The owner of the Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem said on Thursday that he had cancelled a friendly match with the international power station Barcelona over his refusal to hold the event in the controversial Jerusalem.
Israel conquered East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, annexed it in a step not recognized internationally, and considered the entire city as its capital.
Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and the city’s status is one of the most challenging issues in the decades-long conflict.
Moshe Hogeg, the owner of Beitar Jerusalem, said he was forced to cancel the scheduled match on August 4 because he refused to concede to what he said was “perhaps political pressure” to play outside Jerusalem.
“We can not boycott Jerusalem,” he declared. “If you want to contest against Beitar Jerusalem, you must and have to do it in Jerusalem,” he continued.
In a Facebook post, Hogeg, who portrays himself as a ‘proud Jew and Israeli’, as well as a Barcelona supporter, said he could not disappoint the city.
“I am not mad at Barcelona; they are not a legislative club and are not interested in taking part in our conflict here. Our relationship will continue to be good, ‘he wrote, adding that he had made his decision in consultation with Jerusalem. Mayor Moshe Lion.
Lion, who said he supported Hogeg “without reservation”, rejected attempts to boycott events in the city, Haaretz stated.
There was no immediate explanation from Barcelona.
Hogeg, who purchased the team in 2018, has vowed to combat racism and tip the club’s anti-Palestinian supporters.
This month, the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) mailed a letter of objection to Barcelona over the proposed match in Jerusalem.
In a message to the world governing body FIFA, JFAF chairman Jibril Rajoub said that Jerusalem had been named a divided city in a United Nations declaration and that the planned opponents of Beitar Jerusalem in Barcelona were a racist club.
“While we do not have the right to tell any club how to arrange its friendly matches, we do have the right to object to the selection of Jerusalem as the venue for the proposed match,” Rajoub stated in the letter, which is also aimed at football’s European and Asian governing bodies, UEFA and AFC.
“According to international law, Jerusalem is a divided city, and the eastern part of it is deemed taken Palestinian land, which provides the Palestinian Football Association control over any football activities that take place in this section,” he stated. The match was organised in the Malha. district, the site of a Palestinian village ethnically cleansed by Zionist paramilitary forces in the run – up to the founding of Israel in 1948.
Palestinian football clubs have also written to Barcelona requesting that they not play in Jerusalem.