(JTA) — A soccer team in Chile’s top league has ignited controversy over its uniforms, which show the entire map of Israel as Palestine.
The uniforms of the Palestine Football Club, which was founded in 1920 by Palestinian immigrants to Chile, use the map of Israel in place of the number 1 on the back of the uniforms.
Local and global Jewish leaders have protested the political nature of the uniforms to FIFA, soccer’s international governing body.
“We know that FIFA prohibits such actions. You cannot make a political claim and import the Middle East conflict using the platform of football, using the sport to lie and hate,” Gerardo Gorodischer, president of Chile’s Jewish Community, told reporters Monday. He is demanding an apology from the Santiago-based team, whose name in Spanish is Club Deportivo Palestino, and is asking Chile’s national soccer association to ban the shirts since they do not recognize the state of Israel.
The shirts debuted on Jan. 4 in the first match of the season, against Everton, which the Palestine team won.
The Palestinian Federation of Chile responded to the Jewish protests. “We reject the hypocrisy of those who blame this map but they talk about the occupied territory as disputed territory,” the Federation said in a statement.
The Information Department of the Palestinian Federation also criticized “the Chilenean Zionists, who send young Chileneans to Israel to receive military training.”
On Tuesday, in a letter to the president of the Chilean National Football Association, the Simon Wiesenthal Center called for the Palestine FC to pay a penalty. “By wiping out the State of Israel through sport, Palestino FC not only transplants a foreign conflict to Chilean soil, it is inciting hatred among the large Arab community in Chile,” the Wiesenthal Center letter read. “We call on ANFP to investigate and impose a penalty on the Palestino Club for fomenting terrorist intent.”
The Palestinian community in Chile is believed to be the largest outside of the Middle East. At least 300,000 Chileans are of Palestinian descent, according to reports.