By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
The owner of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, entrepreneur Moshe Hogeg, announced Thursday that a much-anticipated friendly match between the team and FC Barcelona was cancelled due to pressure from Palestinian lawmakers and activists.
“After receiving the contract to sign and [learning of] the unequivocal demand that the game not take place in the capital, Jerusalem…I slept with a heavy heart, thought a lot, and decided that, before everything else, I am a proud Jew and Israeli,” Hogeg wrote on Facebook.
“A game against Beitar Jerusalem should take place in Jerusalem, and if the motive for its [relocation] is political, and I surrender to that, I won’t be able to live with myself…I can’t betray Jerusalem.
“This is a very difficult decision but after consulting with the mayor, Moshe Leon, I believe it is the right one.”
After news broke that the friendly match between the two teams was scheduled to take place in the first week of August, the Spanish team has been the target of an intense social media campaign to prevent the team from playing in Israel’s capital city.
Last week, Joint List MK Sami Abou Shehadeh, who recently encouraged Arab rioting in Jaffa, wrote a letter to FC Barcelona’s president to encourage him to cancel the match.
He argued that because of its history of anti-Arab chants from fans, Beitar Jerusalem symbolizes the “most extremist, racist and fascist segments of Israeli society.”
He added that Teddy Stadium was “built on the remains of the ethnically cleansed and destroyed village of Al Malha,” a factually incorrect statement.
A spokesperson from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement declared victory on Twitter after Hogeg’s announcement, brushing away criticism that the organization was unnecessarily politicizing a friendly soccer match.
The spokesperson wrote that a soccer game occurring in the capital of Israel is inherently political because of alleged Israeli war crimes in Jerusalem.
“Beitar Jerusalem demonstrated just how politicized this match was by refusing FC Barcelona’s condition that it not be held in Jerusalem, where Israel continues its gradual ethnic cleansing of Indigenous Palestinians,” read the statement.