A soccer player who represented the Palestine national soccer team in dozens of its international games has been kicked out of the squad after signing with an Israeli team on Sunday for next season.
Abdallah Jabar, 27, will no longer be able to play for the West Bank-based national squad after closing a deal to join Israel’s local team Hapoel Hadera.
The response from Palestinian soccer fans was brutal, Jabar told Israel’s Channel 13 news on Monday. After announcing on social media that he had signed a contract in Israel, he received hundreds of offensive posts.
“People went mad, they really went mad,” said Jabar, an Arab Israeli from the central Arab city of Taibe. “It’s the political background, it is a sensitive issue.”
“As an Arab Israeli, I am amazed,” he said, referring to the delicate position of Arab Israelis in Palestinian and Israeli culture. “Over there, they say we aren’t really Palestinians and here they say we aren’t really Israelis.”
Games played for Palestine saw him take to the turf in countries around the world and across the Middle East, including Iran. However, the team has a strict rule that its players may not participate in Israeli leagues.
Jabar’s Israeli citizenship also prevented him from signing with Egyptian teams in 2016.
Jabber began his soccer career on Israeli teams, but decided to move to the Palestinian league in 2013. He was selected for the Palestinian national team and played his first international game in 2014. Since then, he has represented the Palestinians in at least 50 games, including 13 games as part of the soccer world cup tournament. He also won a series of awards as a star player in the Palestinian league where he played for Ahli Al-Khaleel, based in the West Bank city of Hebron.
With his return to the Israeli league, Jabar, who plays in the left-defender position, told Channel 13 news that he is not concerned about any possible racism from Israeli soccer fans, some of whom are known for their hard-right political views.
“I have no problem, I played in derby matches in the Palestinian league, and that is just as bad,” he said, explaining that when two local teams meet, there can be “spitting, cursing and blows” among the fans.
There are currently three other Arab Israelis on the Palestine national team. They are Shadi Shaban, Rami Hamadeh and Mohammed Darweesh.