A top European soccer team is under fire for allegedly planning to play against an Israeli team, despite the game not being confirmed.
On Friday, a group of Palestinian soccer teams released an open letter to FC Barcelona asking the club to cancel a soccer game against FC Jerusalem, according to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS). The alleged international friendly game is due to take place on August 4th at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. The Palestinian teams said the event was an attempt to deflect attention from Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians.
“As your colleagues and athletes who share a passion for sport and fair play, we do not want your passion and name to be abused by anyone, especially apartheid Israel propaganda in their desperate attempt to sport the state wash constant violations of international law and crimes against our Palestinian people, “the teams said, according to BDS.
BDS supports a large number of boycotts against Israel and Israelis, also in the cultural area, against the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel. The statement specifically cited the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where local Arabs are involved in a property dispute with a group of Jews.
Beitar Jerusalem is notorious for having nationalists and anti-Arab racists in its fan base. The team recently tried to clean up its image. Last year, an Emirati investor bought a 50% stake in the club, which was praised by some fans.
FC Barcelona is based in the city of the same name in the autonomous region of Catalonia in Spain. The team and its star Lionel Messi are hugely popular in the Middle East and around the world.
The Arab-Israeli parliamentarian Sami Abou Shahadeh also wrote to FC Barcelona on Thursday asking him to cancel the game.
However, on Sunday, the Palestinian Authority’s official WAFA news agency reported that it had received a letter from FC Barcelona saying the club had not confirmed a game with Beitar.
A Palestinian soccer organization had also protested against the alleged game, as the Beitar Jerusalem stadium is located in the Malha district of Jerusalem, according to WAFA. The neighborhood was inhabited by Arabs prior to the 1948 Israel-Palestine War, but the community left during the conflict. Some Israeli scholars say they have fled, while some Palestinians claim they have been expelled.
FC Barcelona officials did not immediately respond to Al-Monitor’s request for comment.
The complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is nothing new to FC Barcelona. The team visited Israel and the Palestinian Territory in the West Bank in 2013 for a peace-based tour.