Friday, June 24, 2011

Palestinian sports community appeal to UEFA – Red Card Israeli Apartheid

Below is an open letter addressed to UEFA President Michel Platini's decision to award the 2013 U21 European Championships to Israel. BDS (www.bdsmovement.net) is doing a great job of getting the word out and applying pressure. Please join this facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/red.card.israeli.apartheid) and tweet @UEFAcom to voice your opposition to this whitewashing of Apartheid.

Occupied Palestine – June 22 2011

Mr. Platini,

We, Palestinian footballers, athletes and sporting organizations and officials, are dismayed that Israel has been rewarded for its continued impunity and violent oppression of our people with the honour of hosting the UEFA Under-21 tournament in 2013. This decision is a drastic reversal of your brave stand just last year against Israeli attacks on Palestinian sport and its persistent violations of universal principles of human rights. You said: “We accepted them in Europe and furnished them 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”. We write today to remind you of the facts that no doubt informed this brave stance and to urge you to take steps to ensure that the 2013 tournament does not take place in Israel.

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. Games may be played at the Ramat Gan Stadium, which was built on land seized under the Absentee Property Owners Law of 1950, from the Palestinian villages of Jarisha and al-Jammasin al-Sharqi. Football should not preclude the refugees from these villages from returning to their lands, as is their UN-sanctioned right.

Israel’s violations of international law are numerous and continue unabated and impact Palestinian football and the people of Palestine more generally. The infamous Israeli permit system, which has been used to deny so many Palestinians the right to travel, is reminiscent of the “pass laws” of Apartheid South Africa, and is used to deny footballers the right to travel to international tournaments, or even participate in local practices, in violation of Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions barring collective punishment.[1]

The use of overwhelming force in Operation Cast Lead in winter 2008-09 was responsible for leveling large swathes of Gaza including the Rafah National Stadium[2], and killing football players Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshate, as well as over 1,400 other Gazans.[3]

Israel’s Apartheid Wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, runs its eight- meter-high solid concrete course less than 100 meters away from the Faisal Al Husseini Stadium in Al-Ram, the current national stadium of Palestine.[4] The arbitrary arrest of thousands of Palestinians, including Gazan Palestinian National Team member Mahmoud Kamel As-Sarsak, held without trial or indeed public explanation for their arrest, is a routine tool of Israeli occupation.[5]

Israel’s system of occupation, colonization and apartheid impacts Palestinian football and all Palestinians.

In the face of South African Apartheid, Ruud Gullit dedicated his 1987 European Footballer of the Year Award to Nelson Mandela. We call upon you to make a similar stand against Apartheid, by ensuring that Israel is not allowed to host the 2013 tournament, rather than allow the organization that you lead to reward Israel for its violent repression of Palestinian rights.

We look forward to your reply,