By Julie Webb-Pullman
On Tuesday 7 January the Deputy Director General for Latin America of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Itzhak Shoham, met with the charge d’affaires of the Embassy of Chile in Israel, Oscar Alcamán, to express his “surprise and concern” over the Palestino football club’s jersey.
The Palestino Club is a first-division club in Chile which recently introduced a new jersey, replacing the number ‘1’ with a map of Palestine.
The Palestino Club, whose colors are the same as those of the Palestinian flag, was founded in Santiago in 1920 by members of the Arabic community in Chile.
Shoham considers the jersey an anti-Israel provocation because it denies the existence of Israel by not including the State of Israel as part of the Palestinian territories on the map.
Echoing the sentiments that tried to prevent sports boycotts of South Africa during the apartheid era in that country, the Israeli diplomat said, “it seems inappropriate to use sport for political purposes.”
Nelson Mandela would disagree. He recalled that when he was in his prison cell on Robben Island in 1981 and heard about the cancellation of a rugby game between the New Zealand and South African national teams in Hamilton, New Zealand because of protestors invading the field, it was as if ‘the sun had come out.’ When Mandela visited New Zealand in 1995, he made a point of visiting key New Zealand protesters, including many prominent Māori, to thank them for their efforts.
“We know that politics and sport have an important relationship. We indicated that the sports boycott played a crucial part in our liberation,” said the Most Reverend Dr. Desmond Tutu at Lord’s Cricket Ground in June 2008.
It seems that as in most things, including the map on the Palestino teams’ jerseys, Israel is both out of touch, and out of the picture.
Viva Palestino! Abajo el apartheid!
– Julie Webb-Pullman is a freelance journalist from New Zealand who has been living in and writing from Gaza since 2011. She contributes to SCOOP Independent News, Palestine Chronicle, and other online news sites. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.