Spanish football league heavyweight Barcelona confirmed Wednesday they have invited Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to attend a match on October against team Real Madrid, making him one of their VIP guests.
Protests are likely to erupt over the football club’s invitation to the Israeli soldier.
Gaza’s Hama radio station refused to broadcast sports updates about the football club.
“Why did they not invite the released Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud al-Sarsak who had gone on hunger strike for over ninety days?” sports news director Ahmed Abu Diab, said, according to an Egyptian news website.
However, club vice-president Carles Vilarrubi told reporters, as quoted by an Israeli news website, “Barcelona is a place of unity not divisions. This invitation does not indicate in any way that Barca takes a position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Last year, the club invited Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian leader, to view the club’s facilities at its Camp Nou stadium.
A report from a Spanish daily said that the invitation was made through the solicitation of an Israeli ‘ex- minister’.
BDS Catalunya, a Spanish group promoting BDS (boycotts, disinvestments and sanctions) on Israel, organized a petition with more than 600 signatures and has requested club president Sandro Roselli to withdraw the invitation to Shalit, a report from an Israeli news site stated.
“We are also surprised to see your club express so much friendship and sympathy towards the only Israeli soldier to be imprisoned in recent years as a result of this conflict while, at the same time, maintaining absolute silence about the 4,660 Palestinian prisoners now confined in Israeli prisons,” stated the Spanish group, as quoted by an online Jewish news site.
An unidentified source from the Israeli Embassy in Spain told an Israeli newspaper that the movement against Shalit does not represent the general population of Spain, saying that “We regret that these elements are turning Shalit, who for many was and remains a symbol of an important humanitarian issue, to a target for their poisonous darts. We are certain that the team and its fans will welcome him warmly.”
Released last October from the prison of Hamas, Shalit is known to be a sports fan and has vocally expressed this. He has already traveled to the United States to watch the NBA All-Star basketball match.