Palestinian nationalism has left the field: A shortened history of Arab soccer in Israel

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This article examines the historical development of Arab-Palestinian soccer under the British Mandate, and then afterward under the State of Israel. It strives to explain why the Arab sporting grandstands-particularly those of soccer-did not become a site for the construction and expression of Palestinian national pride in Israel. Arab Palestinian soccer in Mandatory Palestine, and later in the State of Israel, shows us the extent to which soccer has been defined by those social agents dealing with the shaping of meaning. This analysis deals with many decades of activity, but focuses mainly on two critical periods: the 1940s and the 1960s. Palestinian sports began to blossom in the 1940s following initiatives taken by sections of the Palestinian elite to promote a supra-religious particularistic Palestinian nationalism. It received a death blow after the war of 1948, at a critical stage of its development. In its reappearance after the creation of the State of Israel, Palestinian sports evolved under governmental supervision and control, while the "interpretative infrastructure" that had given it its nationalist meanings in the past disappeared as a result of the war. In the years to follow, political and economic developments held back the nationalist potential of Palestinian soccer, and the energies invested in it served to confirm the status quo rather than to challenge it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-437
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Middle East Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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