Club bosses at Arsenal have defended midfielder Mohammed ElNeny after he tweeted his support for Palestinians amid escalating violence between Israel and militant groups in Gaza.
As many high profile figures urged both sides to de-escalate, the Egyptian born player, who has more than 4.8 million followers on Twitter, posted: “My heart my soul, my support for you Palestine.”
The post, which had received more than 57,000 likes by Tuesday night and had been re-tweeted more than 15,000 times, prompted complaints to Arsenal FC by Jewish fans.
In a statement to the JC, Arsenal said the midfielder was “entitled to express (his) views” but added they would be “speaking to Mo” about the post so he “understands the wider implications”.
ElNeny posted his support for Palestine on Monday night as militant groups in Gaza fired a barrage of rockets into Israel, which responded with air strikes on Palestinian territory.
The escalation came in the wake of a police raid on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem that left hundreds injured.
The player’s post attracted more than 1,000 comments, many in Arabic, and prompted complaints to the club from Jewish fans.
Lifelong supporter and season ticket holder Kenneth Brand, whose parents both came to Britain fleeing persecution in Europe in the 1930’s, was among those who complained.
He told the JC: “Football is a game that is supposed to bring people together but that post was just divisive.
“It was insensitive and provocative. I went to the shul last night and many of my friends were upset about it, one described it as ‘outrageous’.
“Arsenal has many Jewish supporters and also has many fans in Israel. Of course ElNeny is allowed to have a view but he is an Arsenal player and people are reading his views because he is an Arsenal player. What does Arsenal think about that?”
A spokesman for the club said: “As with any employees of Arsenal, our players are entitled to express their views on their own platforms. That said, we are speaking to Mo about this so he understands the wider implications of his post.
“As a club we are committed to confronting and eliminating all forms of discrimination and continue to champion the need for equality and diversity across all areas of life.”
The player also received criticism online for the post. Sussex Friends of Israel complained that the tweet included a picture entitled ‘Palestinian Lives Matter’ which “erases the Jewish state”.
One post said ElNeny had found a good way to “alienate a large portion of your fans” while one account called @arsenalopinion asked: “Any message for your Israeli fans who are spending the night in bomb shelters?”
Others joked that ElNeny would now meet the same fate as midfielder Mesut Ozil, who they claimed had been frozen out because of his support for China’s persecuted Uighur Muslims.