Chile’s El Palestino soccer club recently raised the ire of pro-Israel groups when it decided to redesign its team jerseys, replacing the numeral one with a one-state map of Palestine. Because they show the entire map of Israel as Palestine, these jerseys effectively erase Israel, making it seem like the state doesn’t exist.
In a blog post last week, I asked how the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Anti-Defamation League can condemn these jerseys for using a one-state map, while staying mum about the fact that the Jewish National Fund does the exact same thing on its charity collection boxes. The ADL hadn’t gotten back to me by the time the post went up, but they’ve since emailed me this response so that I can update Forward readers on their stance. Here goes:
There is no comparison between the JNF blue box and the team jerseys worn by Chile’s “El Palestino” soccer club. The Chilean team’s shirts are a highly politicized form of incitement which negates Israel’s existence, while the JNF boxes have a representation of the internationally recognized country of Israel.
Huh. It’s hard to know how this explanation is supposed to defuse the idea that there’s a double standard at work in certain pro-Israel groups when it comes to one-state maps. As far as I can tell, though, three claims are being made here. Let me try to unpack them.
First, there’s the claim that the Chilean soccer jerseys are “a highly politicized form of incitement.” Sure, okay, I get that. But that description applies just as readily to JNF’s one-state map of Israel, which is also telegraphing a highly political message, even if Jews who’ve grown up with the ubiquitous blue boxes aren’t consciously aware of it. As to the word “incitement,” I don’t see how you can argue the jerseys are any guiltier of that than the blue boxes. Just as Palestinian hawks will read one-state maps of Palestine as incitement, so, too, will their Israeli counterparts. (If you don’t think the Israeli right is as susceptible to this kind of incitement, just look at the rising tide of violence perpetrated by settlers in the form of “price tag” attacks.)
Second, we have the claim that the one-state map on the jerseys “negates Israel’s existence.” I agree; it does. But the one-state map on the blue boxes likewise negates the existence of the Palestinian Authority — which everyone, including the Israeli government, recognizes as the ruling power in the West Bank.
But wait! There isn’t actually any recognized state of Palestine, you’ll argue (despite the fact that the United Nations General Assembly decided otherwise in 2012) — surely that’s the difference here. And this, presumably, is the third claim being made by the ADL in the above quote; it’s the implication behind “the JNF boxes have a representation of the internationally recognized country of Israel.”
But guess what? No, actually, they don’t. Israel is an internationally recognized country, of course, but not in the form depicted on JNF’s map. The JNF map depicts not “the internationally recognized country of Israel,” but a fictional Israel, one whose borders extend to include the Palestinian territories. Again, even the Israeli government doesn’t recognize these as constituting its real borders.
The logic here just doesn’t hold up. Like JNF, whose spokesperson denied in an interview with the Forward that the maps on the blue boxes are maps of Israel, the ADL is tying itself in rhetorical knots to explain away a double standard. But the double standard is there, as clear as the one-state maps printed on soccer jerseys and blue boxes alike.
Sigal Samuel is the Forward’s deputy digital media editor. When she’s not writing for the opinion section, she’s hunting down her Indian Jewish family’s kabbalistic secret societies. Her novel “The Mystics of Mile End,” available in Canada and forthcoming in the U.S., tells the story of a dysfunctional family with a dangerous mystical obsession. Her writing has also appeared in The Daily Beast, The Rumpus, BuzzFeed, Tablet and The Walrus, among others. Contact Sigal at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter at @SigalSamuel.