Monday, August 20News That Matters

A pro soccer team in Israel wants to rename itself in Trump's honor


Members of Beitar Jerusalem celebrate a goal against Vasas during a game in Budapest on July 6, 2017. (Balazs Czagany/MTI via AP)

Over the past few decades, President Trump’s name has been brandished on a lot of things: hotels, steaks, golf clubs, airplane shuttles, vodka, a defunct university and a board game.

Now there is a soccer club that wants to join the list.

On Sunday, Beitar Jerusalem, one of the largest soccer teams in the Israel Football Association announced in a statement that it wants to rename itself Beitar “Trump” Jerusalem. But the club will first need to get approval from the Israel Football Association, and then it will have to worry about the fact that Trump’s name is trademarked in Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post reported.

The announcement came on the eve of the formal opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday. Trump said in December he was relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv, keeping a campaign promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The move has deeply angered Palestinians. Critics say it has threatened peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis and complicated the United States’ role as a broker in that conflict, as The Washington Post has reported.

But Israelis have enthusiastically welcomed the change — and Beitar Jerusalem is among them.

In a statement on Facebook, the soccer club said that the club’s owner, Eli Tabib, and executive manager, Eli Ohana, made the decision to change name of the club to honor Trump for his “courageous” decision.

For 70 years has Jerusalem been awaiting international recognition, until President Donald Trump, in a courageous move, recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel. President Trump has showed courage, and true love of the Israeli people and their capital, and these days other countries are following his lead in giving Jerusalem its rightful status. The football club Beitar Jerusalem, one of the most prominent symbols of the city, are happy to honor the President for his love and support with a gesture of our own.

A spokesperson for the Beitar Jerusalem and its head of marketing did not immediately respond to questions from The Washington Post.

Beitar Jerusalem, a six-time Israeli league champion, also holds the distinction as the only Israeli team to never sign an Arab player. Its fans are known for singing anti-Arab chants and being “extreme” nationalists. In 2012, Beitar fans stormed a mall after a soccer match while yelling “Death to Arabs” and beating up various Arab employees inside, according to the Jerusalem Post.

When the team signed two Muslim players from Chechnya in 2013, police suspected fans were responsible for a fire at the team’s offices in protest, the Atlantic reported. Prior to the Muslim players’ arrival, fans unfurled a banner that read “Beitar Pure Forever.”

Last August, the club was recognized for its efforts to try to quell the racist chanting and hostility at its games by establishing a forum to talk about racism and incitement, the Times of Israel reported.  But the very next month, an adviser was forced to resign after telling a newspaper he would never sign a Muslim player because of the 2013 incident.

[How Israeli soccer hooligans fanned flames of hate]

On Monday, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, among others, will attend an unveiling of the new embassy’s plaque in Jerusalem. President Trump will not be there.

Violent protests of the embassy’s new Jerusalem location are expected in Gaza and across the Palestinian territories, The Post has reported. While Monday commemorates the 70th anniversary of Israel’s 70th founding, Tuesday commemorates the 70th anniversary of Palestinians’ mass expulsions.

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