French football sensation Karim Benzema, who currently plays for Saudi club Al-Ittihad, is amid a growing controversy following a social media post expressing solidarity with the people of Gaza and condemning what he called “unjust bombings.”
In a statement posted on the social media platform ‘X’ last Sunday, the current FIFA Ballon D’Or holder, who was born in Lyon to parents of Algerian descent, voiced his concerns: “All our prayers for the inhabitants of Gaza who are once again victims of these unjust bombings which spare no women or children.”
Benzema’s post quickly gained significant attention, amassing over 558,000 likes, 180,000 retweets, and 60,000 comments.
However, the situation escalated when French Senator Valerie Boyer called for action against the football star. She demanded that the French government strip Benzema of his citizenship and urged the withdrawal of his Ballon d’Or accolade, which is awarded annually by the news magazine ‘French Football’ to the best men’s player of the year.
Boyer in a signed petition posted on her Instagram page, stated, “We cannot accept that a French dual national, internationally known, could dishonor and even betray our country in this way.”
The controversy took another turn when French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, in an interview with TV channel CNews, alleged that Benzema was “connected” to the Muslim Brotherhood. This allegation is significant as several countries, including France, consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
Meanwhile, former Israeli goalkeeper David “Dudu” Aouate, who has previously played for Spanish clubs Racing Santander, Deportivo, and Mallorca, responded to Benzema’s comments on Gaza with vehement insults in five languages, according to Marca newspaper reports.
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, which initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on October 7, has led to casualties and destruction. The conflict escalated following violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Israeli settler-Palestinian clashes.
On October 7, Hamas operatives crossed the border from Gaza into Israel, resulting in more than a thousand Israelis’ deaths, including soldiers and civilians. In response, Israel initiated airstrikes on Gaza, causing the loss of more than 3,000 civilian lives. Furthermore, on Tuesday, Israeli forces were accused of carrying out an attack on a hospital, which is believed to have resulted in the deaths of more than 500 people.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urgently called for an “immediate humanitarian cease-fire” to alleviate the ongoing suffering. So far, the Palestinian death toll exceeds 3,478, while more than 1,400 people have lost their lives in Israel.