Ministers, MKs Slam Bnei Sakhnin on Bishara Honor

Politicians and community leaders slammed the Bnei Sakhnin soccer team for its support of Hezbollah spy Azmi Bishara.

Yaakov Levi,

Former MK Azmi Bishara
Former MK Azmi Bishara
Flash 90

Politicians and community leaders slammed the Bnei Sakhnin soccer team for its support of ex-MK Azmi Bishara before a game over the weekend. MK Amnon Cohen (Shas), head of the Knesset State Control Committee, said that he would personally head an investigation into where Bnei Sakhnin was getting its funding.

"We must re-examine the criteria for the transfer of State funds, from the Ministry of Sports and (sports book betting platform) Toto regarding this team, as well as look into the distinct possibility that they are receiving donations from countries that support and sponsor terrorism,” said Cohen. He added that he would hold a series of hearings on the matter, and that he was determined to come up with new regulations that would prevent funding from going to teams that support terrorism.

Bishara, it will be recalled, fled to Qatar several years ago, after it was revealed that he had passed information to Hezbollah in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, helping direct their missiles at Israeli citizens. Bishara is still wanted for questioning in Israel for transmitting information to Hezbollah. Until the 2011 passing of the "Bishara Law," the former MK was still receiving full pension from Israel, pocketing a total of 500,000 shekels.

In Saturday night’s pre-game ceremony, Bnei Sakhnin presented a certificate of appreciation to several of the team’s sponsors, including the Emir of Qatar and Bishara himself.

The move was slammed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who condemned the team and called on the Israel Football Association to take action against it. "When a soccer team in the Israeli League thanks someone who is suspected of spying and assisting Hezbollah, who fled the country and incites against Israel, strong measures must be taken against it," he said.

Commenting on the incident, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, who is also the head of the inter-ministerial committee on non-Jewish affairs, called Sakhnin mayor Mazan Ganaim, telling him that he regarded the incident as a very serious one. “We cannot allow a person who has been convicted of spying for the enemy to receive an award from an Israeli team. This act has damaged the coexistence and delicate relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel,” he added.