Anti-Israel activists in Spain have called on Barcelona football club to drop an invitation to Gilad Shalit to attend a derby game against Real Madrid.
The four-time European Cup winners offered the former prisoner of war tickets to the October 7 El Clásico match as a gesture of goodwill.
BDS Catalunya, a Barcelona-based group promoting boycotts of Israel, has created a petition to send to club president Sandro Roselli asking him to withdraw the invitation.
Signed by more than 800 people, the petition states: “Since April, Gilad Shalit is no longer officially part of the Israeli army. However, in the eyes of the Catalan people and the world as a whole he still symbolically represents the IDF.
“We are also surprised to see your club express so much friendship and sympathy towards the only Israeli soldier to be imprisoned in recent years as a result of this conflict while, at the same time, maintaining absolute silence about the 4,660 Palestinian prisoners now confined in Israeli prisons.”
FC Barcelona vice-president Carles Vilarrubí said: “Barcelona is a place of unity, not divisions. This invitation does not indicate in any way that Barca takes a position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Last year, Mr Vilarrubí invited Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to view the club’s facilities at its Camp Nou stadium.
Mr Shalit was released last October after being held for five years by Hamas. He is a keen sports fan and has spoken of how listening to reports on radio helped him during his time in captivity.
Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth offered him a role as a basketball columnist, and he has travelled to the United States to watch an NBA All-Star basketball match.