Controversy has erupted over Gilad Schalit attending a Barcelona-Real Madrid soccer match. Gilad, the IDF soldier who was held captive in the Gaza Strip for over five years loves sports and even writes a sports column for an Israeli newspaper. Palestinians protested what they thought was an invitation for Schalit to attend the match and said “Soccer is a sport that carries the message of freedom and love” and an “aggressor” should not be invited to take part in such a match.
Demonstrators protested in front of the Spanish consulate in east Jerusalem. They held up signs with the Barcelona insignia daubed in red paint signifying blood, and at least one demonstrator trampled on a Barcelona shirt. Barcelona responded to the protests by inviting Mahmoud Sarsak, a former Palestinian soccer player who was released from an Israeli jail in July, Palestinian sports supremo Jibril Rajoub, and another representative. The club released a statement saying that “Barcelona has always wanted to promote peace and harmony in the Middle East.”
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