Officially named Beitar Jerusalem Football Club, the team was established in 1936 as part of a nationalistic Zionist strategy. Since then the team has become a Zionist symbol and hub for far-right sentiments and fans in Israel.
The chief of the Palestinian Football Federation (PFF), Jibril Rajoub, has sent letters to the European and Spanish football associations asking for Atletico Madrid to cancel a post-season May 21 friendly match with Israeli Beitar club in Jerusalem.
“We are not against them playing in Israel, but not in occupied Jerusalem,” the letter said, according to a post on the football association’s Facebook page last week. Rajoub has also sent word to the Spanish club calling on them to scrap the planned game.
However, Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer, who owns a 15 percent stake in the team, told Channel 13 the game will go ahead. The PFF chief added that there are many Atletico Madrid fans in the Palestinian territories who are shocked they would play against a world-known racist team such as Beitar.
Officially named Beitar Trump Jerusalem Football Club, the team was established in 1936 as part of a nationalistic Zionist strategy. Since then the team has become a Zionist symbol and hub for far-right sentiments and fans in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the most prominent fans of the team. In 2018, after U.S. President Donald Trump illegally and unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the team officially aded the head of states' name to its own.
Yet its fans boast on this fact, in their chants it can be heard “here we are, the most racist team in the country!” or their infamous trademark song “Death to Arabs.” The most vocal supporters are part of the ultra-nationalist “La Familia” group. These fans are well known for their pride in the fact that Beitar is the only team in the Israeli Premier League that has never signed an Arab player.
Another issue at hand of the upcoming game, according to Rajoub, is that it will be played in occupied Jerusalem, which further helps consolidate Israel's illegal claim on the territory. Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed.
While the international community has not recognized this move, Israel considers Jerusalem as its capital while Palestinians also consider the eastern part of the holy city as the capital of the Palestinian state.
The PFF is hopeful this will be reminiscent of June 2018 when Argentina's national football team canceled their friendly game against Israel's national team prior to the World Cup in Russia, after an intense campaign by the pro-Palestinian activists and groups calling for a peaceful boycott against the country.