Sarsak was invited after strong opposition to the invitation of Shalit, who has been paraded around the world as part of Israel’s public relations efforts.
“Hosting them together equates the oppressor with the oppressed,” said Iman Sourani in the video.
Addressing Sarsak, EI blogger Shahd Abusalama stated, “As you said Mahmoud, Shalit’s tool was his gun, while your tool was your football which could serve no harm. It is not possible to compare your case of abject injustice with that of an armed Zionist soldier… enforcing an illegal occupation.”
Several speakers commended Sarsak for refusing “normalization.”
“Thank you for taking this historic position which has made us all so proud,” added Hussein Amody.
Sarsak is viewed as a national hero among Palestinians. Arrested in 2009 on his way to play a match, he forced Israel to release him from three years of detention without charge or trial after a three-month hunger strike that brought him to the edge of death.
“I apologize to the fans and to the management of the club for not attending because of the invitation to Gilad Shalit,” Sarsak said in a Gaza press conference today.
“I announce my readiness to meet Barcelona or any other Spanish club outside of the context of a joint invitation with Gilad Shalit, inviting me as a Palestinian athlete who experienced… the suffering of a hunger strike for freedom and dignity,” the footballer added.
Palestine solidarity activists in Spain are campaigning against the invitation to Shalit. BDS Catalunya launched an online petition to FC Barcelona which as of today had gathered almost 1,800 signatures.
The video, dedicated to Sarsak and all “long -suffering Palestinian political prisoners” features Mohammed Abu Samra, Hanan Abu Nasser, Iman Sourani, Ahmed Saafi, Shahd Abusalama, Hussien Amody, Yousef Aljamal, Yamen Radwan and was filmed and edited by Hussien Amody.