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International football players join BDS Campaign

By Jessica Purkiss - December 16, 2012
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [BDS]
Tags: [BDS]

The campaign to boycott Israel has gained further global recognition, with the public condemnation of recent events in Gaza by top international football players.

Sixty-two players have shown their support for Palestine after the UEFA decision chose Israel to host the 2013 under 21 European championship.

This comes in the wake of November’s attack on Gaza. The eight day offensive saw Israel bomb much of Gaza’s infrastructure, including the headquarters of Palestine’s National Paralympic Committee and a football stadium.

The statement, which was posted on former Seville striker website, spoke of shared dismay at the tragic deaths of four youths who were playing football in the al-Shoja’iya neighbourhood, east of Gaza City, when they were targeted. It also noted their disapproval with Israel arresting two footballers from the Al Amari club earlier this year.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), at around 15:30 on Saturday 10 November 2012, Israeli military vehicles stationed at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel fired an artillery shell at a number of Palestinian children who were playing football. As a result two children, Mohamed Harara and Ahmed Harara, aged 16 and 17 years old; instantly died.

In the aftermath a number of Palestinian civilians gathered in the area, where the IDF immediately fired another 3 shells. This lead to 2 more deaths: Matar Rahman and Ahmed Al Dirdissawi, both aged 18 years old.

It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values

The statement read, “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 latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the death of over a hundred civilians, was yet another stain on the world’s conscience.”

“It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values,” the statement said.

In June last year, the Palestinian sports community wrote a letter of appeal to UEFA president, Michel Platini.

“If this tournament goes ahead as planned, football fans from all over Europe and beyond will be given the impression that Israel is a country like any other, rather than one that practices a unique combination of occupation, colonization and apartheid against the indigenous Palestinian population,” it read.

Platini however was not sympathetic to the June letter.

“We cannot hold the Israel FA responsible for the political situation in the region or for legal procedures in place in its country. You know better than anyone that it is not by punishing people and isolating them that we achieve our aims. It is through dialogue that solutions are found,” he replied.

The example of Apartheid South Africa has on the contrary, proved the role sports can play in standing up to government policies. In 1963 , FIFA banned South Africa from international competition, and other global sports bodies soon followed.

In 1964 the International Olympic Committee followed suit and withdrew South Africa’s invitation to the summer games. In 2010, South Africa hosted the World Cup, which the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon remarked as 'a triumph for humanity.’

Under the banner of the 2008 initiative of 'Sport for Peace,’ events such as the UEFA under 21 cup can be used to foster values of ethics and respect for human rights. This sporting boycott has gained wide international coverage, helping to make Palestine’s struggle even more public.

Now hopefully Palestine players will not be standing alone, but will be joined by the international sporting community, in a united front to boycott Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

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