FC Barcelona invites Palestinians to Madrid match after Gilad Shalit row
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sidetracking "El Clásico," a game normally known for featuring the world's biggest stars.
September 28th, 2012
03:46 PM ET

FC Barcelona invites Palestinians to Madrid match after Gilad Shalit row

It's not often a sporting event can stoke the tensions of one of the world's longest-running conflicts, but news that an ex-prisoner and Israeli soldier would attend a Spanish soccer match next month did just that.

Gilad Shalit, who was freed in October 2011 after more than five years as a Palestinian prisoner, is expected to attend next month's "El Clásico," a match between Spanish powerhouses FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. This game, which will be played at Barcelona's Camp Nou on October 7, is one of the world's biggest rivalries.

Despite several reports that Barcelona had extended the invitation to Shalit, the club announced in a Thursday statement that wasn't the case.

Gilad Shalit is expected to attend next month's soccer match between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

"The Club did not invite Mr. Shalit to the game, but accepted a request to watch a match during his visit to Barcelona," the statement said.

Barcelona said it also accepted a Palestinian Embassy request that three of its delegates - Palestinian Authority Ambassador Musa Amer Odeh, Palestinian Football Union President Jibril Rajoub and soccer player and activist Mahmoud Sarsak - be invited to the game.

Though the club statement said the three would attend, the Palestinian-run blog, The Electronic Intifada, cited two reports saying that Sarsak would reject the invitation.

Sarsak was freed from an Israeli prison in June following a three-month hunger strike. The player's refusal to eat prompted Amnesty International to issue a statement saying Sarsak should be released or provided with medical treatment.

There has been no statement from Sarsak regarding the Barcelona invitation, even on his Twitter feed. However, a blogger who is frequently retweeted by Sarsak has said that she spoke to Sarsak, and he confirmed the news that he would not be attending the game.

When news of Shalit's attendance first broke, there was backlash in Gaza. FC Barcelona is sponsored by The Qatar Foundation and Turkish Airlines and is enormously popular in the Palestinian territories, but Hamas, which governs Gaza, said it would not permit TV stations to air Barcelona games or papers to report team news.

Al Arabiya further reported that Hama radio station in Gaza had stopped broadcasting team updates and that a Spain-based anti-Israeli group, BDS Catalunya, had organized a petition calling for Barcelona to revoke the invitation. It garnered 600 to 650 signatures, depending on the news report.

“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," the petition said, according to the International Business Times.

FC Barcelona moved quickly to assert that it was not taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The club's Thursday statement carried the headline, "FC Barcelona, for peace and harmony in the Middle East," and club vice president Carles Vilarrubí told an Israeli website, “Barcelona is a place of unity, not divisions. This invitation [to Shalit] does not indicate in any way that Barca takes a position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The club also noted in its Thursday statement that it had hosted Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a visit to Barcelona last summer. It also said that 16 Palestinian and 15 Israeli children had trained together last year at La Masia, which houses Barcelona's revered youth system, as part of the team's efforts to contribute to the peace process.

"The goal of the exercise was to cultivate an athletic relationship between the two groups," the statement said.

Shalit is a well-known sports fan. Since emerging from captivity - during which he reportedly beat his minders routinely at PlayStation soccer - he has attended a Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball game and the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida.

The Miami Herald reported in June that Shalit attended the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder as a correspondent for the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahranot.

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Filed under: Human rights • Israel • Palestinians • Soccer • Sports • World
soundoff (180 Responses)
  1. Are all religions acceptable to God?

    (80% of US claim to believe in the God of the bible)
    "Jesus said them Jewish religious leaders: 'Isaiah aptly prophecied about you hypocrites, as it is written, "This people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach as doctrines commands of men." ' " (regardless of whom a group profess to worship, if they hold to doctrines of men instead of the inspired Word of God, their worship is in vain)
    And so the answer is 'No'. Just because it claims to be of God does not make it so. The proof is in the pudding. (you can tell by what they do, and by what they do to each other)

    September 30, 2012 at 6:46 am | Report abuse |
    • David Negev

      First, Jesus (his Hebrew name is correctly pronounced Yeshua, a common Israeli name at that time) was an Israeli Jew. Second, the messages he delivered to his Jewish fellows, living at that time under Roman suppression, were directly related to the Jewish Torah (Bible) which was previously given to the Jewish leader-Prophet Moses by God. Common sense tells us that if you believe in Yeshua you believe in and follow the Jewish Biblical-Torah messages however with unique interpretations, which is fine and still closer to Judaism than any other religious source. There are times in Jewish Biblical history that God may have seen wrong and direct us (sometimes painfully) to a better path.

      September 30, 2012 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Jenna

      Jesus is a Mexican immigrant. I know him personally. He is a great guy.

      September 30, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. chrissy

    Thanks @ mary, for your totally lame impersonation of me @ l2:02, which EVERYONE KNOWS ISNT ME! So much for you going toe to toe with all things bible related. That guy is right, you CANT think for your self except to come up with dumb sh/t like that!

    September 30, 2012 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. Isntreal

    Gaylad looks like a shaved vulture with that massive hook jew nose.

    September 30, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jenna

    Jesus and GOD believe in you even if you don't. Believe in them. Don't be afraid of them. Give them a try and see how wonderful your life becomes.

    September 30, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. RoiMaColard

    Seriously? The palestinians are actually mad because an Israeli soldier is going to BCN to watch a soccer game?
    that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

    September 30, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. dazzle ©

    The comments at 10:01 and 10:08 are disgustingly offensive.

    September 30, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • sdabby

      I agree strongly with dazzle. The comments at10:01 and 10:08 are disgusting.

      September 30, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      Good morning to you dazzle. I hope today is finding you well.

      September 30, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Agreed.
      They are ugly sentiments.

      September 30, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  7. bobcat (in a hat)©

    It takes 1 minute to meet a new friend, 1 hour to admire and respect them, 1 day to love them, but an entire lifetime to forget them!

    September 30, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. bobcat (in a hat)©

    Hey CNN, what's up with this ? These same stories have been here for three days now. Has the world stopped revolving and everyone is frozen in time ? Is it that it's the weekend and the world events stop happening in order to give the events time off ? This is getting pretty boring, and I'll lay odds my fellow bloggers are feeling the same way.

    September 30, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @bobcat(in a hat) good morning to you too and another one from the kid. Your quote at 11:19 is beautiful and reminds me to keep my friends close to my heart.

      September 30, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      @ dazzle

      I take it by your 11:08 post that someone was getting ugly again !?! So how is our young lady feelimg today ?

      September 30, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      And on the fiends item. I just feel that if a person has no friends in their life, it has to be a dark place to live. My friends are the light at the end of that proverbial tunnel that help me find my way when I get lost, as we all do from time to time.
      Even when I'm physically alone, I know I can click on here and know I lso have distant friends to talk to.
      To me, that is priceless.

      September 30, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Bobcat, dazzle was talking about the two posts by Isntreal and Mosquito's, two that were showing rampant anti-semitism.
      Your post about friends is spot-on, though...we are never more than a click away.
      Unfortunately, ugliness is also just a click away, as those two posts illustrate.

      September 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bobcat (in a hat)©

    After explaining the commandment to honor your father and mother, a Sunday School teacher asked her class if there was a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters.
    One boy, the oldest in his family, immediately answered, "Thou shalt not kill."

    September 30, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. "They (jews) persecuted me."

    "They persecuted me [Jesus Christ] they will persecute you also. A slave is not grater than his master."-Jesus Christ as quoted by his early followers.
    Jews, like a rich lawyer named Saul, hunted Christians for sport and killed them legally. Saul converted to christianity from jewry, and we know him today as ab apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul.
    Jesus exposed jewish religious leaders aand the way jewish tradition had made God's word invalid. Powerful jews plotted to have him assassinated while poor jews could only afford to spit on him and chase him away. Only about 120 jews took to heart Jesus' teachings, and formed their own church in Jerusalem, the Hebrew Congregation of Christians, NOT jews. ("hebrews" of the bible book of Hebrews are these people)
    That Jesus christ espoused jewry is totally rediculous and ignorant of scripture.

    September 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      your history is a little warped...Jesus was a rabbi, and taught and read in the synagougues and temple, prayed and ate in their homes, discussed scripture and doctrine with the jewish theologians, he participated in every Passover up until the night before his arrest, which if one was unclean (in sin) one could not do...his disciples and apostles in attendance of synagougues even after Jesus' death ...even St. Paul/Saul even spoke of Jesus in the synagogues....and why was this done...because and rightly so christianity was not viewed as a new religion but a fulfillment of the prophecy about emanuel, god is with us...and the prophecy about the messiah, god will save use...jesus, the apostles, and his disciples was bonafide jews and in good standing with the synagougues...it was persecution by the jews themselves that caused apostles and disciples to separate from the synagougues....

      September 30, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      so you know what that means??? every good christian is a jew and a child of Abraham ...!

      September 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bobcat (in a hat)©

    And good morning to you banasy. How are you today ? It's raining like all getout down here today.

    September 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I'm just fine, Rawr.
      Thanks for the morning funny...
      It's a picure-perfect fall day here' sitting on my deck with a cuppa and you, enjoying the fall foliage.
      Sublime!

      September 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. "They (jews) persecuted me."

    "You (true followers of Christ) will become objects of hatred on account om my name." said Jesus to his early followers. Obviously, he wasn't speaking of jews who do not believe that Jesus Christ already offered up his life for his followers and any who would one day become his follower.
    How does a Christian know he's on the right track? People throw rocks at his words just as they threw rocks at Jesus.
    True Christians have bever been popular.

    September 30, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobcat (in a hat)©

    An old dollar bill and an even older $20 arrive at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired.
    "I've had a pretty good life," the $20 says. "I've been to Vegas, the finest restaurants in New York, and even on a Caribbean cruise."
    "You did have an exciting life!" the dollar says.
    "Where have you been?" the $20 asks.
    "Oh, I've been to the Methodist church, the Baptist church, spent some time with the Lutherans..."
    "Wait," the $20 interrupts. "What's a church?"

    September 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bobcat (in a hat)©

    A teacher was testing the children in her Sunday school class to see if they understood the concept of getting to heaven.
    She asked them, "If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?"
    "NO!" the children answered.
    "If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?"
    Again, the answer was, "NO!"
    Now she was smiling. Hey, they're getting it, she thought! "Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my husband, would that get me into Heaven?" she asked.
    Again, they all answered, "NO!"
    She was just bursting with pride for them. "Well," she continued, "then how can I get into Heaven?"
    A five-year-old boy shouted out, "YOU GOTTA BE DEAD."

    September 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      OMG, *that's* funny!!
      Out of the mouth of babes...

      September 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bobcat (in a hat)©

    A new pastor was visiting in the homes of his parishioners. At one house it seemed obvious that someone was at home, but no answer came to his repeated knocks at the door.
    Therefore, he took out a business card and wrote 'Revelation 3:20' on the back of it and stuck it in the door.
    When the offering was processed the following Sunday, he found that his card had been returned. Added to it was this cryptic message, 'Genesis 3:10.'
    Reaching for his Bible to check out the citation, he broke up in gales of laughter. Revelation 3:20 begins 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock.' Genesis 3:10 reads, 'I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid for I was naked.'

    September 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
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