This evening I’ll be watching the European Championship final, as will millions of other people. Had they qualified, Israel would have played in this tournament. Yes, that’s right – Israel is eligible for European competitions in sport and also ‘entertainment’. When you get your head around the racism inherent in such eligibility, you then have to try to comprehend how apartheid Israel is allowed into any international competition when it should be disqualified from all of them.
While Mahmoud Sarsak starved himself for 92 days, held without charge in administrative detention for three years, Israel could have been playing in the Euros. It is inconceivable that a state which holds a player of a national team without charge should be allowed to compete in an international tournament. Eventually FIFA called for his release but they still haven’t shown Israel the red card for their racism.
Indeed Olympic squad goalkeeper Omar Abu Rois and Ramallah player Mohammed Nimr are also being held by Israel without charge right now and three Palestinian prisoners are currently on hunger strike. Akram Rikhawi is into his 81st day without food and his health is of serious concern, Addameer reports on the prisoners’ situation here.
Now, this brutal and illegal treatment of Palestinian sports people should be enough to disqualify Israel from football competitions – add in the daily ethnic cleansing, occupation, apartheid, war crimes and the imprisonment of 1.7 million people in Gaza and you’re really looking at a whole lot of reasons to throw Israel out of sports events. But no, not only are they allowed to compete, but next year Israel is HOSTING the under 21 UEFA championships. If irony hadn’t already killed me multiple times, this would really do it.
Last week a delegation of UK lawyers, backed by the foreign office, reported that Israel is subjecting Palestinian children to ‘spiral of injustice’, that it is in violation of the UN conventions on the rights of the child in at least six ways. The report describes how Palestinian children are held illegally, denied access to lawyers, shackled, held in solitary confinement and physically and verbally abused. It also outlines the differences in treatment of Israeli and Palestinian children, so stark that the only conclusion to come to is: apartheid.
So, this state that routinely abuses Palestinian children and has murdered thousands of them, is to be entrusted with hosting the under 21 UEFA championships? This is shameful and outrageous and must be campaigned against, sign the petition here.
Meantime in Dublin in Goals for Gaza, people were playing football to fundraise for the Al Huda Kindergarten in Beit Lahia, which, along with the Al Salam Sports Club, was bombed by Israel last August. That is solidarity, that is building bridges – not a sports competition hosted by an apartheid state that locks up football players without charge and won’t allow Palestinians to attend matches.
As Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoubb said: “For athletes in Palestine, there is no real freedom of movement and the risks of being detained or even killed are always looming before their eyes”.
The children and youth of Gaza won’t be able to attend this competition, nor will they be allowed to participate in it (Israel is European and Palestine is Middle Eastern – orientalism writ large). Dr. Adnan Al Wahaidi, Medical Director of Ard El Ensan, a Gaza organization that treats children suffering from malnutrition spoke of his fears for the children there, his “personal concern is that a child who is growing up in these devastating conditions, is no longer able to be mentally, physically and educationally sound” and that he fears for “more sickness and an entire disabled generation.”
While decent human beings who care about their Palestinian sisters and brothers know that Israel must be boycotted, UEFA is rewarding their criminality and bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers are boasting about visiting Tel Aviv. (Facebook page and petition)
Israel is disqualified from humanity because of its treatment of the Palestinian people – it should be disqualified from the under 21 championship and all international competitions. Apartheid must be resisted, there must be justice and equality for all. BDS apartheid until it ends, boycott, boycott, boycott.