Sunday 17 th June 2012: NO EMBARGO
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Media Release
ISRAEL “RUBBISH WITHOUT GUNS”, SAY PROTESTORS
Israel’s national football team had to endure a barrage of pro-Palestinian chanting throughout their 8-0 defeat by Scotland in the Women’s Euro qualifier at Tynecastle on Saturday, in a protest aimed at highlighting the plight of what FIFA president Sepp Blatter termed, Israel’s “alleged illegal detention of Palestine football players”.
Blatter was particularly concerned about Mahmoud Sarsak, who is currently in critical condition after more than 90 days on hunger strike. The 25 year-old was arrested by Israel three years ago en route to play for his national team, and has been imprisoned without charge or trial ever since. In recent days, FIFA has called on Israel to ensure the “physical integrity of the concerned players as well as their right for due process”. An Amnesty report this month said Israel routinely uses “administrative detention” in order “to suppress legitimate and peaceful activities in the Palestinian territories”.
Football icon, Eric Cantona, is amongst a range of public figures to have criticised Israel over its jailing of “around 4000 Palestinian political prisoners, more than 300… held without charge or trial.” Along with campaign group, Show Racism the Red Card, Cantona told UEFA President Michel Platini that Sarsak, “and all victims of abuse by the Israeli state, need our support. It is time to end Israel’s impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice and respect for international law that we demand of other states.”
Around 140 campaigners from groups including Friends of AL-Aqsa Scotland, and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) waved Palestinian flags and banners calling for Sarsak’s release. Chants including, “without guns, you’re rubbish” and frequent references to Israel’s “racism” and “apartheid” clearly infuriated one of the Israeli officials who came out after the match to salute the seven or eight Israel supporters, and to vent his frustration with the protestors.
After the match, SPSC chair Mick Napier said “most people can be proud to represent their country abroad, but that is certainly not the case for Israel’s sporting ambassadors. Mahmoud Sarsak’s demands are not contentious outside Israel: detained persons should be charged and tried, or released. Otherwise, Israel will have yet another death on its hands. FIFA is right—the situation is urgent.”
Notes for editors:
[For more photos see: http://on.fb.me/LYlUyq]
1. The match took place at Edinburgh’s Tynecastle Stadium on Saturday 16 th June 2012. Match details: UEFA Women's Euros Qualifier between Scotland Women's A v Israel Women's A More details on the Scottish FA website: http://www.scottishfa.co.uk/scottishfootball.cfm?page=2516
2. The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign started in autumn 2000 in response to the Palestinian second uprising against Israeli occupation (Intifada). The SPSC has branches and groups of supporters in several Scottish cities and universities, as well as individual members across Scotland and elsewhere.
4. FIFA statement: http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/organisation/footballgovernance/news/newsid=1648346/index.html
5. Statement co-signed by Eric Cantona, Show Racism the Red Card, and others: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/cantona-fifa-join-pressure-israel-hunger-striker-mahmoud-sarsak-determined-reach
6. Amnesty International’s “Starved of Justice” report is cited in the Guardian, 6 June 2012, “Palestinian footballer's hunger strike sparks fears for his life”: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/06/palestinian-hunger-strike-fears-life
7. Short video of the protest: VIDEO
8. Statement on Sarsak by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods: http://jews4big.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/uefa-talks-of-building-bridges-while-palestinian-footballer-linger-at-deaths-door/
9. Media release from the Professional Footballers’ Union, FIFPro, on Mahmoud Sarsak: http://www.fifpro.org/news/news_details/1954
10. Government-sanctioned racism in Israel: Guardian, 31 May 2012, “Interior minister Eli Yishai uses interview to suggest many African migrants are criminals infected with HIV”: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/31/israeli-minister-racial-tensions-infiltrators