As FC Barcelona Employs BDS Tactics Against Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem, Will Same Standard Apply to Every Capital City?

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Reprinted from Honest Reporting.


On July 23, the Tokyo Olympic Games’ opening ceremony will include the Israeli delegation, to be composed of a record number of athletes from the Jewish state. Yet, while Israelis are increasingly participating in international competitions, one of the world’s best-known sports franchises recently torpedoed a friendly match scheduled in Jerusalem by coopting tactics employed by the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement.

The owner of Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem Football Club said on July 15 that he was forced to cancel a game against Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona (FCB) after the Catalan team insisted the match be played anywhere other than Jerusalem.

The development came after Palestinians launched a campaign against FBC in the wake of reports that it would play a preseason game in Israel, scheduled for August 4 at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium. 

In a bizarre rant, a spokesperson representing anti-Israel “activists” suggested the game be scratched from Israel’s capital because the venue at which the country’s national team plays its home matches is located next to the city’s eastern neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, where a number of Arab squatters are facing eviction from their homes. Other Israel-haters started circulating on Twitter the hashtag in Arabic “Boycott Barcelona,” in an attempt to pressure the club.

As HonestReporting has repeatedly documented, the goal of BDS is to transform Israel into a binational state that would effectively end Jewish self-determination (see here and here, for example). But does the same apply to Spain given that Barcelona is where Catalonia’s independence movement led to a constitutional crisis and violence in the streets?

Why haven’t there been calls around the world for football teams to stop traveling to play in Madrid?

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Media: What Boycott?

This apparent contradiction may be the reason that virtually none of the international coverage dedicated to the FC Barcelona-Beitar Jerusalem story includes the role played by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (see here, here, and here). The only time the word ‘boycott’ is mentioned is in quotes attributed to the owner of Beitar Jerusalem and the mayor of the holy city.

Ignoring BDS’ eliminationist policy regarding the Jewish state makes it possible for the media to imply that FCB’s position was a response to a grassroots social justice movement fighting for human rights. But if that were the case, why hasn’t FCB cancelled matches in Qatar, a notorious human rights violator?

This same country is slated to host the 2022 World Cup. 

The answer may have to do with the fact that state-owned Qatar Airways was FCB’s main sponsor for almost a decade. Evidently, FC Barcelona had no issue with accepting tens of millions of Euros from Doha.

And Spain is not alone: HonestReporting research has found that not a single country has yet announced its intention to boycott Qatar 2022.

Related Reading: BDS Myths and Facts

By hiding the goals of BDS, and the means used towards achieving that end, news outlets have enabled activists and organizations dedicated to ending Jewish sovereignty while effectively covering up the fact that their tactics may not even be legal.

For example, in the United States individuals and corporations are banned from participating in boycotts against foreign countries. According to the US Constitution, only Congress has the power to impose international boycotts. As such, 35 states have enacted laws specifically countering the BDS movement.

Memo to Media: Border Disputes Deserve Criticism, Not Calls For Destruction

Imagine for a moment that FCB adopted a policy not to play in any country with a territorial dispute. Its options, then, would be few and far between. More broadly, if every nation involved in such a disagreement was targeted like the Jewish state hen over 120 countries — including Spain — would be similarly tarred, demeaned, and isolated.

This is especially disconcerting since sports has long been a great unifier. However, a lack of comprehensive coverage about BDS has made it possible for the movement to make inroads even into the wide world of sports. 

With the Tokyo Games about to begin, one can only wonder why countries ostensibly concerned about human rights that attack Israel and deny its claim to its ancient capital failed to boycott recent Games in, to name just two places, Beijing, China (2008) and Sochi, Russia (2014). Notably, no country boycotted the Games held in Nazi Germany in 1936. Actually, 49 teams particpated in Berlin, representing the largest number of nations in any Olympics to that point.

In fact, the media’s failure to shed light on BDS is a reminder that antisemitism has been a blight on the sports world ever since a Palestinian-led terror attack during the 1972 Olympic Games — perhaps not ironically perpetrated in Munich — killed 11 Israeli athletes.

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