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Israel: Ben-Gvir demands footballers’ citizenship be revoked for refusing to hold sign demanding hostages be released

November 27, 2023 at 1:18 pm

Daniel Sundgren of Maccabi Haifa FC during warm up before the Uefa Champions League Group H football match between Juventus Fc and Maccabi Haifa FC. Juventus Fc wins 3-1 over Maccabi Haifa FC. [Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images]

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has demanded citizenship and work visas of football players who refused to hold signs calling for prisoners of war being held by the Palestinian resistance in Gaza be released, Israeli media reported.

According to the reports, Ben-Gvir yesterday sent an “explosive” letter to Interior Minister Moshe Arbel after a football match during which Maccabi Haifa’s Swedish player, Daniel Sundgren, and other players refused to hold an English-language sign demanding the captives’ return.

Not a good look here from some of the Maccabi Haifa players…

— Sports Rabbi (@thesportsrabbi) November 25, 2023


Ben-Gvir, a vocal fan of the rival football club Beitar Jerusalem, said Sundgren has humiliated the Israeli prisoners, adding that “a person who has recently acquired Israeli citizenship cannot indirectly support a murderous terrorist organisation.”

Israel: Ben-Gvir threatens to resign from gov’t if attacks on Gaza stop after the truce

He also wrote that the work visas of other foreign players who had refused to carry the banner should be cancelled and they should be sent back to their home countries.

The Times of Israel reported that Arbel rejected Ben-Gvir’s request.

“You don’t strip citizenship from a person because he doesn’t hold a sign, as important as it could be… I recommend that we deal with the important mission of maintaining Israel’s security and less with populism about the sympathies of a rival soccer team,” Arbel said in his reply.

However, in a personal message Maccabi Haifa CEO, Itzik Ovadia, said: “Those who do not sympathise with the pain will not play in the club.”

🟢 לא ישחק במועדון מי שלא מזדהה עם הכאבמנכ”ל המועדון, איציק עובדיה, בהודעה אישית על אירועי המשחק האחרון >>>

— Maccabi Haifa FC (@mhfootballclub) November 27, 2023