Category Archives: UEFA

EURO 2013 IN ISRAEL DRAWS PALESTINIAN, ISRAELI AND OPERATIC PROTESTS

Israel’s shameful hosting of the UEFA under-21 men’s football finals, due to conclude when defending champions Spain face five-time champions Italy on Tuesday June 18, has elicited a range of creative protests from Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and from operatic singers in the UK.

In the West Bank village of Nabih Saleh, regular protests against the course of Israel's Apartheid wall deployed the Red Card symbol. See a series of photos here.

In the West Bank village of Nabih Saleh, regular protests against the course of Israel’s Apartheid wall deployed the Red Card symbol. See a series of photos here.

Israeli activists staged a series of Red Card protests linking the UEFA tournament to 65 years of confiscation of Palestinian land.

Israeli activists staged a series of Red Card protests linking the UEFA tournament to 65 years of confiscation of Palestinian land.

In London, J-BIG soprano Deborah Fink and baritone Willem Meijs gave football's favourite operatic number a new twist.

In London, J-BIG soprano Deborah Fink and baritone Willem Meijs gave football’s favourite operatic number a new twist. See YouTube video of their performance.

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HIGH PROFILE SUPPORT FOR UEFA CAMPAIGN FOLLOWS STRING OF BDS VICTORIES

Mahmoud Sarsak, Palestinian footballer and former detainee, currently in the UK as part of a European tour

Mahmoud Sarsak, Palestinian footballer and former detainee, currently in the UK as part of a European tour

The past couple of months have been a high-octane period for the BDS movement – more than this modest blog could keep up with!

Stephen Hawking raised the bar for scientists and others in the academic community when he declined an invitation to take part in Israel’s President’s Conference, while Zionists resorting to legal weapons had their fingers scorched when they took the UK’s Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) to a tribunal.
See reports on both from the British Committee for the Universities of  Palestine (BRICUP)
The campaign exposing toxic global security firm G4S for its many human rights transgressions in Palestine and elsewhere, hit the headlines with protests at its AGM in the City of London on Thursday June 6.
Currently J-BIG is proud to be playing a leading role in the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign which has highlighted the grotesque injustice of Israel being allowed to host a major football tournament this month while denying fundamental rights to Palestinians.
This campaign is receiving a huge boost thanks to the inspiring presence in the UK of Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, former political prisoner and hunger striker.
Sarsak with poster of football hero Eric Cantona at the Manchester United ground

Sarsak with poster of football hero Eric Cantona at the Manchester United ground

Mahmoud’s career as a promising midfielder in the Palestinian national team was blighted by his arrest, interrogation, torture and three years’ detention without trial in various Israeli jails. After his eventual release less than a year ago, following a global campaign on his behalf, he has resolved to use sport as a medium to express his solidarity with all victims of oppression, focusing on political prisoners and especially those in Israel and Palestine.  He explains his evolution in an interview here.
After many weeks of tense anticipation as the Mahmoud Sarsak 2013 UK Tour support group worked with friends in Gaza to negotiate hurdles thrown up by visa applications, flight arrangements and sealed borders, Mahmoud arrived in London in time to lead protests at the Annual Congress in London on May 24 of European football’s governing body UEFA.
TV footage showed Mahmoud accompanied by Jewish comedian and author Alexei Sayle as he presented petitions calling on UEFA not to hold its under-21 finals in Israel this month.
On May 28th his message was underwritten by prominent individuals including veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and top-ranking professional footballer Frederic Kanoute in a letter published in the Guardian newspaper.
They draw a contrast between UEFA’s resolve at its congress in London to punish racism in football and its “total insensitivity to the blatant and entrenched discrimination inflicted on Palestinian sportsmen and women by Israel.”
Sarsak’s UK tour has taken him so far to Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield,  Newcastle and Scotland.
Mahmoud in Sheffield with Football Unites, Racism Divides

Mahmoud in Sheffield with Football Unites, Racism Divides

The tour is supported by leading members of anti-racist football organisations Show Racism the Red Card, the FARE network, Football Beyond Borders and the Professional Footballers’ Association, plus Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa and J-BIG. 
On the eve of the final match in the European under-21 competition, at 6.30pm on Monday June 17 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Mahmoud will be part of  an expert panel exploring the impact of politics and racism in football and the role of sport as a means for Palestinians to resist discrimination.
The event will include a screening of a new short documentary  from Philosophy Football,  filmed days before the under-21 tournament kicked off in Israel on June 5.
As during the earlier leg of his European tour, which took him to France, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands and Italy in March and April, Mahmoud and his message have attracted considerable media interest, especially from sports journalists.
Here are just a few examples:
Here is some of the coverage of the controversy Red Card has generated:

RED CARD ISRAELI RACISM CAMPAIGN TARGETS UEFA CONGRESS

PROTEST at UEFA’s Annual Congress in London on May 24
SUPPORT Mahmoud Sarsak’s UK tour in May-June 2013
PARTICIPATE in the Goals for Peace tournament on May 19
BUILD the campaign to Red Card Israeli Racism
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The Red Card Israeli Racism campaign is escalating its activities as the June 5-18 dates for UEFA’s under-21 men’s football final in Israel draw near.
The London-based campaign is now part of a European coalition of groups working to expose the folly of staging a major competition in a state which shows contempt for the rights of Palestinian football players and supporters.  Beyond June, Red Card has the potential to develop into a long-term challenge to Israel ’s membership of UEFA – the overarching body for European football.
The June tournament will probably still go ahead, but the case against it has gained prominence over recent months.  Frederic Kanoute and 51 other leading professional players issued a statement deploring Israel ’s attacks on Gaza in November, saying they called into question holding the games in Israel . In January, a well publicised action at the UEFA offices in Nyon , Switzerland , forced UEFA president Michel Platini to give pro-Palestinian protesters a hearing after two years of turning a deaf ear to the campaign.
In March, the congress of the French trade union CGT-INRA passed a resolution contesting UEFA’s decision to stage the competition in Israel and a former French minister of sport, Marie-George Buffet, wrote to Platini calling on him to hold it elsewhere.
In the UK , football media are opening up space for discussion of the issues, such as this piece on the FootyMatters website, written by members of the student group Football Beyond Borders. It prompted a reaction from the Jewish Chronicle, insisting that UEFA would “stand firm” against our campaign.
FBB has held two well-attended public meetings in London to mobilise support for the campaign.
The Red Card petition now has 6,500 signatures, and rising.
The UK will become the focus of intense campaigning action as UEFA holds its annual congress in London on Friday May 24. A major demonstration is planned for the occasion.
The men’s and women’s Champions League finals will be taking place around the same time and Friends of al-Aqsa are organising a 16-plus anti-racist tournament in east London – Goals for Peace – for up to 20 six-a-side teams.
Mahmoud Sarsak, the national Palestinian team player whose release from unlawful detention we campaigned for last Spring, plans to be in England at that time as part of an extended European tour. He aims to visit Norway , Spain , France , Italy , the UK and Ireland between April and June, meeting players, officials, fans, politicians, journalists and activists.
The intended dates for the English leg of his tour are May 16-26, visiting Scotland until June 8 and moving on to Ireland before returning to his home in Gaza later in the month.
The campaign is working to build support for the tour through mainstream organisations such as FARE (Footballers Against Racism in Europe), Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card, trade unions and faith groups, as well as pro-Palestinian and human rights bodies.
Red Card Israeli Racism was established in London in 2011 by members of PSC, Friends of al-Aqsa and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods. It currently (March 2013) has a steering group representing those organisations but is inviting much wider participation to build a sporting boycott campaign alongside other BDS groups around Europe .
Contact: info@rcir.org.uk

PROTEST FORCES PLATINI TO DEFEND UEFA UNDER-21 FINALS IN ISRAEL

RED CARD ISRAELI RACISM NEWS RELEASE
See also Ali Abunimah’s report on Electronic Intifada
(Pictures courtesy of Euro-Palestine)
Michel Platini obliged to share the limelight with a Palestinian football shirt held by French campaigner Olivia Zemor

Michel Platini obliged to share the limelight with a Palestinian football shirt held by French campaigner Olivia Zemor

Campaigners occupy the reception area at the headquarters of European football's governing body UEFA

Campaigners occupy the reception area at the headquarters of
European football’s governing body UEFA

A protester's poster highlights Israel's detention of football players

A protester’s poster highlights Israel’s detention of football players

PROTEST FORCES PLATINI TO DEFEND UEFA UNDER-21 FINALS IN ISRAEL
  • Pro-Palestinian campaigners occupy entrance to UEFA’s Swiss HQ
  • Platini says he will “think about” Israel hosting Euro 2013
  • 6,000 signature petition handed over, more protests planned
Dozens of pro-Palestinian campaigners brought growing anger over Israel hosting this year’s European under-21 football finals right to UEFA’s door on Friday (January 25), forcing the organisation’s president Michel Platini to grant them a hearing at his headquarters in Nyon , Switzerland.
Platini had previously spurned calls from sources as diverse as the president of the Palestinian Football Association, internationally renowned film-maker Ken Loach and a list of more than 50 football stars including Frederic Kanoute and Didier Drogba, not to reward Israel for its flouting of Palestinian human rights.
On Friday he gave the first hint that he was listening to the protests, saying in a televised news conference after a meeting of UEFA’s Executive Committee  that he would “think about it and take a decision in the current year”.
Olivia Zemor of French campaign group Euro-Palestine, leading the activists who crowded into UEFA’s reception area in Nyon, charged Platini with ignoring Israel ’s active discrimination against Palestinians – not only restrictions on movement but destruction of facilities, detention without trial of players and the killing of young boys playing football.
Campaigners also noted that of the grounds likely to be used for the men’s junior tournament on June 5-18, one is on land seized from two Palestinian villages, one is beside a largely destroyed village and a third is a stadium from which a Palestinian club was expelled in 1948.
The protests shamed Platini into pledging to “see what he could do” about the detention for almost a year of Palestinian Olympic squad goalkeeper Omar Abu Rois and Ramallah player Mohammed Nimr.
Last May, as a mounting international campaign forced Israel to release hunger striking Palestinian national team player Mahmoud Sarsak after three years in detention, Platini rebuffed calls to relocate Euro 2013 claiming Israel would host a “beautiful games”.
Since then support has grown around Europe for the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign which is calling on football enthusiasts who care about human rights to take the following actions in the months leading up to the June finals.
  • Continue adding signatures to the almost 6000 names already on the Red Card petitiion
  • Join protests at the next ExCom meeting in March (venue to be announced)
  • Mobilise for protests at UEFA’s Congress in London on May 24
  • Organise anti-racist football tournaments to draw attention to the plight of the game in Palestine

Contact:  info@rcir.org.uk

FURTHER INFORMATION
1. Full report of Nyon protests including still photos
 2.Video from Nyon plus links to media reports.
3.   Israel ’s U-21 championship venues:
a)  Bloomfield  – before Israeli forces occupied  Jaffa  in 1948, the ground was known as Basa (swamp) Stadium, home to local  Jaffa  team Shabab el-Arab. They were expelled and later formed Shabab el-Nassera in  Nazareth . In January 1949 the Basa stadium was given to the Hapoel Tel Aviv team by the Israeli “custodian of absentee property”.
b) Teddy Stadium, named after former  Jerusalem  mayor Teddy Kollek, is beside an almost entirely destroyed village, al-Maliha.
c) Reserve stadium at  Ramat Gan  was built on land seized under the Absentee Property Owners Law of 1950 from the Palestinian villages of Jarisha and al-Jammasin al-Sharqi.
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TOP FOOTBALLERS CHALLENGE UEFA TOURNAMENT IN ISRAEL

A statement signed by 52  European football players has dramatically raised the profile of the campaign challenging European football’s governing body UEFA for staging its 2013 under-21 finals in Israel.

KANOUTENews of the statement, published on Friday November 30 on the website of former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute (pictured above), was picked up by the Guardian online and then by many other media worldwide (see references below).

The group of UK premier league footballers and players in other major European leagues said that holding Euro 2013 in Israel was tantamount to rewarding it for the assault on Gaza which killed 170 Palestinians in November, including boys playing football. Israeli aerial attacks also destroyed the Palestinian Paralympic Committee offices, along with a stadium and sports complex where the Palestine team prepared for the 2012 Olympics.

The Guardian story explained:

The signatories, who include Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Abou Diaby of Arsenal and five Newcastle players – Papiss Cissé, Cheick Tioté, Sylvain Marveaux, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba – also criticised Israel’s continued detention without charge or trial of two Palestinian footballers.

 Several former Premier League players have also signed the letter, including Didier Drogba and Frédéric Kanouté, both of whom now play in China. Players with QPR, Stoke, Blackburn and Ipswich are among the signatories along with footballers in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey.

The statement roundly condemns the Israeli assault on Gaza, describing it as “yet another stain on the world’s conscience” and expresses “solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom”.

It then focuses on the destruction of a football stadium which the Israeli military said had previously been used by Hamas as a rocket launching site but which at the time of the bombing was not.

The statement had originally been signed by 62 players. Ten, including Drogba, dropped out, possibly due to Zionist pressure.

The statement was welcomed by the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign which has been working with activists around Europe to challenge the staging of the U-21 finals in Israel since UEFA announced its decision in early 2011.

Last Tuesday, ahead of the draw for the competition in Tel Aviv, the campaign circulated the text of a statement from a group of public figures including filmmaker Ken Loach saying:  “it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.”

Twenty-two British Members of Parliament  have signed a motion (EDM 640) in the House of Commons registering “with profound disapproval . . . that the FA is prepared to participate in the European Under-21 football tournament to be played in Israel in June 2013, even though Israel is geographically not in Europe and is a country which has policies of racial apartheid against Palestinians.”

ACTION:

Call on your MP to sign EDM 640

Sign the petition calling on UEFA to move the Euro 2013 final away from Israel

Links to some of the extensive media coverage:

http://www.agencemediapalestine.fr/blog/2012/12/01/bonne-couverture-mediatique-de-lappel-de-footballeurs-en-soutien-a-gaza/

http://www.tdg.ch/monde/afrique/Les-footballeurs-ne-veulent-pas-d-un-Euro-en-Israel/story/28143281?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

http://www.saphirnews.com/Kanoute-Drogba-Menez-Mandanda-Des-stars-du-football-soutiennent-la-Palestine_a15800.html

http://www.insideworldfootball.biz/worldfootball/asia/11647-gaza-conflict-damages-vital-sporting-infrastructure.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/sport/football/article3616788.ece

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/news/9715577/Premier-League-players-call-on-Uefa-to-remove-Israel-as-European-U-21-hosts.html

http://www.france24.com/en/20121130-top-footballers-urge-rethink-israel-venue

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/1246310/didier-drogba-among-stars-declaring-support-for-palestine?cc=5739

http://itisallaboutfootball.tumblr.com/post/36899657123/european-football-players-declare-support-to-palestine

http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/freddie-kanoute-is-joined-by-hazard-diaby-papiss-cisse-tiote-demba-ba-in-condemning-plans-to-hold-u21-euros-in-israel/

http://www.twtd.co.uk/ipswich-town-news/21988/ellington-amongst-players-in-israel-protest

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-299857-football-players-stand-in-solidarity-with-palestinians-amid-recent-israeli-aggression.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/sports/soccer/soccer-players-protest-european-under-21-championship-tournament-in-israel.html

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2012/11/30/footballers-sign-statement-protesting-israel-hosting-euro-u21-tournament-after/

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/football/israel-risky-hosts-for-under-21-euro-championships/story-e6frfg8x-1226527893532

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/30/footballers-u21-european-championship-israel

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/footballers-protest-israel-hosting-uefa-euro-u21

http://www.timesofisrael.com/soccer-players-protest-israel-hosting-uefa-under-21-tournament/

FOOTBALL STARS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINE

As Israel prepares to announce the draw for UEFA’s under-21 football finals in June next year, the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign has put out the following news release.
FOOTBALL STARS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINE
+ FREDERIC KANOUTE, MOUSSA SOW, DEMBA BA, JACQUES FATY SAY UEFA IS REWARDING ISRAEL FOR “ACTIONS CONTRARY TO SPORTING VALUES”
+ MPS AND OTHER EMINENT BRITS SAY ISRAEL MUST NOT HOST UEFA UNDER 21 FINALS
Nov 27 – On the eve of the announcement in Tel Aviv of the draw for the Euro 2013 under-21 finals next June, some of the biggest names in European football have condemned Israel ’s military attack on Gaza which killed 170 people, including Palestinian boys playing football, and destroyed vital sports infrastructure.
Former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute is among those signing a statement referring to Israel’s hosting of the U-21 championship as rewarding it “for actions that are contrary to sporting values”.   (See full statement below)
On November 8, 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was shot in the abdomen by the Israeli military while playing football with his friends in ‘Abassan village, east of the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis . He died in hospital shortly afterwards. Four other boys were also killed.
The Palestinian Paralympic Committee offices, along with a stadium and sports complex where the Palestine team prepared for London 2012, were among facilities wiped out by Israeli bomb attacks in the days that followed.
A number of football fixtures and gatherings have been moved because of the violence.
Pressure on UEFA to change the venue for the 2013 u-21 finals is mounting as 20 British Members of Parliament have signed a motion (EDM 640) in the House of Commons  stating:
” That this House congratulates the Football Association for its Kick It Out campaign against racism in football; registers with profound disapproval, however, that the FA is prepared to participate in the European Under-21 football tournament to be played in Israel in June 2013, even though Israel is geographically not in Europe and is a country which has policies of racial apartheid against Palestinians.”
Campaigners in a number of European centres are marking the draw in Israel on Wednesday.
Red Card Israeli Racism in Britain has handed in a petition of several thousand signatures.  along with a statement from public figures including filmmaker Ken Loach, calling on the Football Association to support a change of venue for the 2013 tournament. (Text and signatures attached).
UK campaign coordinator Geoff Lee said, “ In addition to the increasing racist violence against Arabs in Israel which is well known to UEFA , the latest attacks by Israel on the besieged people of Gaza must make the UEFA delegates rethink this issue.”
In Italy, a letter has been delivered to the Italian Football Federation calling for withdrawal of the Italian national team from the competition unless there is a change of venue. On themorning of Wednesday, November 28 a protest will be held outside the nationalheadquarters in Rome during which activists have requested a meeting with management.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF FRENCH LANGUAGE STATEMENT SIGNED BY :
Frederic Kanoute, Moussa Sow, Demba Ba, Jacques Faty and others
The horrific situation faced by Palestinian civilians in recent days is deeply concerning. We have learnt that on November 10 the Israeli army bombarded a sports stadium on Gaza . Four young people who were playing football were killed. Mohamed Harara and Ahmed Harara (16 and 17 years old), Matar Rahman and Ahmed Al Dirdissawi (18 years old).
We are also aware that since February 2012 two footballers with the Al Amari team, Omar Rowis (23) and Mohammed Nemer (22) are still imprisoned in Israel without trial or charge.
In the run-up to Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, which will reward Israel for actions that are contrary to sporting values, we as European sportspeople wish to express our regret the turmoil of recent days, the primary victim of which has been the Palestinian people.
We express our solidarity and our support for the civilian causalities. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. The Palestinians must be protected by the rule of international law. We hope that a just peace will finally emerge – it is simply unacceptable that children are killed while they are peacefully playing football.
  2. THE STATEMENT IN FRENCH
Palestine , le sport au pied du mur
La situation subie par les civils palestiniens ces derniers jours est plus que préoccupante. Nous avons appris que le 10 novembre, l’armée israélienne a bombardé un terrain de sport à Gaza . Quatre jeunes qui jouaient au football ont été tués : Mohamed Harara et Ahmed Harara (16 et 17 ans), Matar Rahman et Ahmed Al Dirdissawi (18 ans).
Nous savons en outre que depuis février 2012, les deux joueurs de football de l’équipe d’Al Amari, Omar Rowis (23 ans) Mohammed Nemer (22 ans) sont toujours emprisonnés en Israël sans procès et sans jugement.
À la veille où Israël doit accueillir l’Euro des moins de 21 ans, se voyant ainsi récompensé alors qu’il commet des actes qui restent contraires aux valeurs du Sport, nous, sportifs européens, regrettons la situation d’embrasement de ces derniers jours qui a pour première victime le peuple palestinien. Nous exprimons notre solidarité et notre soutien aux victimes civiles. Tout peuple a le droit de vivre dignement, dans la liberté et la sécurité. Les Palestiniens ne peuvent en ce sens être exclus du droit international. Nous espérons que le droit et la justice règneront enfin, parce qu’il est inadmissible que des enfants meurent alors qu’ils jouent paisiblement au football.
Premiers signataires: Kanoute, Moussa Sow, Demba Ba, Jacques Faty
4. Events in Israel cancelled because of the violence:

5. England could host u-21 in 2013 instead of Israel

5. Statement from Ken Loach and other eminent figures calling for UEFA to move under-21 finals from Israel .
 
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINIAN FOOTBALL
As football supporters we hear with concern an appeal from Mahmoud Sarsak,http://www.bdsmovement.net/2012/mahmoud-sarsak-uefa-appeal-9826 a young Palestinian national team player whose career was cut short by three years’ detention without trial in an Israeli jail.
We are aware that he regained his freedom last July 10, only after a three month hunger strike won him sympathy and support from influential voices in the football world.
Sarsak is asking us now to show our support for all Palestinians who love the beautiful game but who suffer the impact of discriminatory Israeli policies on Palestinian football and the life of the community in general.
We are disturbed by the myriad ways in which the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and the siege of  Gaza  prevent both the development of Palestinian sport at grass roots level and its representation in international competitions. These include:
  • regulations and checkpoints that block the movement of players between Palestinian towns and villages and between  Gaza  and the  West Bank ;
  • official interference preventing the Palestinian national team from travelling abroad to train or compete and making it virtually impossible for foreign teams to attend fixtures in Palestine ;
  • restrictions on the importation of equipment, even when donated by international footballing organisations;
  • prevention of the construction of facilities.
In addition to these impediments, life under occupation entails the constant threat of detention or even death. Two  West Bank footballers, Mohammed Saedy Ibrahim Nemer and goalkeeper Omar Khaled Omar Abu Rowis, were detained in February and have been incarcerated ever since.
Four footballers were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed during the Israeli assault on  Gaza  in December 2008 – January 2009.   Even children are not exempt. On June 20 this year, twelve-year-old Mamoun Zuhdi al-Dam was killed by an Israeli warplane as he played football on land near his family home in  Gaza .
Against this background, Sarsak has drawn our attention to Palestinian dismay at UEFA’s insistence on having  Israel  host next year’s under-21 finals.
He says that staging this, or any other UEFA competition, in  Israel “is legitimising  Israel ’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. There can be no place in football for segregation and oppression so prestigious tournaments cannot be allowed to take place in  Israel .”
Taking into account the high profile given in European football to combating racism wherever it appears, we agree with Sarsak that it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.
We therefore call upon UEFA to move the 2013 U21 finals away from  Israel  and to assure Palestinians that  Israel  will not be granted such an honour as long as its discriminatory practices continue.
Signed:
John Austin
Dr. Salman Abu Sitta
Stephen Cavalier
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Bob Crow
Rev. Garth Hewitt
Ghada Karmi
Bruce Kent,
Ken Loach
Paul Laverty
Kika Markham
Karma Nabulsi
Prof. Steven Rose
Keith Sonnet
David Thompson
Jenny Tonge

JAILED PALESTINIAN FOOTBALLER FREED, CAMPAIGN CONTINUES FOR OTHERS DETAINED

Now that Mahmoud Sarsak is free, please keep up the pressure on UEFA to remove the honour from Israel of hosting the 2013 Under-21 Championships by sharing the Red Card Israeli Apartheid petition with friends and colleagues on Facebook, Twitter and email: #MahmoudSarsak #Palhunger #BDS
See below for the campaign news release

Reuters picture showing a rapturous welcome for Mahmoud Sarsak on his return to Gaza after three years in an Israeli jail without charge or trial

Red Card Israeli Apartheid campaign

10 July 2012
 
JAILED PALESTINIAN FOOTBALLER FREED, CAMPAIGN CONTINUES FOR OTHERS DETAINED
 

·      Footballer released after three month hunger strike
 
·      Israel’s detention process condemned as unlawful
 
·      UEFA urged to move 2013 under-21 finals from Israel
 
Tuesday July 10 – Campaigners welcomed news of the release of Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak after three years in an Israeli jail, but vowed to continue working for an end to the system of detention under which he and hundreds of others have been detained without charge or trial. 
Twenty-five year old Sarsak lost a third of his body weight during a three month hunger strike in protest at his incarceration since July 2009 under Israel’s ‘Unlawful Combatants Law’, which is illegal under international law.
The Israeli authorities agreed on June 18 that his detention should end following an international outcry. Footballing legend Eric Cantona and French international star Frederic Kanoute , FIFA President  Sepp Blatter and the international federation of professional footballers FIFPro  joined forces with filmmaker Ken Loach, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, author Alice Walker and many others demanding an end to his unjust detention.
Relatives gathered at the Palestinian side of the Israeli Erez crossing in northern Gaza on Tuesday to welcome the freed prisoner who was then transferred to Shifa hospital in Gaza City for medical attention. “I thank God and all the athletes of the world,” Sarsak told Reuters between sips from a bottle of water.
FIFPro, the international federation of professional footballers, welcomed Sarsak’s release but made clear that no other Palestinian footballers should have to go through what he had experienced. ‘We, FIFPro, refer to the fact that all professional footballers in the world must have equal rights, including the right to freedom of movement, which is a universal right of every citizen. That also applies to all professional footballers in and from Palestine.’ said FIFPro secretary general Theo van Seggelen.

While Sarsak was still on hunger strike in June the president of the Palestinian Football Association, Jabril Rajoub, wrote to UEFA president Michel Platini reminding him that Olympic squad goalkeeper Omar Abu Rois and Ramallah player Mohammed Nimr are also being held by Israel without charge.
“For athletes in Palestine, there is no real freedom of movement and the risks of being detained or even killed are always looming before their eyes,” Rajoub said.
He said the Israeli government was in “direct violation of FIFA regulations and the International Olympic charter” and said: “we ask Your Excellency to not give Israel the honour to host the next UEFA Under-21 Championship 2013.”
Rajoub’s request reiterated a plea sent to Platini a year earlier by 42 Palestinian football clubs based in Gaza, the besieged Palestinian territory close to the Egyptian border which is home to many of Palestine’s best players. Platini ignored the appeal from the clubs and rejected Rajoub’s.
 “We cannot understand why UEFA ignores the other footballers still detained byIsrael and the racism and human rights abuses that have a daily impact on every area of Palestinian life, including sport,” said Geoffrey Lee, coordinator of the Red Card Israeli Apartheid campaign. “Israel does not deserve to host next year’s 2013 European Under-21 championship and we urge everyone who cares about fairness in sport to sign our petition calling on Platini to move the competition to another country.”

Film maker Ken Loach, who endorsed last year’s Palestinian call for Israel to be stripped of hosting the 2013 under 21s and has backed the campaign petition, said the international pressure that had won Sarsak his freedom now needed to be applied in support of “all the other Palestinians detained illegally in Israeli prisons.”

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

 1. Reports, including pictures of Sarsak’s release, from Ma’an News agency
and Reuters
2. Report outlining the illegality under international law of Israel’s ‘Unlawful Combatants Law’

3. Background information from human rights groups about Palestinian political prisoners

4. Full text of Palestine Football Association president Jibril Rajoub’s letter to Michel Platini is contained within this report:

 5. Platini rejects Rajoub’s appeal, confirms Israel will host U-21 2013:
6. Red Card Israeli Apartheid petition and letter outlining the case against Israel’s hosting UEFA’s  2013 Under-21 finals.

7. French professional footballers including Kanoute, Anelka and Diaby call for Sarsak’s release “in the name of sporting solidarity, justice and human rights”

8.  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter’s statement, 12 June:http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/organisation/footballgovernance/news/newsid=1648346/
9. Eric Cantona, Ken Loach, Noam Chomsky, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker and others insist on Israeli racism and human rights abuses facing the same sanctions as Poland or Ukraine: ‘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.’
Full text and signatory list of June 12 letter.
10. June 2011 letter to UEFA president Platini from 42 Palestinian football clubs calling for the U 21 Finals not to take place in Israel: “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, and killing football players Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshate, as well as over 1,400 other Gazans. 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.”
11. Report summarising Red Card Israeli Apartheid campaign:

 12. Reports of racism entrenched in Israeli society, including football:
– Israel’s interior minister Eli Yishai denounces black victims of mob violence as “infiltrators” and says refugees should be imprisoned, “all of them without exception.”
– Racist football fans on the rampage attack Palestinians in a shopping mall
13. Examples of Israeli authorities interfering in Palestinian involvement in international football matches (various sources):
 – July 2011 Palestinian players were prevented from entering the West Bank fromJordan after an away game in Thailand. Mohammed Samara and right back Majed Abusidu therefore missed the return game at home 5 days later.
– In 2010 the football league winners of Gaza and West Bank had to postpone their cup final because the Gazan team was refused permission to travel.
– Also in 2010, Israel refused to allow six members of the Palestinian national team to  travel from Gaza to Jordan for a match against Mauritania. Captain Ahmed Keshkesh was preventing from returning home for several months.  http://www.the-afc.com/en/news-centre/member-association-news/234-palestine/30489-we-will-carry-on-our-struggle-rajoub
– In May 2008 the national team was not able to attend the AFC Challenge Cup, denying them qualification for the 2011 Asia Cup.
– In April 2006, Israeli missiles destroyed Gaza’s only football stadium.
– Palestine reached the top of their group in the qualifying rounds for the 2006 World Cup. They failed to qualify after the Israeli authorities refused permission for five key players to travel to a crucial Asian zone match against Uzbekistan in Qatar onSeptember 7, 2005.  “Every day they come to the border only to be sent back,” said Tayseer Barakat, director for international affairs at the Palestine Football Association. “Every time our players want to travel outside for training or playing, the Israeli authorities are blocking them.”
14. At least two of four U21 Championship venues are on or adjacent to land seized from Palestinians.
a) Bloomfield – before Israeli forces occupied Jaffa in 1948, the ground was known as Basa (swamp) Stadium, home to local Jaffa team Shabab el-Arab. They were expelled and later formed Shabab el-Nassera in Nazareth. In January 1949 the Basa stadium was given to the Hapoel Tel Aviv team by the Israeli “custodian of absentee property”.
b) Teddy Stadium, named after former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, is beside an almost entirely destroyed village, al-Maliha.
c) Reserve stadium at Ramat Gan was built on land seized under the Absentee Property Owners Law of 1950 from the Palestinian villages of Jarisha and al-Jammasin al-Sharqi.

15. Palestinian child footballers, victims of Israeli military actions.
– 20 June 2012. 12 year-old Mamoun Hassouna killed by while playing football in theGaza strip:
– April 2005: While playing football: Ashraf Samir Ahmad Mussa and Khaled Fuad Shaker Ghanam, both 15, and 16-year-old Hassan Ahmad Khalil Abu Zeid, were shot dead by Israeli soldiers
– October 2004: Jihad Hassan Barhoum, 16, was shot in the abdomen by Israeli troops in October 2004. A seven-year old was hit in the back.
– 2001: Khalil al-Mughrabi, 11, was hit in the head by a burst of gunfire. Two friends, aged 10 and 12, were wounded.
And