Coalition for Justice & Peace in Palestine

Sydney, Australia

Stop international soccer championship in Israel

Israel has been chosen to host the next UEFA U21 (Under 21) Football Championship. UEFA is the Union of European Football Associations, and the governing body of football in Europe. Hosting an international sporting competiton is an honour which should not be given to a country that defies international law and bars Palestinians from taking part in international sporting competitions.

 

URGENT ACTION

Please send a letter to the President of UEFA, Michel Platini asking him to reverse this decision. Click here for an easy to send e-letter provided here by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

What’s happening

In October 2010 UEFA stated that “We accepted [Israel] in Europe and furnished them with the conditions for membership and they must respect the letter of the laws and international regulations otherwise there is no justification for them to remain in Europe….Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for their behaviour.”

Since this time the actions of Israel have not changed. The global Palestine solidarity movement is baffled and appalled that UEFA is now rewarding Israel’s atrocities by granting them the privilege of hosting the U21 championship.

The decision sends the message that UEFA has no issue with the illegal and discriminatory treatment of Israel towards the Palestinian people. As an inclusive and anti-racist organization surely UEFA should avoid becoming complicit in Israel’s actions.

Palestinians in effect barred from international football

Palestinians are effectively barred from international football by the extreme restrictions placed on them by the Israeli occupation in a number of ways:

  • In September 2005, Palestine was in a good position in its Asian zone group in the qualifying rounds for the 2006 World Cup, but the Israeli authorities stopped five key players travelling outside Gaza and Palestine failed to qualify.
  • In April 2006, Israeli missiles destroyed the stadium in Gaza, where 1.2 million Palestinians live. Israeli authorities admitted that the stadium was specifically targeted; this amounts to a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • In 2007 the national team was prevented from travelling to play a World Cup Qualifier in Singapore and thus eliminated, and in May 2008 was not able to attend the AFC Challenge Cup, denying them qualification for the 2011 Asia Cup.
  • During Israel’s war on Gaza 2008-2009, 1417 people were killed including many children. The UN has declared that Israel were guilty of serious breaches on international law and human rights. Much infrastructure was destroyed including the Palestinian national stadium and the Palestinian Football Association building. All plans for a new stadium have been stopped because of the continuing Israeli siege, which still prevents concrete from entering the Gaza Strip along with other sports equipment.
  • In July 2009 having been given permission to enter the West Bank, one of the best Gazan players was arrested at a checkpoint and remains in an Israeli prison till this day.
  • In August 2010 Israel refused to allow six members of the Palestinian national team to travel from Gaza to a match against Mauritania.
  • A few months ago the football league winners of Gaza and West Bank had to postpone their cup final because the Gazan team was refused permission to travel.
  • The Palestinian national teams are unable to train and play as complete team as a result of travel restrictions.
  • Palestinian Olympic players and youth teams are frequently denied both exit and reentry when travelling from Gaza to the West Bank.

These are just a few of the ways in which Israel directly prevents Palestinians from participating in football competitions.

Time to stand up for justice

To host an international sporting competition is an honour and there is nothing honourable about the actions of Israel towards the Palestinian people. A U21 international championship held in Israel would disrespect the memory of the 400 children killed and the many injured in the war on Gaza. It would show support for a regime which imprisons children and leaves the youth of Palestine with little hope for the future. The message this sends to the youth of Europe is that, instead of standing up against the injustice that their international peers face, they can simply ignore it.

A broad alliance of Palestinian civil society groups has called for an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid. This movement is partly based on the boycott movement against apartheid South Africa. It is important to remember that South Africa was barred from the Olympic Games as well as international cricket and rugby until 1992 and was not considered to hold any international sporting competitions during that time. This played an important part in the international movement against South African apartheid and strengthened the successful movement to end the apartheid regime. Australians played a key role in that campaign and, given our historic role in helping set up Israel and the bipartisan support for Israel in our Federal parliament, we have a responsibility to support the fight against Israeli apartheid.

The Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine calls on UEFA to reverse its decision. To allow Israel to host this tournament is acceptance of its crimes against the Palestinian people. We would hope that UEFA will hold true to its principles and stand with millions across the globe to reject the illegal Israeli occupation.

Acknowledgement: This information has been adapted from material provided by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the BIGCampaign in the UK.

Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine Inc.

PO Box 144
Glebe NSW 2037
Australia
cjpp@coalitionfor
palestine.org

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