Chilean Soccer Team's 'Palestine' Jersey Nixed

Chilean football federation bans team of 'Palestinian' immigrants from using a new shirt that has the number one shaped as 'Palestine.'

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Gil Ronen,

'Palestino soccer club emblem
'Palestino soccer club emblem

The Chilean football federation has forbidden a top division team to continue to use new jerseys that feature a map of “Palestine” which encompasses the entire map of Israel.

The team, named Club Deportivo Palestino, was founded by the large Palestinian Arab community in Chile. The jerseys are designed so that the map of “Palestine” replaces the digit 1 in the players' numbers.

The Chilean federation said it opposed any form of discrimination. It also issued a fine of $1,300 to the Santiago-based club.

The BBC writes that Palestino unveiled the new shirts in December, keeping the club's traditional colors, which match those of the Palestinian Authority flag – red, green and black.

Jewish organizations inside Chile and elsewhere complained, and the owner of first division club Nublense, Patrick Kiblisky, lodged a formal complaint against Palestino. "We cannot accept the involvement of football with politics and religion," he said.

It took several weeks for the Chilean football federation to act and in the meantime the new kit continued to be used. The federation said it had decided to punish Palestino because it was opposed to "any form of political, religious, sexual, ethnic, social or racial discrimination".

Chile is home to one of the largest Palestinian communities outside the Middle East, with estimates of the number of citizens of Palestinian Arab descent ranging from 300,000 to 500,000.

According to the club's website, Palestino became a professional football team in 1952 and has won the league twice. The club's Facebook page states: "For us, free Palestine will always be historical Palestine, nothing less." 

The Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Director General for Latin America of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Itzhak Shoham, reportedly met earlier this month 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. He said that the jersey is a “provocation … with the evident intention of denying the existence of Israel.”

Gabriel Zaliasnik, the former president of Chile’s Jewish community, demanded a public apology from Palestino, removal of the jerseys, and sanctions by the Chilean football association and the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).

The U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League also protested what it called the “clear delegitimization of Israel,” and called the jersey design “antithetical to the spirit of international sports competition.”

The map used by Palestino is that of the British Palestine Mandate after 1921, the year in which Britain handed over 80% of that territory to the Arabs who established Transjordan, or present-day Jordan. In 1947, the UN adopted a plan partitioning the remaining part of the Mandate between Arabs and Jews, but the Arabs refused to share the land and prepared for a war of annihilation against the Jews. On May 14, 1948, hours after the state of Israel was officially founded, a coalition of Arab countries invaded it, backed by local Arab militias, but were eventually repulsed.