“There can be no normal sport
in an abnormal society”.
Hamilton, New Zealand 1981. Struggle against the South African Apartheid.
Racism and apartheid in Israel’s sports:
The case of Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Sakhnin, Anti-Arab league, Survey
Israeli politics and Sports:
Patriot games, Maccabi and Sayeret Matkal share the same spirit, Ranking the “sports ambassadors” of Israel
Palestinian football in the Occupied Territories:
Palestine national football team, Restrictions of movement, Arrests and killings, Women’s Football team, Joint hotline and sleeping quarters, FIFA’s Task Force Israel-Palestine
Sport boycott movement of South Africa apartheid
Racism and apartheid in Israel’s sports:
The case of Beitar Jerusalem and Bnei Sakhnin
Beitar football club was founded in 1936 by a nationalist youth movement affiliated with what is now the Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is the only leading soccer team in the country never to have signed an Arab player since its founding until 2013, because of fan pressure. Arab players have starred on other premier league clubs and on Israel’s national squad. The club’s owner is Arkadi Gaydamak, the controversial Russian-born billionaire with political ambitions. He also gives money to keep Bnei Sakhnin afloat.
Bnei Sakhnin was formed in 1996 and is the team of the “20”: Israel’s Arab Muslims that make up 20 per cent of the population. The small, 25,000-strong town of Sakhnin lies in the northern Galilee region where the Arab population is centered. Unemployment and poverty are worse here than in the rest of the country – a product, many Arab Israelis say, of a latent anti-Muslim racism. For many Israeli Arabs, Bnei Sakhnin is one of the only symbols of Arab Israeli identity. Sakhnin fans see themselves as marginalized outsiders disliked by their fellow countrymen, not to mention their Arab neighbors who view them with suspicion for not going into “noble exile”.
Beitar fans see themselves as the true sons of Israel, and consider Israel’s “20” an aberration, as fifth columnists. Israel’s Arabs, after all, are the most visible example of the oft-quoted demographic time-bomb. The 20 will soon be the 22; the sector is growing at a faster rate than Israel’s Jewish population.
“The rivalry is clearly based on the Arab-Israeli conflict,” explains Jeremy Last, sports editor for the Jerusalem Post. “Beitar is a club whose fans have always had strong links to right-wing political groups and who have a deep distrust, and in some cases hatred, of the Arabs. Sakhnin is the one Arab club which has had success in recent years, and their prominence in Israeli football has fuelled the rivalry.”
One man intimately acquainted with the rivalry is Abbas Suan. Suan was Sakhnin’s talisman and captain until 2006, and led the team to victory through its most successful period. He came to worldwide prominence after scoring the late, late equalising goal against Ireland in the qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup. The goal briefly kept alive Israel’s chances, transforming him overnight to a hero for the whole country. It even got him a nomination as a Time “Man of the Year”. He came to earth with a bump a week later when Sakhnin travelled to Beitar for the next league match. The fans unfurled a banner that proclaimed “Suan, you are not one of us” before singing that they “hoped he would die of cancer soon”. After one derby, he was attacked.
Oddly, Suan almost signed for Beitar in 2006. The club’s owner, Arkadi Gaydamak, sounded out Suan about a move to the Teddy. When the fans heard of this treachery, there were demonstrations and riots. Unsurprisingly, the move fell through and he went to Maccabi Haifa instead.
On 2008 writer James Montague, who spent three years studying Middle East Soccer, writes:
“Beitar Jerusalem … more than any other club in Israel, they possess a large hard core of violent, Arab-hating, right-wing supporters. They are Israel’s most populist club, have strong links to the Likud party and can count the likes of Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Binyamin Netanyahu as staunch fans. It is said that any politician who can win over Beitar’s notorious fans can win a million votes – quite a prize in a country of only seven million”.
On January 26, 2013, at a Premier League game, Beitar Jerusalem supporters held a banner reading “Beitar will always remain pure” protesting against its owner’s intention Russian-born Russian-Israeli oligarch billionaire Arkady Gaydamak to have two Muslim Chechen players join, Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev, from Russian premier league club Terek Grozny, later in the week. A Muslim player, Nigerian defender Ibrahim Nadalla, was on the team briefly in 2005 but left after experiencing consistent hostility from its supporters. Some critics say these actions evoke the banning of Jews from German sports clubs by the Nazis.
The signing of the two Chechen players triggered an outburst of violent protest from the club’s hard-core followers. A group of fans later jeered the Muslim newcomers at a team practice, and on other occasion, arsonists torched the Beitar offices. In March 2012, a crowd of Beitar fans emerging from a game surged through a mall near the stadium, chanting “Death to Arabs!” and beating Arab employees.
On the game in February 2013, when Muslim Dzhabrail Kadiev, would take the field for the first time inside the stadium, the Beitar management had put up a large banner that said: “Violence and racism? Not on our field.” With 10 minutes left to play, Dzhabrail Kadiev, took the field for the first time for Beitar Jerusalem. A chorus of catcalls went up from the stands, quickly drowned out by a welcoming ovation, yet every kick of the ball by the newly signed player was met with jeers and whistles.
“We’re a nationalist club,” said Lior Cohen, a student who wore Beitar’s colors of yellow and black. “Arab Muslims have been trying to kill us for a hundred years, and we’ve gone through plenty of terror attacks. When I cheer my team I don’t want to see someone who represents the other side. Next year they’ll bring an Arab.” “Beitar Jerusalem,” Cohen added, “is not just soccer. We have our ideology and we fight for our principles.” Mai Mitrani, 15, had a similar view. “Beitar has its own special character,” she said. “It represents our identity, which is solely Jewish.”
“Imagine, just imagine what would have happened if (soccer) clubs in England and Germany had announced that a Jew cannot join their teams. We, the Jewish people, who should lead the fight against racism and fascism; we, who will bear the scars of these phenomena on our bodies for generations to come, cannot and must not stay silent in the face of these calls,” Israeli Knesset speaker and a senior ruling Likud member, Reuven Rivlin said on Sunday during an event marking international Holocaust Day in Tel Aviv.
Itzik Kornfein, Beitar’s general manager told Israel Radio that he had been battling fan racism for years, and that these events “have broader implications for Israeli society, and for the way we look to the outside world.” Eli Abarbanel, a deputy state prosecutor and a Beitar fan, said in a separate radio interview that many cases of racist speech he had encountered in his work showed that racism was “unfortunately a broad phenomenon in the Israeli public” and that “soccer is the symptom.” There are raising concerns that the diehard Beitar fans, with their trademark racist taunts and anti-Arab chants, reflect attitudes more prevalent than commonly acknowledged about racism in Israeli society.
From 1976 to 1986 Beitar Jerusalem’s fans had shown “wanton racism”. The Israel Football Association (IFA) said it would take disciplinary action against the club. In a ruling against the team in 2012, an IFA court said that Beitar Jerusalem “had not made an honest effort to combat fans’ racist chants”. There have been calls on the IFA to take firm action against the club. In 2013 Beitar Jerusalem was in fourth place in the Premier League, a position that could earn it a place in European club play next season.
Bnei Yehuda, the Beitar of Tel Aviv
Bnei Yehuda is the Beitar of Tel Aviv: their supporters are largely of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) descent, vote Likud and are avowedly nationalistic. They have grasped a nettle that Beitar fans refuse to. “We didn’t have any Arabs play for us until four years ago , and the one we signed wasn’t very good,” explains Avi, a member of Bnei Yehuda’s Parliament fan group. “As long as he’s good, we don’t care now. Beitar hate the Arabs, but we are a little more realistic. After all, if someone comes and f***s me in the a***, it hurts, sure. But the second time he does it, it doesn’t hurt so much. We’ve had an Arab [Muslim] player once, next time it’ll hurt a little bit less.”
Every week, 50 observers from New Israel Fund, an über-liberal institution for promoting democratic values, go to the premier league grounds and file reports on racist chanting. All those chants are calculated by a complicated mathematical equation based on the severity of the events, their length and the number of fans taking part; they end up negative points published in a league table.
Anti-Arab chants are the most common. In the stands of Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem the fans of Beitar, can be heard singing songs about the prophet Mohamed that can’t be quoted without the risk of causing another international crisis, and songs championing Yigal Amir, murderer of dovish Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
The Beitar fans are the most politicised and follow the team in relatively big numbers, but almost every ground is subjected to fans glorifying Dr Baruch Goldstein (a Jewish terrorist who massacred 29 Palestinians in Hebron), monkey chants at black players and the cries of “terrorist” towards Israeli-Arab players, even if they are part of Israel’s national team.
Only one team’s fans avoid the nationalistic chants. Hapoel Tel Aviv was formed by the main trade union body and their fans still boast a socialist image (although the team is owned by a Russia-born oligarch). Instead, their preferred field is the Holocaust and pet hates are Maccabi Tel Aviv and Beitar fans. “May a Holocaust come upon Maccabi” is their song of choice. Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv’s shambolic performance in a Europa League tie against Stoke in 2012 was accompanied by their fans’ anti-Arab chants, including “may your village burn” and “let the Israeli army win”.
The racism index is regarded as no more than a pathetic joke by racists and many liberals alike. It’s not clear what constitutes racism and chants such as “make us coffee” towards Sakhnin fans, or songs about unemployment directed at fans from poor regions, are also taken into account as well as any attempt at wit or harmless hostility. For the ultràs, making the top of the index is a badge of honor – every week fans’ websites call for greater effort. Others are raising topics that can only be found in Israel, such as justifying anti-Arab racism by claiming it is a response to Arab fans chanting Allahu akbar (God is great).
“Israeli fans – Who is really the country’s team? [21/03/2012]
The study was conducted by Dr. Avichai Shuv-Ami, head of marketing and publicity at the Business School of the College of Management on the basis of a survey featured 1,350 fans. Maximum margin of error is 2.7 percent.
Who is the country’s team? The first groups is Maccabi Haifa (28 percent) of football fans dream of green because of outgoing state champions in recent years, which is a symbol of excellence in the sport. The second group is the most popular Maccabi Tel Aviv (23 per cent), followed by face Beitar Jerusalem (19 percent) and Hapoel Tel Aviv (19 per cent).
Israeli politics and Sports:
In 2012, with general elections expected next year, there had been a deluge of law proposals by Knesset members designed to limit the freedom and integrity of the Supreme Court, press, human rights organizations and top non-Jewish footballers. Knesset member Michael Ben Ari of the right-wing National Union Party proposed that all members of the Israeli national team will have to sing the national anthem HaTikva and sign a declaration of loyalty to the state, its symbols, and its Jewish and democratic values. “This proposal was born in response to the large numbers of talented players from minorities and those who don’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state but take part in international competition and represent Israel,” he said. “It is unacceptable that such players won’t sing the national anthem.”
A storm broke immediately. “It is a populist proposal,” said a spokesman for the Israeli football association. “It is not the duty of the Knesset to pass laws regarding football – that is the role of UEFA and FIFA.” Leading Israeli Arab players joined in the criticism. “It is an unnecessary proposal,” said Celtic midfielder Beram Kayal. Marwan Kabha, of Maccabi Petah Tikva and the Under-21 national team said: “Arab players give their all to the national team and score crucial goals. They play their hearts out just like the Jewish players.” Another Arab player in the domestic league commented anonymously in a website interview: “Arab and Muslim players will not sing this anthem until it changes and mentions our values. If necessary we will not play for the national team.”
For all its faults and weaknesses, Israeli football is still meritocratic. Talented players can progress to the best teams and the national side irrespective of their backgrounds. Since Rifaat Turk, an Arab from Jaffa, led the way and played for Israel in the 1976 Olympics, non-Jewish players have been a constant presence in the national squad.
Muslims and Christian Arab players have been joined by other players from various communities and sects, including Druze, Circassians and Bedouin, as well as immigrants from countries including Argentina and Nigeria. At a recent youth international against Belarus, Israel had seven Arab players. Maccabi Haifa, the leading Israeli club over the last 30 years, has often fielded more Arab and foreign players than Jewish Israelis. In many cases, scouts from the Israeli football association have unearthed Arab players in small lower league teams and launched their careers.
The issue reflects the complexities of Israeli society. Wiyam Amashe, Maccabi Haifa’s leading goal scorer, is a Druze from the Golan Heights, which previously belonged to Syria. The Druze population there is still loyal to Syria. Amashe refuses to take an Israeli passport and so cannot play for the national team. In contrast, his team-mate Sari Falah, a Druze from Galilee, is a soldier in the Israeli army.
Ben Ari received the publicity he was looking for and has been widely supported by website commenters. Even if his proposal does not pass this time, the ground has been laid for another try later. But Israel needs its top non-Jewish players as one of the last shreds of normality. In 2013, when Beitar funs rioted against the joining of Muslim players in the team, Netanyahu said at the weekly meeting of his cabinet, hours before the game: “The last thing we want, and which we absolutely reject, is violence, racism and boycotts. They must be uprooted from the public sphere, and, of course, from the world of sports.”
Maccabi and Sayeret Matkal share the same spirit
When Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to Israel after winning the Euro league championship in May 2014, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hosted an evening for the members at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
When Maccabi Tel Aviv Chairman Shimon Mizrahi took the stand he said: “I think that in what you said there are also things relevant to policy, i.e. the power of patience and tolerance, persistence, dedication and team spirit, which is the fighting spirit in units that you are familiar with and, to our sorrow, your late brother as well [He is referring to the elite Israeli army commando unit Sayeret Matkal]. Like you said, we don’t have here stars like we once had. We have David and Guy’s team, and the assistant coaches and the trainers and also Alon Stein, who forged a small fighting unit. They express the spirit of the team. I recall what the late President Chaim Herzog said, that Maccabi is the State of Israel’s best ambassador. We try to do this and will continue to do so and you will continue to lead us for many years to come,” said Mizrahi.
When the then coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv David Blatt spoke, he said, among other that “Part of our mission at Maccabi is to represent the nation”. Perhaps this is exactly what he was doing in the first days of August 2014, when, asked about the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip he replied “I absolutely support it”. Surprisingly enough the same person when asked back in 2013 about politics, he replied “Politics? No.” But then added that he had represented Israel as an individual and as a personality through high coaching positions in Russia, Turkey, Greece and Italy and he could see himself working in some capacity in the diplomatic field.
Furthermore, it should be noted that both Macabi Tel Aviv and Macabi Haifa are affiliated with the Jewish Agency and the United Israel Appeal through their “social work” partners, E4E, Appleseeds and Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey, respectively. As stated in United Israel Appeal’s website, “it has been at the forefront of Israel’s growth and progress. Its history has been inextricably intertwined with that of the State of Israel and the Zionist movement”.
In 2014 Maccabi Haifa will be hosted by four NBA teams for a North American tour from 15 to 22 October. During the NBA preseason tour, Maccabi Haifa will hold charity basketball clinics for children in each city through it’s charity program, “Haifa Hoops for Kids”, a joint initiative with the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey.
During the British Mandate period, the Israeli Football Association representative team competed under the title of Eretz Israel/Palestine, operating as a virtually all-Jewish combination. During this period Jewish teams took international tours in order to promote both football in Mandatory Palestine and the Zionist cause. Such tours include Maccabi Haifa tour of the USA in 1927, Maccabi Eretz Israel tour of Australia in 1939 and Hapoel Tel Aviv tour of the USA in 1947. In return, many internationally famed clubs visited Mandatory Palestine and played Jewish and British clubs.
Ranking the “sports ambassadors” of Israel
Israel 78th in FIFA Ranking position Last Updated 08 May 2014
Israel 68th in FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking Updated 14 August 2014
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv BC
Euroleague Winners (6): 1977, 1981, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2014
Intercontinental Cup Winners (1): 1980
Maccabi Haifa FC
UEFA Europa League Group stage (2): 2011–12, 2013-14
UEFA Champions League Group stage (2): 2002–03, 2009–10
UEFA Cup Round of 16 (1): 2006–07
UEFA Cup Winners Cup Quarter Finalists (1): 1998–99 Round of 16 (1): 1993–94
UEFA Intertoto Cup Winners (1): 1985
Maccabi Tel Aviv FC 96th UEFA ranking 2014 in
Rugby – Israel ranked 46th as of 23 April 2014 IRB World Rankings.
Israeli National Ice Hockey Team 39th as of 2013 by the International Ice Hockey Federation.
(Sources: one, wsc, wiki, alarabiya, wp, thejc, wsc2, motaded, wsc3, mundodeportivo, haaretz, maccabi-tlv, uja, jewishpress)
Palestinian football in the Occupied Territories
Palestine national football team
The Palestine national football team represents the country in international football. A football federation in Mandatory Palestine was founded in 1928. However, a team for a future Arab state to be called Palestine was first recognized by FIFA in 1998, after the creation of the Palestinian National Authority. Following their recognition by FIFA, the team played no official fixtures in the Palestinian territories due to Israeli security concerns until a match on 26 October 2008 against Jordan in the newly renovated Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium in Al-Ram north of Jerusalem, which finished in a 1–1 draw. Palestine has not yet qualified for the World Cup, but did qualify for the Asian Cup in May 2014. The team reached an all-time high position of 94th in the FIFA ranking in June 2014 after winning the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup. The previous high the team reached on FIFA ranking was in April 2006 when they were ranked at 115th place. In recognition of their efforts the Palestinian Football Federation was awarded FIFA’s inaugural Development Award.
Restrictions of movement
Because of travel restrictions placed by Israel upon people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the difficulty in obtaining an exit visa from Israel, many players in the team are drawn from the Palestinian diaspora, from as far away as Chile and the USA. Because of Israeli security restrictions, members of the Palestinian national team are often unable to travel between the West Bank and Gaza for matches. Foreign players and officials have also encountered problems in entering the separate Palestinian territories.
In 2006 (the last match of 2007 AFC Asian Cup qualification group stage is scheduled), all players based inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip were denied exit visas. The AFC cancelled the match since both teams had been eliminated from the competition by virtue of their previous results against China and Iraq. A film, Goal Dreams, was made about the team attempting to overcome obstacles in the qualification for the 2006 World Cup, who were also featured on the BBC documentary series Frontline Football.
In 2007, the second leg of a crucial 2010 World Cup qualifier between Palestine and Singapore was not played because Israel denied exit permits to 18 players and officials from Gaza and they failed to field a full team. The AFC and FIFA decided not to reschedule the match despite protests from the PFA, and Singapore was awarded a 3–0 win in a walkover match.
In May 2008, the team was not allowed to travel to the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup.
After a 2011 World Cup qualifier against Thailand, two starters, Mohammed Samara and Majed Abusidu, were refused entry to the West Bank and therefore could not travel back with the team from Thailand.
Arrests and killings
In 2008-2009, during the Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009) Tariq al Quto was killed by the IDF and three Palestinian footballers Ayman Alikurd, Shadi Shbakhe and Wajeh Moshtahe were among the Palestinian casualties. Striker Ziyad Al-Kord was banned from traveling and had his house destroyed.
In July 2009, Mahmoud Sarsak was administratively detained by Israel as an alleged member of Islamic Jihad. Following a hunger strike and international pressure he was released in July 2012.
In 2012, Olympic Team goalkeeper Omar Abu Rois, 23, was arrested by Israeli security forces. Ahmad Khalil Ali Abu El-Asal, a player for the Aqabat Jaber Palestinian refugee camp soccer team, was detained the day after.
Palestine Football Association (PFA) president Jibril Rajoub, a former Palestinian security chief, in a letter to world soccer body FIFA president Sepp Blatter copied to Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Zhang Jilong and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacque Rogue, said Mr. Abu Rois was arrested on February 20 and Mr. El-Asal on February 21 in what he described as “another Israeli transgression against Palestinian players.” Mr. Rajoub said the two players had been “abducted” by Israeli occupation authorities. The Palestinian soccer boss asked Mr. Blatter to intervene on behalf of the two players, charging that it “was in total disregard of all agreements signed by the Israeli side and in direct violation to the simplest right of our players.” In an emailed response, FIFA official Guy-Phillipe Mathieu said FIFA would take “adequate steps.”
In April of 2014 Samah Fares Muhamed Marava was arrested after returning with his team from training in Qatar. The Shin Bet accused Marava of exploiting his status as a Palestinian football player to act as a courier for Hamas.
In the summer of 2014, during the recent Israeli war on Gaza, Ahed Zaqqut, a 49-year old Palestinian soccer legend, who once played a French team captained by European football governing body UEFA president Michel Platini, died when his home in Gaza was bombarded. Days after, soccer players Ahmed Mohammed al Qatar and Udai Jaber’s were shot dead by Israeli forces in the West Bank during a protest against the war in Gaza.
Women’s Football team
In 1994 some athletes set up a female football team for the first time in Palestinian history in the city of Jericho. The sport movement had started to come back to life in 1994, supported by the Palestinian National Authority but the idea did not receive adequate attention or support because it was novel and froze. In 1996 there are reports for the first football team for women in Gaza. Palestinian journalist Nelly Ismail Yassin Almasry, the daughter of Ismail Almasry, the Football Coach of the National Football Team in Gaza and a sport journalist joined the team in 1996 when she was a student.
She said back in 2009 : “Football is considered by many in Gaza as an unusual field for women, but strangely enough, most of the members of the Gaza women’s soccer team came from conservative Palestinian families, the majority of the members lived in the refugee camps, but still they have proved that they are able to commit themselves to this sport in a way that changed the society’s perception of women football players, and accept the idea to a point that the players started to receive support from the International Federation and the Arab federation, besides the FIFA and other unions.”
The Arab and International Federation of Football encouraged activating the Arab women’s football teams by allocating 10% of its financial support to the union to support the Palestinian women’s football teams.
The Palestinian union adopted the idea of forming a female soccer team and this decision was formally adopted by the International Football Federation. The nucleus of the team started forming at Bethlehem. At the same time another team was forming in the Directorate of Youth and Sports, the two teams were merged into one sponsored team, supervised and trained by Bethlehem University. In 2003 was established the first Palestinian all women’s football team. The Gaza women’s soccer team faced many obstacles: limited resources, absence of properly built stadiums, absence of security and the continuous closures of checkpoints by the Israeli occupation forces thus hindering them from practicing or travelling to play against other teams, even though the team wanted badly to represent Palestine on an international, level they were deprived of this dream as they were of many other dreams.
The Palestinian women’s football team participated for the first time ever in a tournament held in Jordan 2004 along with 10 other Arab women’s teams. The Palestinian team was formed from a number of players from the teams of Ramallah, the Evangelical Friends, Gaza, and Saryeat Ramallah group. The created team participated again in another event held in April 2005 in Jordan. The following participation was in the 2005 West Asia Championship for Women’s Football in Jordan ( 23th of September – 1st of October), during which the Palestinian team played against Jordan, Syria, Iran and Bahrain. From 14-28 April 2006 the Gaza team participated in the Arab Championship for women’s soccer in Alexandria, Egypt, playing against Syria, Tunisia and Egypt. Unfortunately all forms of sports in Gaza now are totally paralyzed [refers to 2009, still true in 2014].
Journalist Iqbal Tamimi says Israel’s policies are aimed at killing any hope of Palestinians participating in any sport where they can represent their country on international level.
Joint hotline and sleeping quarters
In 2011 Palestine Football Association (PFA) president Jibril Rajoub -a former Palestinian security chief who also heads the Palestinian Olympic Committee– reached an agreement with his counterparts at the Israeli soccer association and Olympic committee on ways to overcome Israeli security obstacles facing Palestinian players and athletes. They agreed to set up a telephone hotline so that Israeli sports bodies could intervene to ease the movement of Palestinian athletes, coaches, and officials if and when they encountered problems at checkpoints or in requests to travel. The effort has so far produced limited results. Palestinian officials say that FIFA shipments are often still delayed at Ben Gurion Airport customs, which incurs storage and other costs that can amount to a multi-fold of the value of the goods shipped.
Though Mr. Rajoub as well as other soccer officials and players conceded that crossing checkpoints had become somewhat easier, another revealing reality is that the PFA has created sleeping quarters in the Faisal Hussein Stadium so that players can get together to train without worrying whether they will be able to return home. The easing of travel also has meant that the Palestinian team had been able to host and travel for Olympic and World Cup qualifiers even though it failed to qualify for the London Olympics.
FIFA’s Task Force Israel-Palestine
In May 2013 at the FIFA Congress in Mauritius, Jibril Rajoub, the president of the Palestine Football Association, argued at the event for sanctions against Israel. Later, he called the travel restrictions a “siege on Palestinian sport.”
The same year, more than 60 prominent European players, including Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Arsenal’s Abou Diaby and Paris Saint-Germain’s Jeremy Menez, protested against Israel’s hosting of the UEFA Under-21 championship. They warned that it would be “seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values… We, as European football players, express our solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom,” the players said in a statement.
In July 2013 FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter said Israel has promised to help solve one of Palestinian football’s biggest problems: Travelling in and out of the Palestinian territories. After meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, Blatter said the Palestinian travel problem was “of national interest” to Israel and Netanyahu agreed to help solve it. “I have asked the prime minister to help me and to help football to try to solve this problem and he said, ‘Yes, I will help you,”‘ Blatter said in a media conference. Neither he nor Netanyahu provided any details on potential Israeli government plans to solve the problem. The meeting between Blatter and Netanyahu also underlined the political value of football. Netanyahu defended the Israeli bombing of a football stadium in Gaza City during Israel’s incursion into Gaza last year, displaying posters of images he said showed the stadium being used to launch rockets at Israel from a civilian neighborhood. Blatter said that while Netanyahu had offered to help, he has requested “that football shall not be used as a leverage of any other activities than football, especially not political movements.”
Blatter said he intends to create a taskforce to find a solution to the travel problem. He suggested Rajoub and Israeli Football Association chief Avi Luzon, along with the heads of football’s European and Asian governing bodies, meet before the next FIFA executive committee meeting in October 2013. He also cautioned that FIFA could not overcome political deadlock. “There are some constraints that we, FIFA, cannot open. We need the help of the authorities,” Blatter said.
However, Israeli Football Association chief Avi Luzon denied there was any problem. He said government data showed that all of the Palestinians’ travel requests for 2013 had been approved. “If they have some claim, I don’t know what it is about,” Luzon said.
In September 2013 the FIFA’s Task Force Israel-Palestine held its first meeting.
Proposals were made. Both associations agreed on the principle of a mechanism under the umbrella of FIFA, including the appointment of two liaison officers between the two federations to the relevant authorities on each side, who shall report to FIFA in order to facilitate the movement of persons and goods. FIFA confirmed that it will act as the intermediary body between the PFA and the IFA in any future challenges facing Palestinian football, in close cooperation with the AFC and UEFA. Furthermore, it was decided that the IFA and the PFA will meet to agree on a memorandum of understanding between both associations to facilitate the movement of persons and goods for football purposes in and out of and within Palestine. This meeting will be staged in Jordan. The signing of the memorandum of understanding was due to the 2014 FIFA Congress.
In February 2014, during the meeting for an evaluation session of the Task Force Israel-Palestine, both associations provided progress reports and agreed on the fact that the new mechanism had improved communication between them while accelerating the decision-making process concerning the movement of football representatives. The commission is scheduled to report back to the FIFA executive committee in December 2014.
Israeli restrictions on travel out of the West Bank and between the West Bank and Gaza appear to have become more stringent since the Gaza war. Israel has barred thousands of Palestinians in recent weeks from leaving the West Bank.
Rajoub, widely believed to be positioning himself as a candidate in Palestinian presidential elections, has stopped short in recent interviews of reviving his call for FIFA suspension of Israeli membership. “We need to try to develop and invest in football in Palestine, despite the difficulties we face… We believe football should remain a tool to build bridges between people. Personally, I’ve been very saddened by the loss of Palestinian life in the conflict,” he said.
In August 11th 2014, Red Card Israeli Racism appealed to UEFA to exclude (West) Jerusalem from hosting EURO 2020. The decision on venues for the 13th EURO 2020 will be taken on 19 September 2014. The letter of the appeal had this Information Sheet attached.
The RCIR is also petitioning FIFA to SUSPEND the Israeli Football Association’s membership, gathering signatories for the appeal through Change.org. So far 17,057 people have signed, 2,943 are still needed.
(Sources: palthinktank, hurriyet, cbc, fifa, fifa2, fifa3, huffingtonpost)
Sports boycott movement of South Africa apartheid
“There can be no normal sport in an abnormal society”.
As more African countries gained independence from their erstwhile colonial masters in the 1960s, the pressure increased dramatically both internally and externally against the racist sports policies of the South African government. The main form of resistance used was an international sports boycott, which became a rallying point for anti-apartheid activists worldwide. Internally, the protest consisted of demonstrations and the refusal to have any contact with those involved in racist sport. Together, these measures comprised the sports struggle. In an interview, former South African Council on Sport (SACOS) president Joe Ebrahim acknowledges the role the sports boycott had in finally ridding the country of apartheid:
“I don’t think one can place sport in such a high category as to say that it was instrumental in bringing about change, but I think what it did, it focused people’s attention on the fact that we couldn’t live almost a dual life in terms of which in everyday society we were denied basic rights, we were denied the opportunity to exercise our universal rights and then go and play sport as if it was a normal world”.
1961 – South Africa was suspended from football’s world body FIFA. The suspension was lifted after a visit to the country by the English president of FIFA and South African football officials suggested they send an all-white team to the 1966 World Cup in England, and an all-black one to Mexico four years later. This idea was rejected and the suspension re-imposed.
1964 – South Africa was banned from Olympic competition of the Tokyo Games.
1968 – The UN General Assembly decided to call upon all States and organizations to suspend sporting exchanges with South African bodies which practice apartheid. The UN Special Committee against Apartheid began actively to promote the sports boycott all over the world. Action by anti-apartheid groups, Afro-Asian countries and the United Nations dealt severe defeats to apartheid sport. Apartheid became a major public issue in countries with which South Africa sought sports exchanges.
1969 – A rugby tour of Britain in SA proved a disaster because of public demonstrations;
1970 – South Africa was formally expelled from the International Olympic Committee. SA was banned from the International Cricket Council. The British Government was obliged to prevent a cricket tour when Afro-Asian countries threatened to boycott the Commonwealth Games.
1971 – In Australia Massive demonstrations greeted the South African rugby tour. The South African team had to be transported in Australian Air Force planes because of trade union action. More than 700 demonstrators were arrested and many were injured because of police brutality. The State of Queensland declared a state of emergency during the tour, provoking a general strike by the trade unions. The Labour Party Government announced a boycott of apartheid sport.
While tours of South African teams in other countries could be disrupted by public action, it was much more difficult to prevent sports administrators in other countries from organizing tours to South Africa. To overcome the boycotts, South Africa began to send teams abroad with no advance publicity and to spend millions of rand to entice sportsmen and teams from abroad to play in South Africa. It announced “concessions” from time to time, none of which satisfied the Olympic principle of non-discrimination, but were meant to deceive the gullible.
1973 – The South African Council on Sport (SACOS) is established as a non-racial sports federation. Uncompromising on apartheid, it played a crucial role as a partner of South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC) in reinforcing the international boycott. Leaders of SACOS suffered persecution but refused to be intimidated. The passport of M. N. Pather was seized when he was preparing to go to New York for consultations at the invitation of the United Nations. The passport of Morgan Naidoo, President of the SA Amateur Swimming Federation, was withdrawn in 1973 to prevent him from attending the meeting of the International Swimming Federation; and he was banned after the apartheid swimming body was expelled by ISF. Sam Ramsamy – a sportsman, administrator and college lecturer in physical education from Durban – a founding member of SACOS, he joined SAN-ROC, linking internal and external resistance, became chairman of SAN-ROC in 1976 and executive chairman in 1978. He accepted an inviation in 1978 to work for three months as a consultant to the United Nations. While performing this assignment, he was able to establish contact with United Nations bodies and many governments. He proved to be ideally suited to lead the campaign in the new stage. A tireless campaigner, he was adept at bringing people together to work as a team. He established excellent relations with African, Indian, Caribbean and other sports federations, and secured recognition for SACOS from the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa. He maintained close contact with anti-apartheid groups around the world. He also developed personal contacts with many sports editors – and South African correspondents in London – so that the boycott received great attention. Above all, he was in constant consultation with colleagues in South Africa and secured close cooperation between SAN-ROC and the ANC leadership in exile.
1974 – New Zealand. A proposed rugby tour was also aborted because of public opposition and a threat by India and African countries to boycott the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch in 1974.
1976 – FIFA expelled the white Football Association of South Africa , after the Soweto massacre, when police shot and killed unarmed school pupils protesting the use of Afrikaans in schools. Soon after, the New Zealand Rugby Federation toured South Africa. The New Zealand Olympic Committee declined even to express regret. Tanzania led 22 African countries in a boycott of the Montreal Olympics because of the presence of New Zealand.
Concerned about possible disruption of Commonwealth Games, the white Commonwealth countries agreed to the “Gleneagles Agreement” of 1977 to discourage competition with South African teams;
1978 – Sports ministers of the Council of Europe adopt a similar declaration. There was thus the beginning of action at a governmental level in Western countries and of “third party boycott” (of teams and countries collaborating with apartheid sport). A United Nations committee began to draft an international convention against apartheid sport which would provide for action against those continuing to play with South Africa. Its task proved extremely difficult. Many governments which supported boycott of apartheid sport were concerned that the “third party boycott” might disrupt international sport.
1979 – Greece. The Greek government banned South Africa from the Golf World Cup competition in Athens.
1980 – The UN Special Committee against Apartheid initiated a “Register of Sports Contacts with South Africa”, listing all sportsmen who participated in events in South Africa. Though the United Nations did not recommend specific action against these violators of the boycott, several governments prohibited them from entering or playing in their countries. Those who profited from apartheid, and showed contempt for the majority of the South African people, they said, would not be allowed to make money in their countries. Sam Ramsamy publicized the UN Registers, contacted many government and sports bodies to secure action against collaborators and persuaded scores of listed sportsmen to undertake not to play in South Africa again. The Special Committee also decided, on the suggestion of Sam, to commend sportsmen, sports administrators and others who made significant contributions to the boycott of apartheid sports. Most of the citations were, in fact, given on his recommendation. As revulsion against apartheid spread around the world, more countries began to take action against those on the Registers. Hundreds of city councils and local authorities in Britain and other Western countries denied them use of their sports facilities.
1981 – Focus on HART New Zealand
In 1969 the Halt All Racist Tours movement (HART) New Zealand is formed to oppose the 1970 tour of South Africa by the New Zealand national Rugby team, the All Backs. HART became New Zealand’s main anti-apartheid organization. It worked to end all sporting ties between NZ and SA. In 1980 HART merged with the National Anti-Apartheid Committee, becoming HART: the New Zealand Anti-Apartheid Movement. HART:NZAAM opposed all contact with apartheid South Africa, advocating the political, economic, social and cultural isolation of the regime. In the 1980’s HART also took a stand against racism in New Zealand. That year, 1980, New Zealand again attempted to bring the Springboks to New Zealand.
In 1981 protest against the tour of the South Africa rugby team, the Springboks, in New Zealand resulted in massive protests across the country.
The Springboks arrived on July 19, 1981. Though they were officially welcomed by the New Zealand government, there was a sense of dread and anticipation that surrounded their arrival – perhaps, some thought, the 1981 tour should have been cancelled like the tour in 1972 was. The government officials could not anticipate, however, that the country was about to fall into “near-civil war.” The Springboks played their first game on July 22 in Gisborne. An anti-Springbok rally took place that day, near the rugby pitch. When the campaigners arrived at the arena, they were confronted by pro-rugby demonstrators. The anti-Springbok protesters could not stop the match that day. On July 25, the Springboks were scheduled to play in Hamilton. Anti-Springbok planners had circulated a strategy that would hopefully allow them to tear down the fence, invade the field, and disrupt the match. Protesters had also secured more than 200 official tickets to the match, to make sure that their presence was felt, even in the event that they could not storm the pitch. Despite the presence of more than 500 police officers and a sizable pro-rugby contingent, the anti-Springbok march would prove unstoppable. 5,000 anti-Springbok protesters descended upon the Hamilton pitch, and more than 300 made it onto the field, forcing a match cancellation. Protesters chanted that the whole world was watching. Many of the demonstrators were arrested, and those on the pitch endured a constant bombardment of bottles and other objects from rugby fans in the stands. This entire situation was captured on live TV and shown around the world. Nelson Mandela recalled that when the game in Hamilton was cancelled, it was “as if the sun had come out”. The final match of the tour was in Auckland on September 12. Not only was the match important as a final chance for protesters to demonstrate their opposition to the Springboks, it was the deciding third meeting between the Springboks and the All Blacks. More memorably, Max Jones and Grant Cole commandeered a prop plane, and proceeded to drop flares and flour bombs on the pitch during play in an attempt to stop the game. Though the game continued, the actions of the protesters were again the primary news story in New Zealand and throughout the world. Although the protests failed to stop the tour, no more rugby matches took place between the two teams until the end of apartheid. The anti-Springbok protests were able to raise an incredible amount of awareness for the anti-Apartheid movement. HART would continue protesting until the fall of the Apartheid regime.
1985 – The international convention of the”third party boycott” against apartheid sport that provides for action against those continuing to play with South Africa was finally approved and signed by many countries.
These campaigns strengthened the anti-apartheid movements and provided tremendous publicity to the struggle for freedom in South Africa. But South Africa remained a member of many international sports federations with the help of its Western friends who enjoyed weighted voting in several codes of sport like tennis. The struggle had to be carried on each of these bodies. International boycott of apartheid sport was nearly complete in the 1980’s – South Africa was expelled from most international sports bodies.
1988 – The International Olympic Committee adopted a declaration against “apartheid in sport” for the total isolation of apartheid sport. Sport thus contributed towards the complete isolation of South Africa, which then in turn contributed towards the unbanning of black political organizations.
1994 – First democratic elections in South Africa. Sam Ramsamy was always firm that it was not enough to have mixed sports bodies or teams. The sports bodies must undertake to devote resources to provide facilities and training to the majority of the people who had, for too long, suffered from discrimination. That has been one of his main concerns as head of the national Olympic committee.
“Sporting boycotts are a useful weapon in forcing countries to address political issues they would otherwise likely ignore. I think one of the striking examples at the moment is Israel where you find that Israel is accepted internationally in the sports world and yet people don’t recognize that Israel is actually in many ways an oppressor in terms of Palestine and the Palestinian people”
Joe Ebrahim, former president of the South African Council of Sport (SACOS), the major anti-apartheid sporting organization in the country.
(Main source: Sports and the liberation struggle : a tribute to Sam Ramsamy and others who fought apartheid sport other sources: sahistory, mg.co.za, africanactivist, nvdatabase, indiaenews, pacbi)
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Greek Association for Solidarity with the Palestinian People – INTIFADA