During the Israel-Italy World Cup qualifier, let's fill social media with Palestinian flags!
BDS Italy

On September 5 in Haifa, Italy will play against Israel in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. This match should not take place. Under the rules of fair play, FIFA should suspend the Israel Football Association. In addition to practicing colonialism and apartheid against the entire Palestinian population, Israel has killed and injured Palestinian footballers, as well as children playing football, destroyed stadiums and sports centers, prevented the movement of and arrested Palestinian athletes and raided the Palestinian Football Federation headquarters.

beitarscarf
This summer, Israel blocked the arrival of flags and uniforms for the Palestinian team at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.What's more, the Israel Football Association includes six teams located in settlements built on stolen Palestinian land in violation of international law.

Just as in 1964, when FIFA suspended South Africa over its apartheid policies, a decision maintained until the end of the Apartheid regime, today we call on FIFA to suspend Israel Football Association until Israel respects Palestinians rights and international law.

Let's follow the excellent example of hundreds of Celtic fans, who defied the ban on Palestinian flags during the match with the Israeli team Hapoel, filling the stadium. Also in France, during the match between St Etienne and Beitar Jerusalem, many Palestinian flags were waved.

On September 5th, starting at 20:45 (Italian time) during the Italy-Israel World Cup qualifier, let's show our support for Palestine.

We're fans of Palestinian rights!
Let's show Israeli Apartheid the red card!

  • Join the Thunderclap for a collective tweet during the game. The tweet will be in Italian and reads: "In 1964 #FIFA suspended Apartheid South Africa. Sign now to call on Fifa to suspend racist Israel! #WorldCup #IsrIta"
  • During the match, let's fill social media with Palestinian flags. Download images at the link or be creative. Use hashtags #IsrIta and #WorldCup. Follow @bdsitalia for other hashtags.
  • Sign the petition to FIFA, already signed by over 150,000 people, urging the suspension of Israel.
  • Participate in the crowdfunding organized by Celtic fans, which in a few short days has raised over £150,000 for Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Lajee Center of the Aida refugee camp.

BDS Italia

During the Israel-Italy World Cup qualifier, let's fill social media with Palestinian flags!

On September 5 in Haifa, Italy will play against Israel in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.

This match should not take place. Under the rules of fair play, FIFA should suspend the Israel Football Association.

In addition to practicing colonialism and apartheid against the entire Palestinian population, Israel has killed and injured Palestinian footballers, as well as children playing football, destroyed stadiums and sports centers, prevented the movement of and arrested Palestinian athletes and raided the Palestinian Football Federation headquarters. This summer, Israel blocked the arrival of flags and uniforms for the Palestinian team at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.What's more, the Israel Football Association includes six teams located in settlements built on stolen Palestinian land in violation of international law.

Just as in 1964, when FIFA suspended South Africa over its apartheid policies, a decision maintained until the end of the Apartheid regime, today we call on FIFA to suspend Israel Football Association until Israel respects Palestinians rights and international law.

Let's follow the excellent example of hundreds of Celtic fans, who defied the ban on Palestinian flags during the match with the Israeli team Hapoel, filling the stadium. Also in France, during the match between St Etienne and Beitar Jerusalem, many Palestinian flags were waved.

On September 5th, starting at 20:45 (Italian time) during the Italy-Israel World Cup qualifier, let's show our support for Palestine.

We're fans of Palestinian rights!
Let's show Israeli Apartheid the red card!

  • Join the Thunderclap for a collective tweet during the game. The tweet will be in Italian and reads: "In 1964 #FIFA suspended Apartheid South Africa. Sign now to call on Fifa to suspend racist Israel! #WorldCup #IsrIta"
  • During the match, let's fill social media with Palestinian flags. Download images at the link or be creative. Use hashtags #IsrIta and #WorldCup. Follow @bdsitalia for other hashtags.
  • Sign the petition to FIFA, already signed by over 150,000 people, urging the suspension of Israel.
  • Participate in the crowdfunding organized by Celtic fans, which in a few short days has raised over £150,000 for Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Lajee Center of the Aida refugee camp.

BDS Italia

Israeli football, racism and politics: The ugly side of the beautiful game
Jonathan Cook
25 April 2013

Rifaat Turk, the most successful Arab player in Israeli football and the first to be selected for the national team, in 1976, recalled that it “started to rain” every time he stepped on the pitch there was so much spitting. “Things have not improved. Racism is endemic to the Israeli game. By staying silent, it’s as if the [Israeli] football authorities, the government and state officials approve of the racism.”

Israel is celebrating its biggest-ever footballing coup this summer, when it hosts a major international tournament for the first time: the European Under-21 Championship. The decision to select Israel as the venue was taken by the Union of European Football Associations (Uefa), European football’s governing body.

Soldier at checkpoint demands a Palestinian kiss the Beitar scarf to be allowed to pass
Many observers have been surprised that, at a time when Israel is refusing to revive peace talks, it is being warmly embraced by international football.

“Football is an effective vehicle for Israel to rehabilitate its image with the international community,” said Tamir Sorek, an Israeli-Palestinian sociologist at the University of Florida who has written extensively on Israeli football. “A large sporting event is an ideal opportunity for Israel to present itself as a normal country.”

…Barcelona infuriated Palestinians last October when Rosell made Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas and held for five years in Gaza, guest of honour at one of their matches.

Dozens of Palestinian clubs wrote to Rosell: “More than 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners remain rotting [in Israeli jails], many in isolation, many with no visits, many on hunger strike with no attention or care for them to be released.”

…A similar logic to Rosell’s – fostering peace through football – appears to lie behind Uefa’s decision to stage the under-21 tournament in Israel, from June 5 to 18. Michel Platini, the head of Uefa, wrote to the Israel Football Association (IFA) last year, saying the championship would “be a beautiful celebration of football that, once again, will bring people together”.

…Nonetheless, Uefa’s choice of Israel has sharply divided opinion.

Last November, after Israel launched an eight-day attack on Gaza that damaged several football grounds, including the national stadium, 62 leading European footballers signed a statement protesting Uefa’s decision.

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Arsenal’s Abou Diaby and Paris Saint-Germain’s Jeremy Menez were among those who wrote that the tournament would be “seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values”, adding that Palestinians “endure a desperate existence under occupation”.

The statement also noted Israel’s repeated attacks on Palestinian sporting venues, the jailing of its leading athletes and Israeli restrictions on Palestinian teams’ freedom of movement.

In their letter to Rosell, Palestinian clubs similarly noted that players had been prevented from attending matches in Mauritania and Singapore by Israel, leading to their elimination from international competitions.

They wrote: “Many times the Palestinian team could not assemble, train or participate in tournaments because of Israeli illegal restrictions on player movement.” The clubs added that Israeli actions were “reminiscent of the notorious racist ‘pass law’ in apartheid South Africa. This is a continuous systematic policy for all of us that has decimated our involvement in international sport.”

In a more opaque protest last month, Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the world’s best-known players, refused to join his Portuguese teammates in swapping shirts with their Israeli opponents at the end of a World Cup qualifier in Tel Aviv. Ronaldo has a long record of supporting Palestinian causes.

The Uefa decision has come at a time when the movement to isolate Israel through a campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions – known as BDS – has begun to capture international attention…

Scenes of extreme racial abuse on Israeli terraces in recent months have also raised questions about the degree to which Uefa’s decision squares with its stated commitment to “zero tolerance for any form of racism and discrimination”

…[R]ecent overt displays of racism in Israeli football have unsettled many observers, as has the muted response from public figures and the football authorities.

One premier league club in particular, Beitar Jerusalem, has long prided itself on being the only major Israeli squad never to have fielded an Arab or Muslim player, despite a fifth of Israel’s population being of Palestinian origin. Cries of “Deaths to the Arabs!” and “Muhammad is dead!” are commonplace at its matches.

Yoav Borowitz, a sports columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, has criticised both Luzon, president of the IFA, for “remaining inert” on Beitar’s ostentatious racism and the authorities for failing to enforce anti-discrimination laws. “Have any of Beitar’s managers paid a fine or sat behind bars on account of decades of discrimination?”

When in January Beitar finally signed two Muslim players from Chechnya, large numbers of fans vented their fury. The pair were greeted with a torrent of abuse and a large banner declaring “Beitar: pure forever”, they have been spat at and they have endured walkouts. Shortly after the signings, the clubhouse was burnt down by a hardcore group of fans known as La Familia.

Last year Beitar also made headlines when hundreds of fans rampaged through a Jerusalem shopping mall, beating Palestinian staff and customers.

Rifaat Turk, the most successful Arab player in Israeli football and the first to be selected for the national team, in 1976, recalled that it “started to rain” every time he stepped on the pitch there was so much spitting.

“Things have not improved. Racism is endemic to the Israeli game. By staying silent, it’s as if the [Israeli] football authorities, the government and state officials approve of the racism.”

Israel’s treatment of Palestinians under occupation – and, to a lesser extent, Palestinians such as Turk with Israeli citizenship – has been compared to apartheid-era South Africa’s relations with its black majority.

Its image has not been helped by regular racist comments from senior politicians, such as parliamentary speaker Yuli Edelstein’s recent characterisation of the Arabs as a “deplorable nation” and the revelation that Rabbi Shai Piron, the new education minister, had previously issued an edict that Israeli Jews must not sell their homes to fellow Palestinian citizens.

Similarly, public opinion polls show a hardening of attitudes. A survey this month revealed that more than a third of Israelis want Israel either to annex the occupied territories or to continue controlling them militarily while denying the Palestinian population civil rights.

As a result, international recording artists are reported to be turning down invitations to perform in Israel, academic institutions are facing boycotts, and a series of tentative church divestment campaigns have been launched.

Uefa’s decision to stage the under-21 championship in Israel has served to expand such actions to include demands for a sports boycott modelled on actions during apartheid-era South Africa.

South Africa, where most sports were segregated based on colour, eventually found itself barred from the Olympics, suspended from world football, and excluded from cricket tours. International rugby teams also came under strong pressure to stay away.

Omar Barghouti, a leading BDS campaigner in the West Bank, admitted the movement had until now been slow to promote a sporting boycott. But, he added, the Uefa tournament had pushed Israel’s abuses of Palestinian sports and athletes onto the BDS agenda.

“Just imagine the Commonwealth Games being held in South Africa at the height of apartheid. It is this kind of exceptionalism that Israel expects and receives from Europe,” he said. “European politicians simply are not reflecting public opinion.”

He pointed to a BBC poll last year that found two-thirds majorities or higher in the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Germany viewing Israel’s influence in the world as “mainly negative”.

The moral case for a boycott has been exemplified by Mahmoud Sarsak, a former Palestinian footballer whose flourishing career was cut short by the Israeli military authorities.

Sarsak was arrested in 2009 as he tried to leave Gaza using the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing point to attend a match in the West Bank. At the time he was a promising 22-year-old midfield player.

Although Sarsak was held in administrative detention for three years accused of membership of Islamic Jihad, he was never charged and his lawyers were denied access to the evidence against him. Such practices have been widely condemned by international human rights organisations.

He was finally freed last July after a 92-day hunger strike. According to Israeli sources, he was released – contrary to Israel’s policy with other hunger strikers – following private lobbying by the IFA, itself facing heavy pressure from Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa, world football’s governing body.

Over the past few months Sarsak has been using his freedom to persuade Uefa officials to reverse their decision.

“Israel works endlessly to repress Palestinian football, just like it does many other forms of Palestinian culture,” he said. “Israel does not behave like a normal state where citizens can play sport freely.

“Uefa is legitimising Israel’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. There can be no place in football for segregation and oppression.”

Palestine was admitted to Fifa in 1998 but was disqualified from hosting international matches until 2008, when an international stadium was built in Gaza. Sarsak pointed out that, a few months later, during the winter of 2008-09, Israel bombed the stadium, along with the Gaza Strip’s other major sporting facilities and the Palestinian Paralympic Committee building. The stadium was attacked again last year.

Sarsak has also highlighted Israel’s detention of other leading footballers, including goalkeeper Omar Abu Rois and striker Muhammad Nimr, again without charges. Another striker, Zakaria Issa, jailed for 16 years, died of cancer last year, a few months after being released on humanitarian grounds.

Honey Thaljieh, captain of the Palestinian women’s team, echoed Sarsak’s criticisms of Uefa at a press conference in Doha last month, saying: “It’s very hard to understand why they [Israel] have been given such an honour.”

…International football officials have not been immune to these criticisms. In an apparent move to disarm opposition to staging the event in Israel, Fifa announced last month a plan to invest US$4.5 million (Dh16.5m) in Palestinian football.

The money, designed to provide a major fillip for the Palestinian national game, will be used to build a headquarters for the Palestinian Football Association; establish a football academy; and install two artificial pitches. A further $200,000 will be used to rebuild the national stadium in Gaza.

Thierry Regenass, one of Fifa’s directors, observed of the massive investment that “football has become a key tool to promote social development in Palestine”.

Meanwhile, Israel has been seeking to highlight its use of football to build bridges. This month it promoted a “meet your neighbour” tournament near Tel Aviv between young footballers from Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and Jordan.

Silvan Shalom, the regional cooperation minister, told reporters: “The tournament will teach Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians to be better neighbours in the future.”

But Barghouti warned that the notion of peace-building through sport was an illusion, based on “the false premise that the colonisers and the colonised, the oppressors and the oppressed, are equally responsible for the ‘conflict’”.

Sorek, of the University of Florida, agreed, arguing that such initiatives “legitimise the status quo” rather than “addressing the issue of how to achieve justice for all”.

In recent weeks, several power imbalances have been on show.

Last month, two Druze men were arrested when they protested against plans by the IFA to stage “friendly” matches between Israeli and local Druze teams in the Golan Heights, Syrian territory annexed by Israel in violation of international law.

And Israel disrupted the first official Palestinian marathon last weekend by preventing all 22 runners from Gaza from travelling to Bethlehem in the West Bank to take part.

Few expect Uefa to cancel the tournament at this late stage. But there is a debate about whether the struggle to stop the competition might yet become a defining moment for the BDS movement, galvanising support for a sports boycott and possibly leading Israelis to conclude that they are becoming a pariah nation.

This month, shortly after revealing that he had only months to live, following a diagnosis of cancer, prolific Scottish author Iain Banks wrote an impassioned plea for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel. However, he warned that a sports boycott would be less effective in Israel than in apartheid-era South Africa.

“Rugby and cricket in particular mattered to them [white South Africans] profoundly, and their teams’ generally elevated position in the international league tables was a matter of considerable pride … A sporting boycott of Israel would make relatively little difference to the self-esteem of Israelis in comparison to South Africa.”

But Barghouti believes football matters more to Israelis than many assume. “BDS is not magic. The effect is slow and cumulative. Just as in South Africa, boycotts have a gradual psychological impact on the oppressor nation, weakening its resolve.”

Full piece here

According to the Herald on Sunday, "It wasn't much fun being an Israeli footballer at Tynecastle yesterday. Lashed by the rain, barracked by pro-Palestinian demonstrators – and seven goals down at half-time...against a noisy backdrop of protests about the imprisonment of Palestinian footballers. The Israeli national anthem was jeered, and the players booed...the demonstrators' chants for Scotland to score 10"

"Free Mahmoud Sarsak" was interspersed throughout ninety minutes of non-stop chanting with "Without guns, you're rubbish" and multiple versions of "Boycott apartheid Israel".  The protestors warned the Scottish players of I200 Palestine supporters opposing Israeli apartheid
srael's habit of calling in an air strike when losing in a fair fight.

Despite incessant heavy rain, an important demonstration in defence of asylum seekers on the same day, and Lothian and Borders Police reneging on a widely-reported agreement with the protest organisers earlier in the week to allow banners into the stadium, 200 Scots protested without cease for ninety minutes against Israeli internment of Palestinian football players, and the imprisonment and violation of Palestine.  A 2-minute video clip here.

One Zionist weekly, the Jewish Chronicle, reported that "a group of around 200 anti-Israel protesters...booed the Israelis' every touch and chanted anti-Israel slogans for the duration of the match. The Israeli national anthem was also booed before kick-off."

The same paper quoted one Israeli player: "I knew before we came that there would be protests and something would happen...Uefa needs to act on" what she called "abuse", a bit rich from a team with many soldiers who abuse Palestinians routinely.

The player, Radman, went on: "It was not an easy experience. We were upset...The protests are very damaging...after the game I wanted to get to the locker-room quickly. We should not have to worry about things that are political; we just want to play...In France we had people Israeli player Sapir Kadori off the fieldinvade the pitch"

Scotland on Sunday reported that "the Israel side...endured a seriously uncomfortable afternoon. A crowd of about 100 protesters had joined the Tynecastle crowd, protesting against the alleged illegal detention of Palestine footballers. It's a campaign backed by Eric Cantona and was highlighted recently by FIFA president Sepp Blatter and by the world players' union FIFPro. Not only did the protesters boo the Israeli national anthem, they jeered virtually every time one of the visiting players touched the ball and chanted throughout the match."

 After the final whistle, two Israeli officials accompanied a lone player onto the pitch to thank their two remaining supporters. Unable to control his fury, possibly because there were no military checkpoints or even a torture chamber to deal with those who taunt Israeli soldiers, one of the Israeli officials made a middle-finger gesture to the terraces, very poor from a sporting ambassador.  A complaint will be lodged against this official; Scottish club managers have been disciplined for the same offence.

There were further protests when Israel played Wales' women's team in Wrexham on Wednesday evening.


Israel had virtually no supporters - pathetically clear from the view of the away fans section.  The increasing reluctance to be seen to be supporting Lieberman and Netanyahu's apartheid state has been noted by UK Zionists.  In the same way that all events organised by the racist JNF (Jewish National Fund) in London or elsewhere in the UK have to be organised in great secrecy, the same goes for sporting Fewer than ten Israel supporters
ambassadors of the Israeli state.

Human rights activists and BDS supporters only discovered through the pages of the ultra-Zionist Jewish Telegraph, and after the event, that an Israeli bowling team had played against a Scottish team at Kingswood Bowling Club in Glasgow last week. Please call or text the Secretary of Kingswood Bowling Club, Michael George, on 07939 228 117 or email and tell him courteously that you object to Kingswood Bowling club hosting an Israeli team at the same time that Israel denies Palestinians enough water to maintain their crops.

Individual Israelis without any record of human rights violation are welcome in Scotland, but any sporting or cultural outfit linked to the apartheid State squeezing the life out of Palestine will most definitely be protested.

See also SPSC press release on the Scotland v Israel game, with useful links

See also (from the archive) We print a Zionist rant on Scottish protest against Israeli football visit & SPSC response

Photos: 
top - protestors 
middle - Israel team player Kadori in her more usual attire.
below - 6 or 7 demoralised Israel supporters in the away section of the stadium


 

 

 

 

Mahmoud Sarsak: 'Football is my weapon of resistance'
Friday 14 June
FIFPro World - Anti-racism

FIFPro – represented in the person of anti-racism spokesman and FIFPro Division Europe board member Tony Higgins – finally met Mahmoud Sarsak - the Palestinian footballer, former political detainee and hunger striker - on Tuesday night June 11th in Edinburgh.  In a packed hall Sarsak told his story about his detention in Israel and the plight of his fellow Palestinian players. Higgins was also in attendance to speak of FIFPro's work in Palestine.

'Mahmoud's story was a very harrowing one, particularly the account of his hunger strike, Higgins said. 'Mahmoud spoke passionately about his plight in prison as an innocent man and the conditions he had to endure during his time there.'

L to R: Jackie MacNamara, ex-Celtic and Hibs player, Mahmoud Sarsak, Tony Higgins of FIFPro
'I explained the work that FIFPro is currently involved with in Palestine and the contribution FIFPro made through our Secretary General Theo van Seggelen to obtain his release.'

Higgins emphasized that FIFPro is firmly of the view that any player involved in representing his club or national team should be allowed to travel freely domestically or internationally without any interference or detainment without trial.'

...Mahmoud Sarsak's began playing football at the age of seven when he was picked to play for a football school team in his native Rafah, Gaza. In 2002 Sarsak was called up to join the Palestinian under 17s. He captained the squad in tournaments in Norway in 2003 and 2004. He was top scorer in 2003 and was judged Man of the Match in all four games played in 2004.

Up to this point he had been primarily a striker, but his role changed to playmaker in midfield when he joined the under-21 Olympic team. He travelled with the squad to Qatar for the Asian Games in 2006 but was unable to play due to injury.

Sarsak was then promoted to the Palestinian National Team. As part of the squad between 2006 and 2009, he missed World Cup and Olympic qualifying games in Yemen, Syria and Japan because the Israeli authorities refused him permission to leave Gaza...

Sarsak playing - before he was kidnapped by the Israeli regime.
In 2009 the Palestinian Football Association arranged for Sarsak to join the Nablus side Balata, in the top division of the national league. He was at last granted a permit to leave Gaza for the Occupied West Bank.

It was at this key moment in his professional footballing career - as he waited to cross the border in July 2009 to take up a new role at top level in the sport - that he was detained by the Israeli security services.

'Every Palestinian is under threat at all times, but when this happened to me it was a huge shock,' Sarsak said. 'At first I thought it was a mistake, that they would soon let me out, as I had no idea why they had stopped me.'

What followed was several weeks of interrogation that he understood was intended to force him to confess to membership of the radical group Islamic Jihad. Despite being denied access to family or legal support and being subjected to freezing conditions, sleep deprivation and other forms of torture, he continued to deny membership of any such organisation. He was held for three years without trial under Israel's 'Unlawful Combatant's Law'. Similar to the regulations used by the US authorities to hold detainees without legal process in Guantanamo Bay, this law is widely regarded as itself unlawful.

'Every six months they would haul me up before a panel who would take less than two minutes to decide, without any evidence, that I was a threat to Israeli security and had to stay in jail for another six months,' Sarsak said. 'Prison was a grave for the living, so I decided to risk death on hunger strike to try and win my freedom.'

Throughout 96 days refusing solid food, through April, May and June of 2012, he was in solitary confinement and had no idea of the campaign of support that was building for him in the outside world.

It was pressure from activists lobbying government ministers, holding street demonstrations, gathering endorsements for letters and petitions from footballing organisations such as FIFPro and Show Racism the Red Card and from people such as filmmaker Ken Loach and former player Eric Cantona, that 'forced' Michel Platini of UEFA and Sepp Blatter of FIFA, to call for his release.

It was then that the Israeli authorities conceded defeat and announced that Sarsak would be allowed to go home to Gaza on July 10. 'When I was let out of solitary and re-joined other prisoners, they showed me media reports about all the fantastic support from people abroad. It was the first I knew about it,' he said.

As a typical football-crazy youngster in Gaza, Sarsak had read newspapers and been aware of the political situation, but it had never been a passionate interest of his. In jail, however, he studied social science, read widely - 'everything from Dan Brown to Paolo Coelho to Arabic classics to Russian novels' - and took part in political discussions.

Now Sarsak says he aims to devote his life to promoting the rights of political prisoners in Israel, in Gaza and in the Palestinian authority, as part of an international movement for prisoners' rights. Sport will be his particular tool for resisting injustice, he said.

'Freedom of expression, through football or any other means, is not to be denied by gagging or imprisonment,' he said.

Full report at FIFPro website 14 June 2013

See also report in Herald on Sunday 16 June 2013

Mahmoud and Alexei Sayle explain Israel's war on Palestinian football and why the apartheid state needs to be kicked out of European football.

Demonstration for Mahmoud Sarsak and all political prisoners at Tynecastle in June 2012

 

Sunday 17th 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”.

football match 2Blatter 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.”

ENDS

Notes for editors:

[For more photos see: http://on.fb.me/LYlUyq]

1. The match took place at Edinburgh’s Tynecastle Stadium on Saturday 16th 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.

For further information, contact:
SPSC Chair, Mick Napier: 07958002591
SPSC Vice-Chair, Fiona Napier: 07834 772 435
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.scottishpsc.org.uk

 3. Friends of Al-Aqsa can be contacted via: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Details: http://www.foa.org.uk/events/protest-israel-football-team-playing-in-edinburgh

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:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMnimP0o1NQ&;feature=BFa&list=UL6Z6mL1RhIYY

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

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