A Palestinian football club in the Chilean capital Santiago has refused to give in to an intensive Jewish campaign demanding that the club apologise and remove a map depicting historic Palestine from the team’s official jerseys.
The manager of Deportivo Palestino, which was founded by Palestinian immigrants in 1920, decided to feature the map of historic Palestine on the backs of players’ jerseys to symbolise the numeral one. The map presents Israel as a Palestinian territory, angering many in Chile’s Jewish community. In response, local and international Jewish leaders have called on the Chilean soccer association to intervene and ban the shirts that feature the map; however, this has not happened yet.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which presents itself as an “international Jewish human rights organisation” but in reality spends much of its time actively pursuing anybody who criticises Israel, stated that the club’s move “foments terrorist intent”.
Gerardo Gorodischer, the head of Chile’s Jewish community, said that the club’s action contradicts FIFA’s laws: “We know that FIFA prohibits such actions. You cannot make a political claim and import the Middle East conflict using the platform of football, using the sport to lie and hate.”
The Palestinian Federation in Chile responded by saying: “We reject the hypocrisy of those who blame this map, [and yet] talk about the occupied territory as disputed territory.”
Deportivo Palestino is one of the strongest football clubs in Chile. Some of its members were previously on the Palestinian national team in Ramallah, which is supervised by the head of the Palestinian soccer association, Jibril Rajoub.
There are around 400,000 Palestinians in Chile. The population includes businessmen and senior politicians. The community is still loyal to the Palestinian cause and were once represented in the Palestinian National Council before it was marginalised by the Palestinian Authority.
The pro-Israel hate campaign against the club will likely carry on; however, the Palestinian players continue to have the Palestinian map on their backs and will have Palestine in their hearts forever.