Forward Thinking

If 'Palestine' Jerseys Incite Hatred, What About JNF?

By Sigal Samuel

  • Print
  • Share Share

Normally, when a sports team decides to redesign its uniforms, the decision isn’t considered a major news story. But when Chile’s El Palestino soccer club began wearing jerseys that show the entire map of Israel as Palestine, it met with an intense Jewish backlash — and it’s easy to see why.

By using a one-state map of Palestine to replace the numeral one, the new jerseys effectively erase Israel, making it seem like the state doesn’t exist. Of course Israelis and Jews worldwide would take umbrage at this. And, predictably, statements condemning the jerseys poured in this week from all the usual suspects.

According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s January 6 statement, the jerseys are not only “inciting hatred among the large Arab community in Chile.” They are also “fomenting a terrorist intent.” The Anti-Defamation League added on January 8 that the one-state map constitutes “inappropriate political imagery” and a “clear delegitimization of Israel.” Both organizations called for the imposition of penalties on El Palestino soccer club.

For these groups to take issue with imagery that depicts Israeli and Palestinian land as a single state makes perfect sense. But El Palestino isn’t the only group to do so: the Jewish National Fund also favors one-state imagery. Their iconic blue donation boxes, ubiquitous in Jewish schools across the globe, feature a map depicting Israel without the Green Line. That means the JNF doesn’t distinguish Israel from the Palestinian-populated West Bank — even though the Israeli government itself officially endorsed the idea of two states in 2009.

Since this observation was the subject of a Forward cover story last week, ADL spokesman Todd Gutnick, whom I spoke to Thursday, was well aware of it. Yet, while he was clear that the ADL believes it’s wrong for El Palestino to use one-state imagery, he couldn’t say whether we could safely assume, then, that the ADL also considers it wrong for JNF to do the same thing. “On that question, I’m going to have to see if I can get someone to give you a call back,” Gutnick said. More than 24 hours later, no one had called.

Asked whether the JNF should also be considered guilty of “inciting hatred” or “fomenting a terrorist intent,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, said no. “My view is, the JNF does not dictate the political policy of anyone… They’re about trees and water and ecology.”

“I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I think back to my childhood and JNF and the pushka,” he added, referring to the coin collection box. “It has zero impact on the political realities of the day.”

Since the same could just as easily be said of soccer jerseys, Cooper explained that El Palestino’s one-state symbolism is different, because it has to be interpreted within a context: the “deeply embedded and constantly reinforced” Palestinian mindset that the goal is to take over all land from the Jordan Valley to the Mediterranean Sea.

“You can say that there are Jews who hold the exact same view,” Cooper acknowledged, “but that’s not currently the reality of the mainstream party [in Israel].” He noted that even though the government in power is a right-wing one, it’s still endorsing and negotiating for two states.

This line of argumentation is debatable, to say the least. Yes, the Israeli government is negotiating for two states, but at every step of the way it’s also increasing settlement-building activity in the West Bank — an activity that invariably makes a two-state framework less likely. In fact, an agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and far-right coalition partner Naftali Bennett has made it so that the former only keeps participating in the peace process so long as the latter gets to keep building settlements. For Israeli leaders to endorse something on paper even as they knowingly derail it in practice doesn’t exactly lend credence to the idea that they’re creating an appreciably different context for symbol interpretation than that created by the Palestinians.

Like the one-state map on El Palestino’s jerseys, the map on JNF’s blue boxes is a political symbol. And it’s one that stands to have a negative impact on the prospects for a two-state solution. Just ask the millions of Jews who were exposed to those innocent-looking collection boxes as kids. Ask them how old they were before they realized there was something on that one-state map called “the West Bank.” And something called “occupation.” Ask them if being surrounded by symbols that pretend those things don’t exist didn’t have a hand in shaping their political consciousness.

Symbols — and especially maps — are rarely politically neutral. If the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the ADL want to condemn one-state symbolism, that’s all well and good. But they should do it consistently, not just when the one state being depicted is Palestine.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: soccer, Palestine, Jewish National Fund, Israel, Chile

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.