Solidarity with the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and the people of occupied Jerusalem is being shown in many ways. Club Deportivo Palestino in Chile’s Premier League expressed its solidarity with the team wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh before the game against Colo-Colo on Saturday.
The football club was founded in Chile in 1920 by Palestinian immigrants in the city of Osorno, in the south of the country. It is known as Palestine’s “second national team”.
According to club president Jorge Uauy, it is important to show solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem. “Palestine is an important part of our identity as a team,” he told me. “Palestinian symbols, such as the keffiyeh, show the connection we have to our motherland .We need to stand together against adversity.”
He pointed out that the idea of wearing the keffiyeh came from the players themselves, who thought it was important to send a message of support from Chile to Palestine. “This shows the world that our players understand what playing for Palestine means; that we are more than a football club. That makes me very proud.”
According to Club Deportivo Palestino’s team captain Luis Jiménez, seeing people being dragged from their homes and the brutality with which they are being treated, including women and children, is very painful. “It is a situation which I would never wish for anyone, and we understand that we represent a people who have suffered since 1948. We cannot stay silent about what is happening today in Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinians are being evicted from their homes in Jerusalem.” Jiménez and Carlos Villanueva, two of the most well-known players in Chile, posted pictures of themselves wearing the keffiyeh on social media along with messages of support for Sheikh Jarrah.Chile is home to the largest — and one of the oldest — Palestinian communities outside the Arab world. Almost half a million people of Palestinian origin live there, out of a total population of 18 million. The so-called “Chilestinians” arrived from Palestine during the nineteenth century followed by a wave of refugees in 1948, embodying a connection between the Middle East and Latin America. “When the whole team decided to wear the Palestinian keffiyeh, it had a positive effect on the group because it served as a reminder of what the Palestino Club represents,” said Uauy.
In the early days of Palestinian migration to Chile, football was seen as a way to integrate into society. As a major Chilean football club, it now provides a window for the oppressed people of Palestine to be seen and heard.
“What is happening in Sheikh Jarrah shows that international law and human rights are being disregarded once again,” Uauy pointed out, “and most of the world is just watching silently. There has to be accountability for what is happening to the Palestinians, not only in Jerusalem but all over occupied Palestine.”
This is not the first time that Club Deportivo Palestino has demonstrated such solidarity with the Palestinian people. In 2014, during Israel’s brutal military offensive against the Gaza Strip, the club replaced the number 1 on the team’s shirts with an elongated map of Palestine. Chile’s 18,000-strong Jewish community protested against such “political exploitation” of the sport. Last year, the club celebrated its centenary by producing a commemorative shirt with “More than a team, it is an entire people” written on it.
Chilean solidarity is not limited to football though; it extends across society. In July last year, the Telephone Tower in the capital Santiago was lit up with the Palestinian keffiyeh in support of the Palestinian people and rejection of Israel’s plans to annex a large part of the occupied West Bank. Also in July, the Chilean Senate approved a resolution calling on President Sebastian Pinera Echenique to adopt a law boycotting Israeli settlement goods and banning commercial activity with companies that operate in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The global response to the Israeli violence in Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday undoubtedly played a part in the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision to postpone its judgement on the eviction of the Palestinians from their homes in the Jerusalem neighbourhood. With footballers in Chile lending their own solidarity they provided a vivid example of the true strength of collective Palestinian identity. “My heart always breaks with the violence and injustice that Palestinians suffer every day,” concluded Jorge Uauy. “It is important to work hard in order to continue the legacy of our founders and achieve great things in the sporting arena.”
Solidarity in action, as well as words. That has always been the way of Club Deportivo Palestino.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.