime minister sharing fake news about the team’s fans allegedly booing a minute of silence on Saturday.

Reports emerged that, before a match against Hapoel Raanana on Saturday, supporters of Bnei Sakhnin had booed a minute of silence held for 10 Israelis who died in flash floods earlier in the week.

Bnei Sakhnin is one of the most successful Israeli clubs composed of Palestinian citizens of Israel, playing in the Israeli premier league.

According to Israeli news outlet Ynet, Netanyahu reacted to these reports on social media, writing on Twitter: "It's a disgrace... I expect all public figures, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, to unequivocally denounce this reprehensible behaviour."

Right-wing Likud parliamentarian Ayoub Kara also reacted on Twitter, calling for "sports to stay out of politics".

Some right-wing Israeli figures reportedly called for Doha Stadium, the home of Bnei Sakhnin, to be shut down in response to the alleged event.

However, the claims were quickly discredited as no evidence from televised footage of the match, nor the referee's report, including evidence from players from both Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Raanana, corroborated the claims.

The referee report mentioned that while a number of young children in the audience did not stand during the minute of silence, it was because they did not understand the announcement made in Hebrew.

The Israeli football league also confirmed that no misbehaviour occurred during the match.

Bnei Sakhnin officials have threatened to sue Netanyahu for slander should the prime minister not retract his statement and issue an apology to the team.

"It is very worrying that the prime minister rushed to respond to lies and to respond to those who are seeking to spread abuse and lies," The Times of Israel quoted Bnei Sakhnin’s spokesperson as saying.

"It is worrying that the honorable prime minister decided to trample on the difficult pain of the families for the purpose of dividing Israeli society."

Middle East Eye was not able to reach an official from Bnei Sakhnin for comment by publishing time.

This is not the first time Bnei Sakhnin, has come under pressure from right-wing Israeli figures. In 2014, the Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman called for the Doha Stadium to be shut down after the team honoured former Palestinian-Israeli parliamentarian Azmi Bishara and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani with plaques to recognise their financial contributions to the stadium's construction.

Israeli football has long been rife with accusations of racism. Supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem club are notorious for their violently anti-Palestinian racism.

In January the Israeli minister of culture, Miri Regev, came under fire after sharing a video of herself smiling while surrounded by Beitar fans chanting "May your village be burned" during a match against Bnei Sakhnin.